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Pick staff from the classroom, employers told

INTENSE COMPETITION for graduate civil engineers was inevitable but could be avoided if companies chose future staff at school-leaving age, London's City University told industry employers last week.

Going into schools to seek out and sign up students is key to City's new 'partnerships with industry' scheme. Once identified, the scheme is intended to match students with its industrial partners who would sponsor them through BEng and MEng sandwich courses.

Launching the initiative at a special conference last week, head of civil engineering Professor John Atkinson said employers would need to identify their graduate intake earlier. The alternative was to face a dogfight over the few graduates with degrees meeting the standard required to be chartered under the Engineering Council's current SARTOR rules.

'Applications to civil engineering have halved since 1993 to about 3,500 this year,' he said. 'Industry will have a serious shortage of graduates to choose from, which in my view they haven't addressed yet. There is already a great shortage, especially as a lot of graduates are lost to banking and accountancy.'

Ove Arup training manager Roger Chantrelle, who chaired the conference, agreed there were problems ahead: 'There will be an inevitable reduction of prime candidates creating fiercer competition.'

But Kier Group training and development manager George Chaplin claimed that the number of chartered engineers would remain the same. He said: 'Only 10% of graduates choose to become chartered anyway and there should be no change to that figure.'

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