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Will tackling low pay tackle the ongoing skill shortage?

Regarding your comment 'The industry skill shortage: We are to blame (NCE 6 March)', I'm sorry, but you're way off the mark on this one. You need to be down here at the grass roots.

The abolition of fee scales in the 1980s had an impact on consulting engineers' ability to command reasonable fees for the work they do.

My partners and I have attempted over many years to improve fee scales in a competitive tender market but we are constantly undercut by smaller firms, one man bands and unqualified engineers. As employers, we cannot compete with the salaries offered by other industries.

Other professions and their work are protected by statute and they are able to set fee scales which allow payment of good salaries. This attracts talented young people into these professions and away from our industry.

Some years ago I wrote to the Institution of Structural Engineers and asked whether they had lobbied Government to protect the title of engineer and the work we do. They replied saying that they could see no benefit to such a process.

Recently over 35,000 people signed the Downing Street petition for the Government to address the issue of the status of the professional engineer. The Government's response was pathetic. The Tory Government was to blame for creating the current situation and Labour is now to blame for not addressing it.

Money talks and to encourage the right people into our industry, as employers of engineers, we simply do not have as much of it as the other professions.

- PHIL HOWDEN (M), Thomas Consulting, Civil & Structural Engineers, 3 Friar Street, Lancaster, LA1 1PZ

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