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Training: how to get the best

Careers clinic

I have been working for the same consultant for two years since graduation and am struggling to find the right experience to sign off ICE objectives. I signed a training agreement soon after I started and have kept up to date with my quarterly reports. My employer provides two or three training courses a year but that is the limit of its contribution. I have never been on a construction site and my current workload does not have the range to satisfy most of the core objectives.

What training and support should I expect from my employer under a training agreement, and which companies are most successful at passing graduates through the Professional Review?

When a trainee enters into a training agreement with an ICE approved employer, it is expected that the employing organisation will endeavour to provide the necessary experience to facilitate the skills and professional development required to complete the core objectives for the appropriate Professional Review. It is also the responsibility of the trainee to identify the development requirements and be pro-active in achieving their training goals.

However, if your needs are not being met, it is imperative that you discuss matters in the first instance with the appointed supervising civil engineer - your navigator throughout the training period.

You will also benefit from the advice of your regional liaison officer - your ICE mentor - who has an extensive support network.

They will work with your employer to identify the shortfalls and propose a solution to the training problems. For example, it could be proposed that you be seconded to another organisation for further experience and development.

It should also be noted that the current core objectives do not require on-site experience or any other specific experience to fulfil their requirements. They are designed generically, embracing all training environments. Similarly, training courses are not singularly sufficient in achieving the core objectives. They should be used in conjunction with on the job training and experience.

There is a misconception surrounding the 'Rules' of the core objectives. The key to success is in achieving a balance. We do not expect 100% achievement on each core objective - although 0% is obviously unacceptable. However, throughout your training and professional development, proficiencies specific to your discipline emerge, and you will be expected to demonstrate them at the Professional Review.

The ICE published the relative performance of consultants and contractors in getting their graduates through the Chartered Professional Review (NCE 23/30 August 2001). The results were based on pass rates at Chartered Professional Review over the last nine reviews. Arup, Bullen, Carillion, HM Forces, Mott MacDonald and Taylor Woodrow showed the highest pass rates and the highest volume of applicants. However, I advise you to contact your regional liaison officer to discuss your situation and possible options.

Paul McSherry, professional development advisor, ICE

At Taylor Woodrow, we encourage all our civil engineering graduates to sign up to a training agreement with the company and the ICE. A supervising civil engineer (SCE) or delegated engineer (DE) is then allocated to guide each graduate through the process of becoming chartered.

It is usual practice that all graduates complete two years' site experience and then we would provide suitable design experience of approximately 12 months. This is either in-house, with our engineering division (integrated design), or with an external consultant.

Taylor Woodrow has established a number of contacts over the years in which we agree to second graduates between companies to provide appropriate training and development.

I would suggest that you speak to your SCE or DE, to determine whether the company has any procedures in place to arrange an appropriate site placement. If it has not, then I would suggest that you seek permission to find a suitable placement outside the company. Start networking and good luck!

Linda Ryan, human resources advisor, Taylor Woodrow Most learning will occur through on the job experience but is supplemented with training courses and other off the job activities.

There is no specific requirement for site experience and no specified limit on the amount of time it should take to achieve the objectives.

That your employer has gone to the trouble of producing a training scheme, and having it approved, suggests it intends to help its graduates towards professional qualification. If they do not intend to honour their side of the agreement then the ICE should be informed. However, before you leap to that conclusion it would be worth exploring the practicalities of the issues a little further.

Have you spoken to your SCE or DE about your concerns? Are they satisfied with the rate at which you are achieving the objectives, and are your expectations realistic?

Remember that the training agreement is a two-way deal and you should not expect your company to spoon-feed you with everything you need to become chartered - you are expected to take an active role. With the best will in the world the opportunities a company is able to provide will vary in response to the business climate. While it would be good experience for you to spend time on site, if appropriate sites are not available at this time your employer cannot produce one for you from thin air.

Your SCE and DE will be busy people. The more proactive, imaginative and flexible you are in meeting with them and suggesting ways to meet your objectives, the easier it will be for them to support you. So, consider ways you could broaden your experience to meet your objectives and suggest them to your SCE/DE.

Perhaps you could spend some time in another part of the firm, or maybe there's a project on the horizon that would provide an opportunity. Your firm may even arrange swaps with contractor's graduates. The more flexible you are in terms of location and package the more chance you have of gaining site experience. The ICE's regional liaison officer may be able to help you to work out some options.

Debra Larkman, training and development manager, Arup

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