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Letters to the Editor

The engineering profession is held in such a low regard by the general public for the simple reason that when their TV, video or washing machine breaks down it is an 'engineer' that is called out to fix it.

You can talk about university entry level requirements and SARTOR until you are blue in the face and it will not make an ounce of difference because these things do not enter the realm of the general public.

Also there has been a spate of articles and letters regarding dwindling numbers of good engineering graduates entering the profession and fewer numbers aiming for chartership.

Again the answer is very simple and can be found in the latest NCE salary review. We can see that most under 25 year olds earn between £14,000 and £16,000. At that salary level I would expect them to be fixing washing machines.

I personally know of excellent graduates who have been offered positions starting around £11,000. This is an utter disgrace.

John Moses (G), Brown & Root Energy Services, John.Moses@halliburton.com

Less may mean more

In the NCE Consultants File a recruitment consultant notes that despite the long road to achieving chartered status, graduate engineer salaries are poor when compared to other careers.

I welcome the fall in number of young engineers entering the industry. Hopefully it will serve to improve their relative worth and force the industry to take steps towards redressing the balance.

It is frequently stated that the highest calibre civil engineering graduates are moving into other careers.

While this is insulting to those who chose to remain (is greater intelligence required to become a banker/accountant/ office manager?) it is also indicative of the overall trend in downplaying the worth of the graduate engineer.

Students are not studying civil engineering because it is just not worth it. It won't change the engineer's lowly status, or high risk/low reward equation. Such problems desperately need to be addressed from a realistic perspective.

Given that the powers that be have decided to make this route take longer, I can only say that at least those 'high calibre' graduates were smart enough to leave the industry sooner rather than later.

Gary Farquhar (G), 1 Saville Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh

Buying time

I read with concern the tragic events at Mont Blanc. It would appear evacuation procedures and access for firefighters would have been enhanced if a sprinkler system had been installed at the tunnel soffit.

I am not saying that sprinklers would have extinguished the fire, fuelled as this one was by margarine and rubber, but it would have gained valuable time for the rescue services.

Some may argue that cost would be prohibitive but as you pointed out in one of your articles, the tunnel operator ATMB, had recently installed a pressurised water main for the purpose of fire fighting. This surely could have been adapted to provide a sprinkler system.

Finally, regarding drainage, most tunnels would have sufficient capacity to cope with the water.

Peter Wadsworth (M), First Director, Quality Result Ltd. qualityresult@wadsworthp.freeserve.co.uk

Inquiry before trial

In his letter on the HEX Trial, (NCE 1/8 April) Professor Golser, chairman of Geoconsult, has made some valuable points some of which I can support from my own experience .

Some years ago I acted as an expert witness for one of the defendant parties in a prosecution initiated by the HSE. I believe that the jury did not even begin to understand the technicalities until the judge took them on a site visit.

The technical aspects were not coherently worked through and the reports of the Experts not considered in any detail.

The jury was given only limited information and failed to reach a verdict, and the HSE subsequently withdrew the action. A considerable amount of professional effort and public money was wasted, and any lessons that might have been learnt by the industry were lost.

If (as suggested by Professor Golser in the case of the HEX accident) there had first been an inquiry to establish the full facts, any subsequent prosecution could have been more effectively processed.

Also, if such an inquiry had been held, then considering the number of parties involved in the project, the HSE might well have initiated a different trial that could have been more conclusive.

Peter A Cox (F), 18 Ranmore Avenue, Croydon, Surrey CR0 5QA

Take good advice

The recent letter from Mr Dover (NCE 11 March) regarding the advice given by a regional liaison officer raises some interesting points.

RLO's provide advice to any civil engineer on all of the routes to membership of the ICE. They have a thorough knowledge of the requirements, close contact with the Review process and, in particular, they have extensive contact with large numbers of civil engineers working for many types of employer.

They are therefore in a unique position to be able to make a realistic assessment of someone's personality and experience and guide them towards the class of membership most appropriate for them and the job they are likely to have.

The role of the RLOs will become increasingly important in their realistic support of aspiring young engineers, who should not hesitate to contact them over the coming years.

Mike Casebourne (F), chief executive and secretary, ICE, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA

Creative input

I refer to the NCE Consultants File, March 1999, and particularly to the caption of the picture on page 14 which gives the impression that WYG designed the supporting structure of the Cribbs Causeway near Bristol.

We at Structures 1 don't claim to have been there at the moment of conception, but as designers of the supporting structure illustrated and part of the specialist sub-contractor's team we certainly had a hand in its creation.

Ian Duncan (M), structures1@compuserve.com

League latest

I look forward to studying our position in the ratings in the NCE Consultants File each year and I know that some of our clients are also interested in how we compare with other consultants.

This year our turnover figure was omitted. I understand that this was due to a misunderstanding regarding our decision to revise our accounting period.

I would be pleased if you would make it clear to your readers that our turnover for building structures for the year 1998 was £2.1M.

This then places Bunyan Meyer & Partners Ltd in 46th position in your Top Firms in Building table.

AJ Castle, Director, Bunyan Meyer & Partners Ltd, Stanhope House, 457 Kingston Rd, Ewell, Epsom, Surrey KT19 0EE

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