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Overseas experience will help our infrastructure

This year’s crop of NCE Graduate Awards finalists was once again an amazing and inspiring bunch of talented and confident young professionals.

Students vs. the world

As you will read in this issue, they have already packed an incredible amount into their short careers.They are truly bursting with ideas, ability and enthusiasm − and frankly they’ll need every bit of it to succeed.

Because every aspiring engineer emerges into the realities of working life at a pretty challenging moment in the world’s economic history. The global downturn clouds every conversation and decision in business and will continue to do so for perhaps a decade or more to come.

For even the best students, finding their dream career path is increasingly tricky and increasingly competitive. And for employers, investment in the right training and experience is under constant pressure.

As I highlighted at last week’s Graduate Awards ceremony, we have some very talented people already building great careers in the profession, but we need more of them.

Yet with university fees of up to £9,000 a year now the norm, aspiring engineering professionals will be under increasing pressure to justify their investment decisions.

“With university fees of up to £9,000 a year now the norm, aspiring engineering professionals will be under increasing pressure to justify their investment decisions”

We need to get the message out there that this investment is great value − that it will reap reward in terms of career prospects and contribution to society. Then we need to follow it up with the careers to match.

Fortunately, infrastructure investment is now accepted by the UK government as the key to future growth. Multi-billion pound infrastructure investment levers are being thrown to kick start growth.

But this week’s decision by transport secretary Justine Greening to delay her decision over High Speed 2 serves to remind us just how difficult it still is to get a major infrastructure project to the start line. A fact that is equally evident in the nuclear, airports and water sectors.

Which is why it is also fortunate that UK civil engineering businesses are now operating on the global stage. NCE’s International Tunnelling Awards, also last week, demonstrated the scale of global underground infrastructure underway, and the way that UK firms are at the heart of the activity.

And with an estimated $40trillion set to be spent on infrastructure around the world by 2030 young engineers should take heart that careers and rewards are there to be taken.

By and large young engineers want to travel and all want as much responsibility as possible as early as possible. Employers and clients must encourage young professionals by helping them look beyond the UK.

The result will be better motivated and experienced professionals armed with an array of international experience, ready to deliver our vital infrastructure more efficiently. Get them on a plane tomorrow.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

Readers' comments (1)

  • Philip Alexander

    Come to Australia. Some of the public transport is world class, especially the busway network in Brisbane and british engineers (of whom I'm one although now an aussie too) can learn a lot about how to get things done to a high quality. The lead time between concept and delivery of infrastructure is so much shorter here in queensland that it's refreshing to see projects actually get built in one's lifetime!

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