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Engineer shortages delay urgent flood work


URGENTLY NEEDED flood defence improvements will be delayed until more flood engineers are trained, a senior government flooding advisor told NCE this week.

Most of the Environment Agency's regions are already 20% down on flood staff because it cannot find the engineers it needs, said ICE past president Professor George Fleming, who chaired an ICE commission into flooding for the government (News last week).

Flood defence improvements outlined in the ICE commission's report Learning to live with rivers, published last week, could be delayed, he added.

The problem, caused by a shortage of engineering graduates, could be stemmed within five years if universities were given more cash to provide flood engineering MScs to 'soft scientists' such as geographers and environmental scientists, said Fleming.

Some engineering firms have been employing foreign flooding engineering experts because UK graduate engineers are in short supply. Consultant HR Wallingford has taken on more overseas than UK graduates for the past few years, said managing director Stephen Huntingdon.

'We are particularly pleased with our graduates from overseas, ' he said, adding that overseas students were preferable because they were taught to a higher standard than UK graduates.

Engineering companies must also make the most of the staff they do have by not moving flood experts around the country before they gain a full understanding of one area, said Fleming.

INFOPLUS Learning to live with rivers can be found on www. ice. org

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