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Catch them while they're young

Mike Cooper of Gifford Consulting believes the low number of civil engineering graduates wishing to take up geotechnics is a bigger industry concern than the demise of MSc courses.

'Soil mechanics has become such a theoretical pursuit on undergraduate engineering courses that students are just not exposed to the fascinating subject of engineering the ground, ' he says.

Bachy Soletanche has identified this as a problem too, but believes stronger links between universities and industry will encourage more graduates into the geotechnical sector.

Business development director Chris Thomas says: 'Our staff provide lectures and site visits to student groups in order to participate in the promotion of the industry within universities.

'It is our intention to increase such contacts and widen our programme of bursary awards to courses that we believe are worthy of support in the education of geotechnical engineers.'

Bachy Soletanche is one of four geotechnical specialists in a 23-strong alliance of employers supporting the University of Surrey's ICE Scholarship Scheme.

Each employer sponsors a student through their undergraduate civil engineering course to the tune of £1600 a year and undertakes to provide vocational training and employment during the one-year release period, Thomas explains.

'It gives us a real chance to collaborate with academia to ensure that the universities are producing graduates that industry wants, ' he adds.

'Others should take a look at Surrey's lead. Much of academia needs to get its act together and actively look for opportunities with industry rather than waiting for the reverse.'

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