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Class conscious

Radio 4 listeners may have heard John Waite's recent examination of the British engineering industry, Isambard's Bastards. The programme celebrated Britain's wealth of young, creative engineering talent but said a shortage of good science teachers and the lowly status of the profession were the reasons youngsters do not consider engineering as a career.

As a schoolgirl in the early 1980s I was encouraged to enter engineering by physics teachers and further inspired by an Insight course. Nowadays a profession needs to be seen as sexy to attract youngsters.

If schoolchildren won't come to engineering, then the profession must go to them and take the message that engineering is a rewarding and fun career. We must acquire some inspirational role models to whom children can relate.

According to a recent survey by the Radio 4 Today programme, over 50% of the population consider themselves to be working class. To which class do civil engineers belong? If we are perceived as being too middle class or too working class this could explain our unattractiveness to large sectors of the population. Perhaps this is an issue the Institution should address.

As one contributor to Waite's programme pointed out: 'Engineers are the only professionals who can deliver the future.' That future will be bleak indeed then without engineers.

Hilary Ellis (G), 56 Hill Avenue, Victoria Park, Bristol BS3 4SU.

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