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Topic Title: What can the IET do to help the next generation of Engineers?
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Created On: 22 January 2013 12:39 PM
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 22 January 2013 12:39 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

This is something I have discussed with many Students, Graduates and employers alike. While many (rightly, in my view) bemoan the falling standards in academia and the plethora of under-skilled (or at least, under-prepared) Graduates, it is important to see it from the other side, most notably from that of the aspirational young candidates who either cannot find work in Engineering, or are under-employed and under-utilised.

What do the forum members think the IET's place is in helping ensure our competitive future in the profession? To my eyes, there are too many of the "I'm alright, Jack!" types in the field, who either lack the foresight to realise the skills shortages we are facing (Electrical Engineering is a prime example, with replacement rates apparently well below that of the number of expected retirees in the next 20yrs) or selfishly ignore the problem in favour of short-term gain.

I myself was once a struggling Graduate, with huge 5-figure debts and am scared stiff at the prospects facing my kids if/when they take their tentative steps toward a career. Seeing the title of "Engineer" (among other professions) being constantly undermined and devalued certainly doesn't shake that feeling of pessimism...

Your thoughts?
 22 January 2013 01:03 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

The big problem is how graduates get their first job, so that they can get their first 2-3 years experience that actually trains them to be engineers.

What can the IET do to help this? How about:
1. Clear information for undergraduates as to the importance of that experience and clues as to how to get it. (Also reminding them of the value of a year in industry during their degree.)
2. A free service for employers and graduates where employers can advertise their graduate training / internship programmes. (Again, including undergraduate placement years.)
3. Lobbying the government for incentives to employers to support short term graduate training opportunities. Part of the issue here is finance, part is employment law. New graduates suck value from the employer initially while they are learning, and without a track record there is a greater risk of being stuck with a useless one. Employers need encouragement to face those hurdles and get over them.
4. Ensure that IET accredited degrees include realistic elements of preparation for the workplace. Areas to consider here are teamworking abilities, communication / documentation / presentation skills, possibly practical skills, and generally ability to apply engineering theory to solve real world problems.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 22 January 2013 01:27 PM
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ectophile

Posts: 546
Joined: 17 September 2001

Originally posted by: CelticHeathen

I myself was once a struggling Graduate, with huge 5-figure debts and am scared stiff at the prospects facing my kids if/when they take their tentative steps toward a career. Seeing the title of "Engineer" (among other professions) being constantly undermined and devalued certainly doesn't shake that feeling of pessimism...

Your thoughts?


Untimately, "engineer" is not a title, it's a job description - just like "artist" or "builder". And just like artists and builders, there are no specific qualifications needed to be one.

Some of those engineers who do have specific qualifications would dearly love to stop the others from being called "engineers", but it's not going to happen any time soon.

-------------------------
S P Barker BSc PhD MIET
 22 January 2013 01:45 PM
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john.kempson

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Having also talked about this problem to students, staff and company managers, I see that the problem is no-one is prepared to put enough money into practical training (such as the old EA Engineering Applications) - large companies have recently increased apprenticeships slightly - but this doesn't create the number to even make up for the retirees. Universities now have too big group sizes to give the individual student the chance to do more than follow mundane exercises - or simulate processes on a pc. Not the same thing as being responsible for a expensive piece of kit.
Can the IET badger vice-chancellors to ensure engineering students are taught pactical sessions in less than groups of 12?
It doesnt help their SSR but would help their employability rating.
from one discouraged manufacturing academic.
Its not the label that needs changing its the competence
 23 January 2013 08:45 AM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Originally posted by: amillar

The big problem is how graduates get their first job, so that they can get their first 2-3 years experience that actually trains them to be engineers.



What can the IET do to help this? How about:

1. Clear information for undergraduates as to the importance of that experience and clues as to how to get it. (Also reminding them of the value of a year in industry during their degree.)

2. A free service for employers and graduates where employers can advertise their graduate training / internship programmes. (Again, including undergraduate placement years.)

