CONSULTANT ARUP is the best employer for graduates seeking to become professionally qualified, according to figures released by the Institution of Civil Engineers this week.
More graduates become chartered civil engineers with Arup than with any other company, thanks to its high pass rate and high volume of applicants.
In contrast, the two largest employers of civil engineers, consultants WSP and WS Atkins, achieved below average pass rates.
For the first time in its 183 year history, the ICE has made public the relative performance of consultants and contractors in getting their graduates through the Chartered Professional Review.
Over the nine reviews from autumn 1996 to spring this year, Arup achieved a pass rate of 79% for more than 100 candidates, significantly higher than the average success rate of 67% overall.
This makes it the greatest producer of chartered engineers despite being only the fourthlargest employer, with 2,395 civil and structural staff on its books, according the NCE 's 2001 Consultants File.
Mott MacDonald and Halcrow lie just behind Arup with pass rates of 70% and 66% respectively.
WS Atkins, the UK's largest employer of civil and structural engineers with 4,000 staff, managed a success rate of just 62%.
'But these figures do not tell the whole story, ' said WS Atkins graduate recruitment co-ordinator Patricia Gould. 'It is not a pass-fail scenario. WS Atkins is committed to training and people who fail are encouraged to improve on their weaknesses and try again.'
The second highest employing consultant, Maunsell, with 3,168 engineers, achieved a 72% pass rate but in five years put forward less than 50 candidates. In the same time WS Atkins put forward more than 100.
The most disappointing results come from WSP Group, one of the UK's largest and fastest growing consultancies. It managed a pass rate of just 56%. WSP group training manager Alison West disputed the ICE's figures:
'Recently we haven't had a problem with pass rates and in the last review we had a near 100% pass rate, ' she said.
'WSP has been expanding rapidly and in May 1999 integrated six ICE training schemes into one. Graduates now have a lot more opportunities to see different sides of the business.'
Contractors, led by Taylor Woodrow, Carillion, Skanska and Balfour Beatty all scored well in terms of pass rate, but this news was dampened by the relatively low number of candidates entered. Only Taylor Woodrow and Carillion put up more than 50 candidates.
'There are efforts to be made on both sides, ' said ICE professional development manager Niall O'Hea. 'The key to developing and retaining your staff, and to increasing your commercial edge, is to get your staff professionally qualified, be it CEng, IEng or EngTech.
'Staff who may feel daunted by the review process should seek support from their companies and the ICE, who can advise which professional qualification is most appropriate to them.
'It may be that some consultants are pushing CEng too hard when the IEng route offers a qualification of equal standing in the ICE, ' he said.