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The flying squad

Courses - MScs for engineers and non engineers, and foundation courses to encourage people into civil engineering, are fuelling the courses and training market.Damian Arnold reports.

New further education courses in civil engineering are emerging as BEng civil engineering students seek the required fourth year of academic education to allow them to become a chartered engineer.

The general shortage of civil engineers is encouraging construction employers to send employees with non civils degrees on conversion courses or foundation courses. And other industries like retail and manufacturing are recognising the management value of some post graduate construction courses and are enrolling their staff on them.

'With 50% of the population going to university now students need something beyond a first degree to distinguish themselves, ' says Nottingham University director of studies Bill Askew.

There are good job opportunities in construction and civil engineering.

This emerging phenomenon goes against the trend of declining courses and student numbers at undergraduate level.

'There has been a 30%-40% decline in the teaching of civil engineering at universities to the point where there are now only 750 graduates a year being produced, ' says Dr Mike Byfield of Southampton University's school of civil engineering and environment. Civils departments have closed at Aston, Sheffi eld Hallam, Oxford Brookes, Cranfield, Queen Mary, Kings College, Hertford, Middlesex, and Westminster, while the UMIST and Manchester courses have merged.

He also points out that the post war baby boomers are all due to retire over the next 10 years which will exacerbate the gap in civil engineers in work and civil engineers the country needs.

'The government has been happy to watch civil engineering departments close around the country and it doesn't take a genius to see what the result is going to be, ' he says.

Universities, training providers and employers are aware of the problem and are working together to plug the gaps.

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