If the findings of the latest Association of Graduate Recruiters’ (AGR’s) Summer survey are anything to go by, this year’s civil engineering graduates face a difficult time.
For all the talk from the industry about the need to continue its investment in nurturing the next generation of civil engineering professionals, it is clear that this aspiration remains simply an aspiration.
The AGR headlines are frightening. While six months ago firms predicted a gloomy 8.7% fall in year on year graduate recruitment, today the forecast has leapt to a massive 60.5% drop in places available.
The result is that, for each job available, firms can expect 130 applications compared to an already staggeringly high average of 83 across the board. Competition for jobs is even higher at energy, water and utility firms where 188 applications fight for every post.
As NCE has pointed out consistently throughout the downturn, this failure to plan for the future is a recipe for disaster. Not least given a year on year increase in graduate opportunities across sectors of 2.6%.
Individual sectors such as law are predicting a 14.6% rise in graduate jobs, engineering and industrial a 46% increase and business and consulting is planning for a whopping 149% increase this year.
“Starting salaries for construction graduates are expected to rise 1.1%, but that still keeps the industry’s £23,500 at the bottom of the pack”
OK, there is some good news. Starting salaries for construction graduates are expected to rise 1.1%, but that still keeps the industry’s £23,500 at the bottom of the pack.
Compare that to law which is offering £37,000 or even accountancy which starts graduates on £26,500. With both professions also having jobs available, civil engineering’s future skills crisis looks guaranteed.
There are some completely rational business reasons why construction firms are struggling to invest in the next generation. The scale of the market contraction is still being revealed and if there’s no work, then what is the justification for recruiting?
Yet, as this week’s issue demonstrates, there is still a huge amount going on in and around the world of civil engineering.
The Middle East is still booming. The energy and global infrastructure markets are hotting up with firms like Vinci, CH2M Hill and Rider Levett Bucknall already taking advantage. And innovative engineering design such as seen on the M74 is still vital to deliver value for clients’ cash.
The challenge of delivering the low carbon infrastructure needed to drive global economies, as we heard at last week’s NCE-supported BASE London conference, will require huge investment in civils expertise.
None of this is going away. It’s a tough one but the profession must address the challenge of securing its future talent and rising up the league table must be seen as a priority.
- Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor