The ICE London graduates and students committee is keenly aware that we as a profession are losing our fellow young engineers to rival industries.
The main reason cited for people leaving the industry is pay. In the ICE 2013 Salary Survey, graduates in London reported median basic incomes of £28k. This might leave some engineers feeling short-changed when compared to graduate salaries in banking or management consulting – TARGETjobs reports that starting salaries in these sectors are over £40k this year.
However, salaries in these industries should be seen as the exception, not the rule. If engineering is compared to other rewarding professions with a high perceived net quality of life, such as teachers, doctors, accountants and civil servants, then the remuneration on offer is much more competitive.
In the long term, engineering salaries are not to be sniffed at – the ICE 2013 Salary Survey concluded ICE members with the most senior levels of responsibility were earning average incomes of £117,000.
Nonetheless, young engineers that do jump ship from civil engineering might not do so purely out of greed but necessity. The high cost of living and exorbitant house prices in London leave many feeling they cannot live comfortably on entry-level engineering salaries.
For those with aspirations, the industry has much to offer, including reasonably well paid jobs with high satisfaction levels and a good work-life balance. Employers generally offer a supportive environment for career development and the ICE is there to help, offering a multitude of professional development opportunities.
Long term career prospects are great, with job security, opportunities to work abroad and the satisfaction that the projects we contribute to will shape the world around us for the better.
Many people even volunteer their time with engineering charities such as Bridges to Prosperity, RedR and Engineers Without Borders, or promote science, technology, engineering and maths careers to the next generation.
Losing skilled engineers
The risk of losing skilled young engineers to other industries will not go away – employers and employees have their part to play in retaining talent. Young engineers should have the confidence to ask for the tasks and projects that interest them to take their careers in the direction they want, while trusting the support provided by their mentors. Employers need to be properly investing in engineers at the beginning of their careers, giving them the support and development opportunities they require to keep them interested and engaged in the industry. Offering better quality of life over other industries, with rewarding work, good benefits packages and flexible working will increase the appeal. Equally important is to maintain a strong pipeline of innovative engineering projects that challenge staff.
With major infrastructure projects such as Lower Thames Crossing, Hinkley Point C and High Speed 2 on the horizon, it’s an exciting time to be a young civil engineer. If you are interested, get involved with your regional ICE graduates and students committee and also benefit from networking and professional development opportunities.
To get involved in your local Graduate & Student Network, visit: www.ice.org.uk/GSnet
- Ben Kelley and Karthik Vivegananth are ICE London Graduates & Student Network members