3. Lobbying the government for incentives to employers to support short term graduate training opportunities. Part of the issue here is finance, part is employment law. New graduates suck value from the employer initially while they are learning, and without a track record there is a greater risk of being stuck with a useless one. Employers need encouragement to face those hurdles and get over them.

4. Ensure that IET accredited degrees include realistic elements of preparation for the workplace. Areas to consider here are teamworking abilities, communication / documentation / presentation skills, possibly practical skills, and generally ability to apply engineering theory to solve real world problems.


Good points all round, people. Andy's hit the nail on the head here.

With respect to the comments about government incentives though, I have to ask you all, is government intervention the answer, or is too much State involvement actually a hindrance?
 23 January 2013 12:54 PM
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bobholland

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Originally posted by: CelticHeathen

What do the forum members think the IET's place is in helping ensure our competitive future in the profession? To my eyes, there are too many of the "I'm alright, Jack!" types in the field, who either lack the foresight to realise the skills shortages we are facing (Electrical Engineering is a prime example, with replacement rates apparently well below that of the number of expected retirees in the next 20yrs) or selfishly ignore the problem in favour of short-term gain.

I myself was once a struggling Graduate, with huge 5-figure debts and am scared stiff at the prospects facing my kids if/when they take their tentative steps toward a career. Seeing the title of "Engineer" (among other professions) being constantly undermined and devalued certainly doesn't shake that feeling of pessimism...

Your thoughts?


These were exactly some of the reasons why I and a handful of past and present IET Council members have started working on the general topic of 'Valuing Engineers'.

You might like to share some of your thoughts in a survey we're doing ahead of a forthcoming Engineering Council workshop. Full details here...

http://www.engineersmatter.org/survey/

If you complete the survey it will ensure that your views on these questions get built into the report.

Bob

-------------------------
R E B Holland CEng FIET
 24 January 2013 12:40 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Originally posted by: bobholland

These were exactly some of the reasons why I and a handful of past and present IET Council members have started working on the general topic of 'Valuing Engineers'.

You might like to share some of your thoughts in a survey we're doing ahead of a forthcoming Engineering Council workshop. Full details here...

http://www.engineersmatter.org/survey/

If you complete the survey it will ensure that your views on these questions get built into the report.

Bob


I will complete the survey at the earliest possible opportunity (the link doesn't work, unfortunately!)

It is great that some of you have the foresight to see what lies ahead for us, if we do not address the issues at hand. I just wonder how the "I'm alright, Jack!" types will feel when it is their children who find themselves devoid of the opportunities that aspirational, talented, hard-working young people deserve, but which previous generations took for granted.
 27 January 2013 01:50 PM
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MAWilson

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I think part of the problem is the all under one umbrella schemes that's being pushed today with regards to STEM. I understand the reasoning from a policy stand point but it doesn't help the situation of there not being enough highly qualified Electricians out there (world wide it seems from mails I get from Canada, Australia etc. recruitment agencies). Typically you find Graduates or persons of a Graduate level only encouraging STEM subjects and I believe we're missing a trick in that respect.

I remember from an article I read behind the reasoning of Apple choosing China as a manufacturing base instead of the US and it was not because of Labour cost purely but rather a gulf in intermediate level engineers to actually run the plant. The current situation is too academically and management (HR mostly) driven which does not account for the production side of things.

Accredited degrees today are spread too much to properly cover the basis of intermediate level engineering as there is constant addition of different modules as demanded by the Institutions which are squeezed into a tight curriculum. I can't be too critical of this because with change in technologies, academia does have to keep up a bit, but from my experience if you understand the fundamentals the rest is easy. I've had to learn up to 7 different programming languages in my time in academia/industry and they've been quite easy thanks to a Programming Methodology course I did in College. Once I know conceptually what the software needs to do, I'm able to fit the basic language transcript to get a working programme. I believe it would help if the institution would focus more on Intermediate Level Engineering as a basis and build from this because these are the skills once lost is very hard to replace.

p.s: I must admit to being more of a functional programmer than a really good one.

