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The Times: Worrying exodus is not necessary

February 28, 2007

There is no rush by engineering graduates to work in the sector, but those who do enjoy high job satisfaction

Martin Birchall

When Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, was said to have voiced concerns last year about the lack of experienced engineers in Britain’s industrial sector, he wasn’t highlighting a new problem. For much of the past two decades, the proportion of students who study engineering at university but then embark on an entirely different career has been increasing.

In the first edition of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, published in 1997, six of the top ten employers were engineering or industrial firms. In the latest edition, the top three places in the league table all went to accountancy firms and only one manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, remained within the top ten employers.

Research from The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2006, based on interviews with more than 16,000 final-year undergraduates from 30 leading universities, showed that just 47 per cent of engineering students from the Class of 2006 said that engineering was their first-choice career and fewer than two thirds bothered to make applications for engineering jobs.

This exodus from the sector is not due to a lack of opportunities. More than a quarter of the organisations featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers are recruiting for engineering vacancies in 2007, including organisations as diverse as the BBC, Unilever, the Ministry of Defence, GlaxoSmithKline and BP. And recruitment numbers at the major industrial employers — such as BAE Systems, Corus, Atkins and Rolls-Royce — are up by 4 per cent compared with 2006.

One of the main reasons why new engineering graduates look elsewhere for work after university is the lure of higher salaries. According to The Graduate Market in 2007 report from High Fliers Research, average graduate packages at the top consulting firms and investment banks are between £28,000 and £35,000, whereas a typical salary in engineering is £23,000.

The leading City and financial firms make no secret of the fact they value the analytical skills and problem-solving abilities of engineering graduates and are prepared to pay generous bonuses, either when graduates start work or during their first year of employment.

But higher salaries are certainly available for graduate engineers working in specific industries. Oil & energy companies are expecting to pay an average of £28,000 to this year’s new recruits, the biggest chemical and pharmaceutical firms are offering an average of £26,500 and the major IT and telecoms companies have packages worth at least £24,500.

For those who are planning a career in engineering, the recruitment odds are encouraging. Whereas the top investment banks often attract between 100 and 250 applications per vacancy, engineering employers typically receive 25 or fewer applicants for each graduate place. And working as an engineer scores highly too for job satisfaction and a better work-life balance.

Being “interested in the content of the work” was finalists’ main reason for choosing engineering as a career in 2006 and more than 90 per cent thought the profession offered excellent long-term opportunities. Shell was voted the Engineering Employer of Choice for graduates in The Times Graduate Recruitment Awards 2006, edging Rolls-Royce, the previous sector winner.

Martin Birchall is editor of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers

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One Comment

  1. Singh Sonny says:

    Geachte heer/mevrouw,

    Hierbij wil ik u meddelen dat ik opzoek ben naar een administratieve baan in New Delhi, ik ben sinds 2 jaren getrouwd met iemand in India en daarom woon ik nu voorlopig in New Delhi, ik wil graag in contact blijven met Nederlandse bedrijven en met nederlandse mensen vandaar dat ik graag een baan wil waar ik mijn nederlandse taal kan gebruiken.

    Hopelijk kunt u mij hierbij helpen of eventueel adviseren wat ik kan doen.

    U dankend voor de aandacht.

    Met vriendelijke groet,
    S. Singh

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