Spanners in the works

October 10, 2013

I have a first from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in engineering from Imperial College London. I am a chartered engineer with 13 years’ industrial experience. I have published widely in peer-reviewed scientific journals. I am an acknowledged expert in my field. Yet I have been unemployed for more than 11 years despite a worldwide job search. Each year I have written a polite letter to the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering outlining my plight and asking for any careers advice that the institute might be able to give me. To date, I have never received a reply.

It seems to me, at least, that (a) there is no manufacturing industry left in the UK and (b) engineering in this country is not a profession, despite the existence of august bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering and the fact that our prime minister this year set up the £1 million Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

Final-year secondary school students are currently in the process of applying to UK universities through Ucas. My advice to them is simple: do not waste time and money studying science or engineering in this country. Instead, focus on something vocational such as medicine, law, nursing, teaching, accountancy, radiography or occupational therapy.

If they still insist on studying science and engineering, then my advice is twofold. First, those of an academic bent should learn German and study at a German university; Germany has always valued its scientists and engineers, and it still has a manufacturing engineering sector in which they can work.

Second, if they are of a more practical bent, they should study something such as welding or instrumentation at a technical college and look to work offshore anywhere in the world. Such work is plentiful and extremely well paid.

Mark Lee

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