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Graduate responsibility

Debate

NCE's recent poll 'What's wrong with construction' highlighted pay as engineers' main concern. But younger engineers also complained that they were given too little responsibility. This week we ask: Do you think graduate engineers are given enough responsibility to stop them drifting away from the profession?

Yes

Steve Regan, sub agent for Bachy Soletanche.

My own career expectations grew from the year I spent on a sandwich placement with Acer Consultants (now Hyder Consulting) where I experienced a whole range of disciplines. I carried out design in the office, supervised site works and liased with the public and approval boards.

Following this, I decided my interests were mainly in the construction side of the business so, after my graduation I sought work with contractor Bachy Soletanche, to start work in September 1997. Before starting I expected to be eased in gently, gradually being given responsibility as my career progressed.

However, I have gained responsibility far more quickly than I imagined. I have had wide ranging practical experience in a relatively short space of time, supervised several contracts, and travelled extensively throughout the UK.

With the completion of each contract, I have been progressively given more responsibility. This pleases me as I see it as a vote of confidence for my abilities. It is also very satisfying to look back over the past three years since graduation and see the steady increase in my career progression.

I definitely feel the issue of responsibility, as in any career, is important. I can't really speak for other graduates, but I can imagine that if my career had not progressed as quickly, then my motivation could have been affected and a career change could even have become necessary. Responsibility is animportant factor in keeping individuals fresh with new challenges, and to give them steady progression throughout their career.

However, it is a two-way thing. I have been proactive in making changes to my career by talking about my career goals at performance appraisals, and have been ready for new challenges.

Graduates should realise that by taking on extra responsibility they are enhancing their careers, and they can then enjoy the appropriate rewards.

No

Andy Martin, site engineer.

Graduates often leave university with high expectations, as they have recently completed difficult and responsible projects at university, and have the impression that they will be making similar decisions and utilising similar skills in the workplace. In most cases, however, I have found this is not so.

When I joined contracting I found work required me to take on far less responsibility than I had expected. Now, three years later, I have refined my skills as a site engineer, but have generally not had an increased level of responsibility.

I understand that respect needs to be earned before responsibility can be passed on. But I feel that there is reluctance on the part of employers ingeneral to act once you have mastered your current responsibilities, and to view you in a very hierarchical fashion. Because I am at a lower scale on the ladder, I am shown a lack of respect regardless of the fact that I'm completing essential tasks and have potential to do more.

I have been given some additional responsibility as the opportunity has arisen, partly because I have voiced my opinions at appraisals. But generally there seems to be a shortage of opportunities that allow young graduates to fulfil their potential, as they are not pushed to their limits and given a chance to prove themselves. Graduates need to be given this chance.

Most of us are aware that in the construction industry, risks - financial, and health and safety - are great. But systems could be developed to allow graduates to take on more risks earlier within a controlled environment, with mitigation procedures should things go wrong.

Money is normally the most talked about problem in our industry, but job satisfaction is not totally reliant on this issue. If your job offers you responsibility, and work challenges and motivates you, then money becomes less of an issue.

If the industry can crack responsibility issues, retention and motivation of graduates will improve immeasurably.

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