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Letters: What does Lord Sugar know about engineers’ business skills?

What does Lord Sugar know about engineers’ business skills?

Lord Sugar should know that his comments on engineers (News last week) are likely to have a disproportionate effect on emerging talent, and that if he took the time to look at schools which is where he gets his apprentices, he would have seen they have a critical shortage of scientists and engineers without whom his “businessmen” will have little to manipulate.

  • Ken Gibbs (F), Lower Cockmoyle, Rock, Wadebridge, Cornwall PL27 6JX

Lord Sugar seems to think that businessmen are in some way superior to chartered engineers so I am amazed at the back-footed stance your commentators seem to be taking on his views on the subject.

Surely the important point is that businessmen make bad engineers, not the other way round. Many so called businessmen take pride in the fact that they left school at 16 and have no qualifications, and have made a lot of money, often at other people’s expense, doing anything as long as it makes a profit.

At least we engineers have the satisfaction of knowing that we do something that society needs.

Think how many of the engineering industries have been ruined by so-called businessmen, notably the car industry and − via Dr Beeching − the railways.

The real problem is that these kinds of industries are no longer run by engineers but by businessmen and accountants who don’t understand the industries they are supposed to be running.

  • Charles Blackett-Ord (F), 33 Chapel Street, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria CA16 6QR

I was glancing through my husband’s copy of NCE and read with interest the article on Lord Sugar’s remarks on engineers (News last week).

We have just returned from France and had discussed this attitude with our French friends.

They were surprised at the lack of value given to civil engineers in the UK and explained that in France, they rank alongside medical doctors, lawyers etcetera and are highly valued members of society.

Is it all in the name? In French, ingénieur comes from the root of the word meaning that someone is clever − ingenious in English!

  • Julia Davies, juliadaviesuk@btinternet.com

Having worked for more than 40 years in civil/structural consultancies as an employee and as an employer I would agree wholeheartedly with Lord Sugar’s assessment.

  • Philip Young, Dixon Hurst Kemp, Britannia House, 336 Kingsway, Hove, East Sussex BN3 4LW

Paying the price

The National Grid report Update: operating the electricity networks in 2020 published on 13 June says that about 28% of the generating capacity will consist of renewables and these will produce about 20% of UK demand.

If a higher percxntage of generating capacity comes from renewables, the percentage of time when the wind turbines are switched off at periods of low demand will increase. This will increase the money coming from the consumer to pay the renewable energy suppliers for not producing electricity.

  • Ben Tatham (F), St Anthony, Pilgrims Way, Westhumble, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6AW

HS2: will only be a short term scar

It’s too easy to dismiss supporters of High Speed 2 (HS2) as “trainspotters, big business and greedy politicians” as reported recently in the Daily Telegraph, but I’m sure many civil, structural, electrical, mechanical and signalling engineers are in support of it as well, even if just for the design and construction phase, because of the employment opportunities it provides.

Almost any other developed country has a high speed line, and for Britain not to have more than one would put us in a backwater.

For example, since the building of the high speed line between Paris and Brussels, internal flights between those places have dropped, with presumably a consequent drop in CO2 and other emissions.

An argument against high speed lines seems to be that other services will suffer, but they don’t have to. With intelligent timetabling and pricing normal and high speed services can co-exist.

The act of constructing HS2 will cause a horrendous scar across the countryside, but within a couple of growing seasons it will recover, as it has from motorway building, and it will settle down to being just another railway line, but with faster trains.

  • AG Mordey (M), 19, Highland Road, Lillington, Leamington Spa, Warkwickshire CV32 7EG

Adapt and survive

The UK drought is being felt most by our farmers, whose crop losses this year are likely to be of the same order of the whole Thames Water Capex spend.

I agree with Martin Baggs that the water companies are not being allowed sufficient funding to maintain the water distribution network assets (NCE 16 June). But for NCE to link this directly with the plight of our farmers seems to be missing a much bigger point.

Many of our farmers are seeing the impact of a dry spring and the hottest April in over 300 years, resulting in very low levels of soil moisture. These conditions, together with wetter winters and more extreme rainfall events, are the predicted impacts of climate change.

If our nation is to adapt to these conditions and at the same time meet the needs of all our water users, including farmers and ecosystems, surely what we need is a fresh look at a national water resources strategy.

This would doubtless show that we need to be prepared to invest in adaptation, on measures ranging from rainwater harvesting through to regional storage and transfers. While such investment might be substantial, its benefits would be tangible and clear.

  • Michael Norton MBE (M), mrnorton2000@yahoo.co.uk

Water needs investment

If the lowest annual rainfall experienced by England, Scotland and Wales during the past 100 years had all occurred in the same year the total volume of water falling on Britain would have been about 180bn.m³.

If the wettest years for each country had coincided, the figure would have been about 320bn.m³. By comparison the amount of water abstracted and supplied to customers is about 7bn.m3, between 2% and 4% of the amount which falls in any year.

The problem with public water supply is not that we experience “droughts” as in genuinely dry countries but that we have not invested in sufficient infrastructure to collect, store and distribute the plentiful supplies that nature provides.

  • Roger Evans (F) evans.roger@virgin.net.

Letters to the editor

NCE welcomes letters from readers.

We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.

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