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Columnist of the Year Sydney Lenssen Sex and the civils student

Dog-eared copies of Punch used to litter dentists' waiting rooms: not today. All prospects of pain were removed the other day when I browsed through a copy of more! from a pile of ragged and colourful magazines.

I was confronted with photographs, diagrams and explicit guidance on how increase the depth of penetration and gain more enjoyment from sex.

There is a whole new genre of magazines aimed at girls between the ages of 10 and 17, which take the old comic-strip into a new dimension. I was unaware of how frank teenage reading matter has become.

A couple of days later, Guardian Education questioned whether teenage girls are obsessed with sex, and if such magazines have a moral role to play or are exploiting their readers. Despite sex education, unmarried teenage pregnancies in Britain are the highest in Europe, and prime cause is put down not to intercourse but ignorance.

That reason is enough for the Family Planning Association, and it supports editors who give sensible answers to a range of questions, which I don't know enough about to ask today, never mind when I was in my teens.

Which all leads to the question: what goes on in the minds of graduates entering today's profession? What are the current questions that nobody would have dared ask a few years ago? Can I do any better on this topic!

A recent question and answer session with University College second- year undergraduates, revealed that these bright students were unaware of any difference between contractors and consultants. It took more than five minutes to find terms which the students could grasp, and I remain unsure if they understood the implications as far as forthcoming career choices would be concerned.

Naive and uninhibited young civil engineers should be querying the separation between design and construction. What is it in construction - and not other industries - that requires separate processes?

Old hacks might try to argue that design and construct takes a portion of the market, which goes up and down but is never dominant. That proves the value of Britain's traditional separation.

The next question should be: if contractors are there to construct, why do they employ as many staff as possible in head office and as few as possible on site? And why do their annual accounts show £100M plus turnovers with minuscule profits if not losses?

Turning to consultants, why is it that the bigger a firm gets, the less likely it is that you will progress within it by being a good engineer?

As soon as you are spotted as a good designer, why you are encouraged to stop doing it? Instead you are paid a higher salary to dash around the world trying to sell your firm's ability. That ability depends on design skills. But like you, those with proven design ability have been whisked off to do other things for which their ability is, at the very least, unproven.

There is plenty of scope for more questions, but recent experience tells me that most graduates are reticent, hesitant to question, and too worried about hastening promotion to raise anything awkward. They beaver away, often for 12 hours a day, accepting most of the nonsense that shields the status quo.

From next autumn, students whose parents earn slightly more than the average engineer when first chartered, will be required to pay £1,000 a year towards their fees. They will also be allowed to borrow about £3,000 a year from the Student Loan Company for living expenses.

What chance that these debt-ridden graduates will question what's wrong with construction?

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