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An ageing profession?

Responses from undergraduates at UMIST and Manchester University.

NCE provides news on both the industry and the ICE and keeps members up to date with civil engineering matters.97% agreed.

You can become chartered without being a member of the ICE. 33% agreed.

The routes to membership are complicated and keep changing.68% agreed.

Responses from graduates and students in the North Western Association.

The ICE provides a public and professional voice for civil engineers. 24% agreed.

The ICE ensures professional standards are upheld through their examination process and rules for professional conduct. 30% agreed.

Goalposts to routes to membership continue to be changed... this could further reduce interest in membership.72% agreed.

The perception of the chartered engineer is blurred and so people become less interested in becoming chartered.59% agreed.

ONLY FOURTEEN per cent of civil engineering graduates attempt to become Members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, NCE learned this week.

A combination of 'student ignorance about the ICE and a large degree of disillusionment' with the Institution has been uncovered at grass-roots level, prompting fears that civil engineering is becoming 'an ageing profession'.

The findings were compiled by Graduate and Student Members of the ICE North Western Association, using figures provided by the ICE's professional development division. Results showed that 10% of graduates joined the Institution as Chartered Members, 3% as Associate Members and 1% as Technician Members.

Seventy eight per cent failed to upgrade their membership after university, while a further 8% failed their professional review.

News that the profession is failing to convert civils graduates into Members is compounded by figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service which show applications to civil engineering courses down by 11.1%.

ICE Succeeding Vice President Professor George Fleming said reversing the falling conversion rate of graduates to 'any grade of membership' was a priority for the ICE to offset declining numbers applying for civils courses.

He added: 'This is an area that has been neglected. The numbers have been slipping in recent years. We are not chartering people fast enough and are consequently turning into an ageing profession.'

Graduate Member Ben Brookes, who is working towards ICE chartership, led the research. He recently presented the work, based on figures for NWA graduates and students, to ICE President Roger Sainsbury. Brookes said he wanted to show that industry and the ICE were 'not doing enough to encourage people into the profession'.

Brookes' report compared the number of graduates training under agreement over the last three years with national figures for total civil engineering graduates. He claimed the numbers were accurate to within 5%.

His findings are echoed by national civil engineering graduate/chartership figures for 1998 which show that while there were 4,828 graduates in civil engineering, only 455 passed their professional review.

NWA Graduates and Students responded to the research findings by compiling a questionnaire to gauge its members' perceptions of the ICE. It asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about the ICE's role (see tables).

Results were said to show a combination of 'student ignorance about the ICE and a large degree of disillusionment with it', said NWA Graduate Member Des Millar who helped collate results.

He added: 'The preliminary responses are conclusive. Most of the respondents agreed with the list of perceptions in the questionnaire.'

However, ICE Director General & Secretary Roger Dobson strongly defended the ICE's Graduate and Student training policies. He claimed that students and graduates were not taking advantage of what was on offer to them to gain chartership.

He said: 'The ICE offers the best mentoring system for any profession, but we must ensure that everyone is aware of it. One of the things we have found among graduates is that they try to do it on their own.'

But Dobson accepted that the ICE's falling conversion rate was a concern.

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