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Letters: It is time we started paying the price for graduates

The main point:

Student woes: What lies ahead for engineering graduates?

Student woes: What lies ahead for engineering graduates?

As a mum of a soon to be fourth year MEng student at a top 10 UK university, I would like to suggest to Martin Cure (Letters 25 June) that he retargets his derisory offer of a salary of £19k at the bottom nine or 10 universities instead.

  • Linda Scott, Hampton, Middlesex

In response to Martin Cure’s letter, I can inform him £19k plus a bonus would have been considered a good graduate salary when I graduated in 1998.

As I have repeatedly found myself, as one of the few UK engineers under the age of 35 in the companies I have worked for, I suspect that most UK graduates have studied medicine, actuarial maths, law, accounting or some other degree where the career path offers remuneration significantly greater than that of engineering.

It continues to baffle me as to why the industry cannot bring itself to admit the reason for the ongoing decline in UK engineering graduates is primarily due to the poor rates in comparison with other professions. The only solution that the industry appears to have proposed is the wholesale importation of cheap foreign labour, further suppressing rates and ensuring the slow decline of the profession continues.

  • David Carmichael,

I refer to the letter Where are the UK students? by Martin Cure (NCE 25 June). Students do like to sit in bars at times. I certainly did when I was at university and I still do at times.

But what I found from my early years in the profession is that many firms make promises for training schemes that either never get fulfilled or take years to get underway. Project needs seem to always take precedence.

When this happened to me, I simply took my CPD into my own hands, at my own expense and in my own time. I acquired all the training I deemed necessary, including negotiation skills. I learnt how to negotiate and made sure my next job paid me double so I could fund for my future CPD, and so I could take it at the fast and enthusiastic pace I required.

In a sense I worked for many years for free doing all that CPD at my own expense and time. People such as David Beckham and Michael Jordan also worked for free for many years until they finally covered themselves in glory. In both cases they took matters into their own hands.

Perhaps if Cure was to increase the proposed salary, allocating part of it to CPD, then graduates could do whatever they want with the budget. I was getting paid only £20,000 back in 2002 as a graduate, so don’t think that £19,000 is a great proposition seven years later.

  • Paulo Sacramento (M),


Do speed cushions soften the blow?

Speed cushions 2,000 years ago in Pompeii

Speed cushions 2,000 years ago in Pompeii

Can anyone tell the purpose of speed cushions? They do not slow down buses, trucks, SUVs, bikes or people who want to exceed the speed limit.

Like a lot of imposed safety features on roads, they are a lazy response to the issue of speeding on urban roads. They are used like a panacea, when some thought is needed.

There were similar features in Pompeii 2,000 years ago, the only difference being that these seem to have had some constructive purpose.

  • John Wharrie (M),


Planning ahead

The ICE’s recent State of the Nation report and its summary in NCE on 25 June highlight the focal position which indigenous energy resources hold in our future security.

So much of our infrastructure demanding protection comes back to having the energy to deal with it.

All battles are won on a combination of ingenuity and strength and climate change is no different.

The current drive towards electric traction is a shining example − let’s rid our environment of hydrocarbon pollution by conversion to a clean (to the consumer) energy source, ideally home-grown but from where?

Common, frequent and usually critical talk about the intermittency of generation from renewable energy sources only makes sense if we first define what we want of those sources and then cannot efficiently make ends meet.

In sharp contrast to gloom-mongering, a little smart technology stands to bring all together, but only if we look ahead and plan accordingly.

Battles demand plans. The ICE needs a schedule to permit its perception of infrastructure change to be translated into targets, otherwise it might all be hot air.

  • Tom Shaw (F), Shawater, Bath BA3 4DN

Getting the facts straight

In response to comments made in the ICE State of the Nation Report about the flooding at AWE Burghfield, I was resident at Burghfield at the time of the flooding, and was also team leader for the Engineering Substantiation of the Nuclear Facilities at Burghfield which was completed 12 months prior to the flooding.

Based upon my experience while undertaking the Engineering Substantiation, and further work by many others during and after the event, it has been demonstrated that there is, and was, no potential for nuclear safety to be compromised by flooding.

The independent Nuclear Installation Inspectorate also stated afterwards that it did not believe that the flooding caused any major issues that might have affected nuclear safety.

The statement made in the report that: “if the flood water had penetrated only a little further it could have led to the spread of radioactive material, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people and leaving the area near the factory uninhabitable for centuries”, is not only blatantly untrue but is excessively sensationalist for a technical publication.

I am appalled that what is supposed to be a high quality factual report could be so distorted in its information.

Furthermore, the damage to the nuclear industry by this statement was amplified by it becoming a major part of the discussion on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Whilst I fully support the ICE in its intention to draw attention to the nation’s infrastructure, the failure to check facts with regards to the flooding at Burghfield leads me to question the accuracy of the aspects of the report about which I have no knowledge.

I trust that a correction from the ICE will be published and that steps will be taken to ensure that this inaccurate reporting is not repeated.

  • Paul Doyle (F), Berkshire

Renewing renewables

For obvious reasons I have always considered that there should be conjunctive use of pumped storage with wind generation.

I therefore welcome the announcement by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) chief executive Ian Merchent at the formal opening of the Glendoe Hydro Scheme last week, that SSE is going to provide two pumped storage schemes in the Great Glen.These will have a combined output of 10 times that of Glendoe.

In addition he announced the retrofit of 60MW of pumped storage to its Sloy scheme on Loch Lomond.

While this is to be commended it should not be forgotten that the ill fated Craigroyston Scheme directly opposite Sloy attracted overwhelming objections due to the sensitive nature of the effect on water levels in Loch Lomond.

Incidentally, a report last year by Scottish Renewables identified 657MW of potential hydro generation capacity in over 1,000 small to medium schemes in Scotland. So hydro generation is not yet dead.

  • Harry Valentine, 32 Inglewood Crescent, Hairmyres, East Kilbride G75 8QD

Back to front

I am writing in response to David Johnson’s letter regarding traffic signs (NCE 25 June).

His point was quite amusing. However if you assume the view of the lorry is from the front and not the back, would the sign not be correct?

  • Andrew Tryon,

We will all be flying forward

You write: High speed rail plans ‘too slow’ in reporting a transportation briefing (NCE 18 June).

Let me reassure you! High Speed Two (HS2), the company set up by the government to develop the case for high speed rail in this country and propose specific routes is anticipating technology advances in close contact with industry worldwide.

The world is moving forward and, be assured, so are we. I fully expect to be advocating 400kph and still achieve very high capacity.

  • Andrew McNaughton (F), chief engineer, High Speed 2,

Sinking feeling

I was intrigued as to quite how the Venice flood defence system is supposed to work (NCE 25 June).

Now long retired, my theory of structures, hydrostatics and mathematics are all extremely rusty and unreliable. Your greatly simplified illustration, I fear, is of no help to my limited understanding.

The height of the barrier is 28m, presumably from the hinge at the base to the upper edge.

When filled with air, I gather that it stands vertically upright on the seabed, and holds at bay on the seaward side a surge of up to 3m above the safe surface level of the lagoon.

That to my uncomprehending mind would seem to equate to a moment of 1,080tonne metres per metre about the base hinge. How has provision for this moment been made? Or, is there simply no such moment involved? Could one of your more knowledgeable readers kindly enlighten me?

  • Charles Brindley, 72 London Road, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3XE.

Your views & opinion

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.

The Editor, NCE,
1st Floor, Greater
London House,
Hampstead Road,
London NW1 7EJ

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