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Back to school with the engineering message


Riding a motorbike in London, as I do, tends to make you immune to traffic congestion.

Rate of progress from A to B remains largely a problem for car drivers.

Safety is always an issue of course. You can never switch off from the fact that there is a huge amount of dangerous, mostly stationary metal around you, piloted by frustrated, often angry and unpredictable folk.

Your traffic awareness sensors have to be set to maximum in the wet, in the dark or when the sun is bright and low. But issues such as the minor seasonal variation in congestion barely even registers.

In a car it is a different story.

I rarely attempt London driving in the morning rush, but recently had to venture around the south circular and out on the M3 in the car for a 9.30am appointment.

Remembering the last time I did this, sitting in nose-to-tail all the way through Streatham, Clapham, Wandsworth, Putney, East Sheen, past Twickenham and virtually all the way to the M3, the solution for me was to leave ridiculously early.

However, having arrived at my destination over an hour early I found myself wishing I had spent more time lounging in bed. I had achieved motorbike time on four wheels and frankly, felt pretty cheated.

So where was the traffic?

Where was the congestion? 'It's the school holidays, ' I was later assured by my wife. 'Everyone's away and there's no school run.'

Having made the journey by car to Richmond many times she is apparently well versed on such seasonal congestion effects.

I have to make this trip by car again next week and, having consulted my domestic traffic congestion monitor, I am nervous. The school holidays are over.

My ramblings are, in fact, intended - albeit in a somewhat roundabout way - not really to help you plan your travel, but to remind you that the school holidays are over. This mean, therefore, that the challenge to inform and persuade young people, their parents and teachers about the range and variety of careers in engineering has also started again.

And there remains much work to do. For more than half a decade civil engineering has been struggling under the cloud of skills gaps. Things are starting to look up but few companies in our industry today could say that they do not worry about where the skills they need to develop their businesses will come from.

There is a job ad in NCE this week for a position that should help in the battle to convert young people to engineering.

The Young Engineers organisation is seeking a new chief executive.

NCE works closely with Young Engineers to produce and distribute our schools magazine NCEinsite - new issue due out this month - and we have been trying to ramp up the civil engineering input.

Young Engineers' mission statement is clear: 'Inspiring young people to recognise the importance of a career in engineering'. No one in the profession can afford to ignore this organisation.

So if Young Engineers is not flooded with candidates from this profession I will be disappointed.

Will I feel the same if there are traffic jams next week however?

Antony Oliver is editor of NCE

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