NCE carried out a survey of several civil engineering consultants and contractors in the UK, to see what salary graduates are actually starting their careers on.
Most companies declined to comment, seeing it as a confidential matter. However, some were happy to give an average figure.
Hyder Consulting was the lowest payer, paying its graduates a basic of £13,000 if they were based in Wales, with those working in London getting £3,000 more.
'We seem to be recruiting adequately, ' said a spokesman for Hyder Consulting, before adding: 'If Professor Fleming wants an £18,000 minimum for a graduate, wherever they're based, what does that mean for higher level employees?'
Halcrow, Scott Wilson, Gibb, Mott Macdonald and Ove Arup all paid between £14,500 and £15,500 on average, excluding extra pay for graduates living in the more expensive South East. Halcrow offered a £1,000 golden 'hello' to its graduates, whereas Mott Macdonald and Scott Wilson offered a few hundred pounds extra for anyone with a masters degree, a first class degree or a foreign language.
Maunsell paid last year's graduate intake a basic of £16,000 - however, it was Bechtel that came out on top with a starting wage in the region of £18,000.
Contractors who spoke to NCE claimed they already paid the £18,000 that Fleming insisted on. However, basic salaries tend to be well below £18,000 and only go up to and over the limit once the different benefits given to those working on site are taken into account.
The best payer was Balfour Beatty, which rewards graduates with a basic salary of between £17,000 and £20,000.
Graduates who have come through a four year course or live in London are paid at the upper end of the scale. A spokesman said: 'Our graduates get work pattern allowances that increase the rate of basic salary depending on extra hours they would be expected to work.'
Carillion Engineering graduates do not do quite so well. A spokesman said: 'Our basic starting salary of £13,000 is supplemented by a 'subsistence' payment of £5,900 (£6,800 for married graduates) and 18 travel warrants over the course of the year for work related UK travel.
'We require all our staff to be mobile and ready to go anywhere in the UK.' Carillion's regional based engineers are paid £14,000 to £14,500.
Laing's starting salary for last year's graduates was £15,000 nationally and £16,000 for London-based staff, although pay is being reviewed.
Costain, which is taking on 40 graduates this year compared with 25 in 1999, hopes that a five year framework of salary progression geared towards their civil engineers gaining chartered status will prove an attractive proposition for graduates. Salaries progress the nearer the graduate gets towards achieving the target.
A spokesman said: 'We pay graduates with one year's experience and a good degree £17,000 plus a Vauxhall Astra company car or a car allowance worth just over £3,000. They will also get a mileage allowance for travelling to different sites.
He added: 'Our starting salary is geared towards the demands of working on site from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Overtime is paid in some cases for night shifts or weekend work'.
The spokesman admitted that the salary may not seem that good to graduates who can choose to move into more lucrative careers, but he hoped they would realise at the interview stage just how much the company is prepared to invest in their in future.
He explained: 'At the second interview stage applicants have to do an overnight course at our assessment centre where there are a number of practical and written exercises. There is a big investment of staff time in our graduates and they realise how much commitment we are putting into them.'