UK-Spec (UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence) replaces regulations last updated in 1997. It comes in response to calls from employers and engineers to allow more flexibility in achieving professional status for people who do not hold accredited educational qualifications, but have relevant work experience, the Engineering Council said.
"There was a perception, not entirely incorrect, that becoming a professionally qualified engineer or technician was more difficult and time-consuming than should have been necessary," said Colin Terry, chairman of the Engineering Council, at a launch event for UK-Spec on 1 December.
"We have listened to the market. We believe UK-Spec will allow access to the professional recognition that employers and the engineering professions have been looking for, without compromising standards."
Kel Fidler, vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, who led the development of the new standard, said, "Although dramatically different from its predecessor, UK-Spec builds on the experience accumulated by the engineering profession over many years.
"These standards are evolutionary and reflect international thinking as well as that from the UK on the importance of competence as a means to assess the contribution professional engineers and technicians can make to the economy."
The launch event was attended by the minister for science and innovation, Lord Sainsbury, who has given his support to UK-Spec.
"The UK has a proud engineering heritage, but in an increasingly competitive world, our engineering competence must reflect the needs of business and industry for astute and experienced creators and managers of technology," he said.
"Engineers have a more important role than ever before, as technology and the demands we make of it become increasingly complex, in ensuring that development takes place in a way which does not cause problems for safety or health.
"They have an equally crucial part to play in minimising risk to the environment and bringing about sustainable development. It is my hope that these standards will become the goal for every aspiring professional engineer or engineering technician.
"It is also my hope employers will adopt these standards as a valuable metric for training and developing their staff, and that educators will tailor their programmes to deliver the essential skills they require."
The new standard has also been welcomed by the BCS, which is a member of the Engineering Council and is licensed to award chartered engineer and incorporated engineer status to suitably qualified people.
The Engineering Council will now start a nationwide awareness campaign among companies to promote the value of professional registration based on UK-Spec.