Engineers get on the wrong track

March 29, 1996

A survey of 2,000 final-year engineering students shows that only half of them feel they were adequately informed about their course before they joined and a quarter believe they chose the wrong one.

The study, by Whiteway Research and the Engineering Employers' Federation, published this week, says universities need to look at their information FOR prospective students and their admissions procedures. More than two-thirds of the respondents expected their first job to be in engineering, although only 55 per cent expect to remain in engineering.

While most students agree that an engineering career is varied, challenging and provides opportunities for training, they believe it fails to offer any kind of prestige, promotion prospects or job security. One disgruntled student says: "The reason I am not going into engineering is because it is an over-worked, underpaid and undervalued profession with slow progression." Another complains that the present prospects of working as an engineer are pretty grim. In terms of pay and career status, engineers "are still looked on as messing about with engines".

But on a more positive note, the study says that conventional "high fliers" who are expected to gain brilliant degrees, and who make up 10 per cent of the sample, are not going to look for the earliest opportunity to flee the profession. Like the average engineering student, they are planning for a long-term career in engineering and have an inclination towards engineering management. This, combined with the positive experience most students have had during their period of work experience, suggests that the "haemorrhaging" of high fliers in recent years may be declining.

For more than one third of students, the opportunity to work abroad was an important factor. Those expecting to work in Europe has declined from 63 per cent in 1991 to 52 per cent this year. This suggests that students, like major engineering corporations themselves, are increasingly adopting a global rather than a European focus, says the report.

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