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Speech for CRPE dinner on 16-12-2016
30 Dec 2016
Jean Roland Fayolle, CEng FIEE.
1a, Auguste Esnouf Lane.
Curepipe, Mauritius.
Fax No. 4654047, Tel No. 2507891.
e-mail: rfayolle.eml@intnet.mu


End of year dinner speech 2016.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,
 
In public speaking seminars it is often suggested that you start with a joke. It relaxes the atmosphere and fixes attentions. Unfortunately, I do not have clean jokes for mixed company; in fact, all my jokes are dirty. So, if it is all the same to you, I will jump in with no preamble.
 
At the times when I took CRPE interviews, it was whispered that my questions were too basic. I think they meant unexpected. I like to take the broad view and to go back to the mathematical origin of techniques. The whisper suggested that people were happier with sophisticated notions they had recently acquired rather than with older, more fundamental principles. To quote an example: they were happy to use the Fourier transform to solve many engineering problems but unwilling to make the effort of understanding the mathematics.
The questionnaires for registration refer to the breadth as well as the depth of knowledge. I am afraid some of our candidates are unwilling or unable to understand that.
 
To my mind, in the “real” world, the “breadth” idea should go even further than the frontiers of our profession. We are not just engineering professionals; we are also intellectuals. As such, our interests should stretch wide, into history, philosophy, art; the sky is the limit. I have recently been reading a book written by an outstanding scientist of our time: Richard Dawkin. Its title is “unweaving the rainbow”. Dawkin contests the poet Keat’s outburst about scientists destroying the magic of the rainbow by unravelling its electromagnetic origin. He claims that there is a soul uplifting joy in piercing the mysteries of our Universe.
My unease about young people taking the narrow view has another, more down to earth, reason, which is to do with bluff. The typical bluffer wants to disgorge the little information he has, before anybody finds out that he knows not much else. In an effort to uproot this mediocrity, we are trying, in Council, to raise the bar for access to engineering studies. Call me a snob, if you wish, but I believe true professional engineers are members of an elite. I have no time for class, economic or political elites.
 
Intellectual elitism is another matter. To paraphrase a biography of the mathematician John Nash, it is in search of “beautiful minds”.
There are lesser grades, such as that of technician, for the less gifted, who might be just as useful to society. Some say that they are more useful than engineers for being more “hands on”. I have had the privilege, in the course of my long career, to nurture many talented craftsmen to unexpected heights, notably as entrepreneurs. Sadly, they have all been denied the satisfaction of breaking through the glass ceiling of professional competence by their mathematical deficit. Technicians and engineers are complementary, not interchangeable. Current efforts being made internationally to standardise engineering education should keep this consideration on board.
 
Coming back to Mauritius, the public institutions expose us to the ire of would be and actual civil servants by using our certificates as primary selection criteria for appointments and promotions. Nowadays, the relatively favourable conditions of employment in the civil service have created a high demand for these jobs. People go hysterical about getting to the front of the queue. Our decisions are often contested and we are accused of misogyny, double standards and other discriminatory behaviour. Proposed amendments to our rules and procedures are frowned upon. I have been publicly insulted by the previous minister over the politically sensitive JSS issue. Public affairs occupy too much of our space.
After a question in Parliament about our benchmarks and following a two YEAR break, consultations have resumed over the Engineering Council Bill. The message is channelled that MPI officials are very unhappy about the poor standard of Engineering. Well, I hang my head in shame! But I would remark that hundreds of Mauritian engineers work outside MPI. We can’t all be tarred by the same brush!
 
Thank you for your attention. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
 
J Roland Fayolle CEng FIET RPEM
Chairman.


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