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Salaries: we're worse off now

Letters

As an example of how relative civil engineering salaries have changed, I set out below typical starting salaries for engineers of various grades in 1973 and today.

1973 2000

Graduate £1,600 £16,000

Newly chartered £3,200 £24,000

Senior engineer £4,800 £30,000

Principal engineer £6,400 £36,000

The 1973 salaries are a good reflection of the engineer's value and capability as his or her career progresses, while those of today are not, because the reward for career progression has been greatly diminished.

Today, much routine engineering design is done by graduates using standard software packages, a fact which has enabled fees to be reduced while maintaining profitability.

This has diminished the role of the senior engineer as a technical specialist with a corresponding reduction in remuneration.

The need to reduce fees results from the obsession of clients with price as opposed to value. Some years ago a major privatised utility company disposed of its entire engineering design capability to enhance shareholder returns.

The clear intention was to drive down design fees to levels which would have made the inhouse capability unprofitable.

What clients do not appreciate is that a low design cost will almost certainly not result in a low cost of construction, where most of their money is spent.

This is where the Institution must stand up for its members, by requiring competition on the basis of excellence rather than price.

Mike Stephen (M), michael. stephen@surreycc.gov. uk

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