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Pulling out of the EngC is not the answer

ANALYSIS

Brian Lee (NCE last week) is possibly right in suggesting that there will be a 'severe skills shortage' in the civil engineering industry, but withdrawal from the Engineering Council is not a solution.

While not a supporter of the entry standards filter imposed by SARTOR, I would like the civil engineering profession to be synonymous with high quality and well motivated students. Many university departments have invested heavily in arrangements for SARTOR, either with CEng or IEng students in mind.

This has included curriculum changes and the raising of entry standards. In some cases this has led to reduced student numbers and moves to introduce non- Institution accredited courses to compensate.

However all departments are committed to quality and most to compatibility with the mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering departments within their faculties. We are too far down the line to risk more confusion by a unilateral withdrawal from the Engineering Council.

However, we should look further for the reasons behind reduced applications to courses. If only all employers were as enlightened as Mark Whitby , then far more young people would choose civil engineering as a career. The real requirement is for more investment in recruitment by the Engineering Council, the Institution and most of all by employers in the profession.

Howard D Wright (F), Chairman, Association of Civil Engineering Departments and Head of department of civil engineering, University of Strathclyde, 107 Rottenrow, Glasgow G4 0NG

Falling numbers : a short-term penalty?

I am somewhat dismayed at the tone of the article about falling civil engineering student numbers, and the proposed cure involving dropping SARTOR. As a professional engineer in a different discipline, I am becoming increasingly disturbed at the dismal level of technical ability shown by many practising engineers.

An increasing number is convinced that engineering is not a career path and that it is merely a convenient route to get into management. Engineering is something 'junior' to be done by minions, and anyway there is no real need for it as computers do it all, don't they?

This is the real reason for civil engineering courses declining - there are easier ways to get rich. In my opinion, SARTOR will promote a short- term skill shortage, and this is a good thing.

The industry will easily cope - there is a world full of good engineers who will come here and plug the gap. It will be at some short-term cost penalty, but if the populace in education realises there is respectable money and status to be had in engineering then demand for good accredited courses will increase.

Mediocre engineering courses will starve, supply and demand will balance once more and engineering will become a profession people aspire to, rather than something they despise. Elitist? Provocative? Maybe. How many doctors do you know who wish they could become managers in the NHS? And when was the last time you met someone who didn't know the difference between a doctor and a nurse?

Damian Harty, dharty@prodrive.com

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