ENGINEERING TECHNICIANS are more important to the civil engineering economy than PhD graduates, the Engineering & Technology Board (ETB) and the Engineering Council (UK) said last week.
The failure of firms to grasp this has led to a slow uptake and poor training that is making British engineers less competitive in Europe, it added.
'Technicians can be more employable than people with PhDs, ' said ETB education and policy director Anil Kumar.
The ETB calculates that there are 2.75M technicians in UK engineering, making up just 7% of the workforce. In Germany, technicians make up 40% of the engineering workforce.
And they can command high levels of responsibility in surveying, computer aided design (CAD) and other roles.
'We're trying to prove the economic worth of technicians - [businesses] can't afford professional engineers to do all these tasks, ' EC(UK) executive director Andrew Ramsay added.
Consultant Scott Wilson agreed that technicians make good business sense, with starting salaries of £12,000 compared with £20,000 for graduates.
CAD manager Paul Machin said technicians can be more valuable in design teams. 'Software developers actually specify that technicians be trained to use the packages as they have the CAD experience, ' he said.