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Sad civils near bottom of happiness league

THREE QUARTERS of civil engineers are dissatisfied with their jobs, a survey by Bath University suggests.

In a study that covered 35,000 individuals and 138 vocations and professions, civil engineers were placed 16th from bottom in the happiness stakes.

Only 26% of the civil engineers surveyed claimed to be 'positively satisfied' with their jobs. This compared to 55% of construction operatives and 33% of 'building managers'.

The survey's author, Professor Michael Rose, claimed that the ability to work flexible hours and unsupervised, as well as the belief that jobs were 'socially useful' appeared to be the secret to a happy working life. He added that a salary of £50,000 plus tended to produce job satisfaction regardless of an individual's role or area of work.

Recent research commissioned by NCE among civil engineers identified a number of factors which could create job dissatisfaction. These included:

Lack of understanding by the public of the civil engineer's role and importance to society.

The adversarial nature of UK construction.

The conservative nature of the profession - characterised by the relatively slow career progress compared to other professions.

Lack of training.

Fewer large projects in the UK.

The concentration on value for money rather than design.

These concerns were particularly felt by the under 35s.

The findings of the Bath survey were also echoed by engineers contacted by NCE.

MVA deputy managing director Denvil Coombe said: 'As a consultant you're rejected more often than you're accepted. Two thirds of clients don't want you and most people don't go through that every day of their lives.' He also expressed frustration that, especially in transport planning, 'politics often overrides the technical argument'.

Mouchel human resources advisor Pam Whittington said: 'Civil engineering companies are having to look to other areas away from their core business. That's not satisfying engineers who want to do engineering. The shift from, say, road building to maintenance is also poor for engineers' morale.'

However, ICE chief executive Mike Casebourne said: 'Civil engineers should not feel trapped in one job for life. They should always be aware of the range of opportunities that are available to them throughout the greater profession. Civil engineering is one of the most challenging and rewarding careers but members must take control of their own destiny. '

According to the survey the happiest vocation is that of the medical secretary, 75% of whom are happy in their work.

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