I commend Professor Fleming for making his views on the issue of graduate pay heard (NCE 22 June). Several of my peer group have charted their career down the roads of accounting and law and now, five to six years since graduating and after achieving professional recognition, they are reaping the financial rewards.
However, there are several points to be considered when making comparisons between civil engineering and other established professions. Most of these 'better paid' professions operate within local or national fixed price markets. Therefore the fees they can charge for a graduate can be three to four times what a civil consultant could charge.
Their markets are not as sensitive to the economy and they generally do not have to tender competitively for work: it usually finds them.
Organisational structures are smaller and therefore overheads are lower.
The answer is not to set minimum starting salaries but to increase rewards for progression and loyalty. In the other professions graduates will often earn around £11,000 to £13,000pa for the first two years and then in the third reach £15-16k. These graduates are often intensively trained and prepared for their professional examinations which are taken at the earliest opportunity. Once qualified the salary often moves into the £24,000 to £28,000 range.
Civils graduates are left to paddle around aimlessly and the quality of training varies greatly.
Standards and training performance among approved employers is not enforced. If graduates are not chartered within four years someone should be asking serious questions.
The solution is to maintain the incentive, as Costain appears to be doing.
Many civils graduates work hard and pass their CPR only to find they are in no better financial position than they were as a graduate.
Mark Bramley, M.Bramley@btinternet.com