M Wilson BEng (Hons) MIET

Edited: 28 January 2013 at 01:10 PM by MAWilson
 01 February 2013 04:22 PM
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mbirdi

Posts: 1907
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Originally posted by: CelticHeathen
What do the forum members think the IET's place is in helping ensure our competitive future in the profession? To my eyes, there are too many of the "I'm alright, Jack!" types in the field, who either lack the foresight to realise the skills shortages we are facing (Electrical Engineering is a prime example, with replacement rates apparently well below that of the number of expected retirees in the next 20yrs) or selfishly ignore the problem in favour of short-term gain.

A few weeks ago, the media reported that James Dyson (king of the vacuum cleaners) complained about the shortage of recruiting highly skilled graduate engineers for his R&D division. A week later, an MP stood up in the HoC and expressed similar concerns to the PM about shortage of Graduates in engineering and technology and more so about shortage of postgraduate engineers. Interestingly enough, she made no mention that these concerns were made by the IET or EC, and no mention about a shortage of CEngs or IEngs. So I concluded that the IET and EC aren't interested in this matter, nor are industry and MPs interested in what the IET, EC, CEng and IEng have to say about this.

If you are truly concerned about this, you should speak to your local MP rather than waste your time with the IET.
 01 February 2013 04:23 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Originally posted by: MAWilson

I think part of the problem is the all under one umbrella schemes that's being pushed today with regards to STEM. I understand the reasoning from a policy stand point but it doesn't help the situation of there not being enough highly qualified Electricians out there (world wide it seems from mails I get from Canada, Australia etc. recruitment agencies). Typically you find Graduates or persons of a Graduate level only encouraging STEM subjects and I believe we're missing a trick in that respect.



I remember from an article I read behind the reasoning of Apple choosing China as a manufacturing base instead of the US and it was not because of Labour cost purely but rather a gulf in intermediate level engineers to actually run the plant. The current situation is too academically and management (HR mostly) driven which does not account for the production side of things.



Accredited degrees today are spread too much to properly cover the basis of intermediate level engineering as there is constant addition of different modules as demanded by the Institutions which are squeezed into a tight curriculum. I can't be too critical of this because with change in technologies, academia does have to keep up a bit, but from my experience if you understand the fundamentals the rest is easy. I've had to learn up to 7 different programming languages in my time in academia/industry and they've been quite easy thanks to a Programming Methodology course I did in College. Once I know conceptually what the software needs to do, I'm able to fit the basic language transcript to get a working programme. I believe it would help if the institution would focus more on Intermediate Level Engineering as a basis and build from this because these are the skills once lost is very hard to replace.



p.s: I must admit to being more of a functional programmer than a really good one.



M Wilson BEng (Hons) MIET


Good post.

I know of many Graduates who can't get a job in Engineering, due to being "over-qualified" and/or "under-experienced", whereas those who do are often on a salary way below the national average and frequently are still on less money than people with HNC's, many years after getting on the career ladder.

From that, I take the following...

It seems the days when University was a gateway to a lucrative career are rapidly disappearing (as we know, there are far too many people going to University in the UK over the last 20yrs, often to dubious Institutions and with "degrees" which aren't worth the paper they are printed on).

BUT

Simultaneously, the days when people with HNC-level qualifications could find a GOOD apprenticeship and work their way up to a high level in industry, are disintegrating at an equally high level.

With regards the former, it isn't unreasonable for a young Graduate to expect to be rewarded with an advantage in the jobs market, when they are paying increasingly extortionate fees to get a degree (and are paying off the debt into their 50's, in many cases NEVER clearing their student loans).

By the same token, people who desire a skilled career have an equally valid claim to feel aggrieved when skilled professions are diminishing and industry is being shipped abroad more and more.

Sadly, as I have said before, the "I'm alright, Jack!" types in our field have done little or nothing to combat the coming skills crisis.
 27 February 2013 02:35 PM
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PADAVIES

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Contrary to mbirdi's post, the IET has for many years been "lobbying" government and parliament on the problems of skills shortages and skills gaps. We also work closely with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the other engineering institutions to co-ordinate our messages. A recent example is the appearance of Nigel Fine, IET Chief Executive and Secretary before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to give evidence to their inquiry into Educating tomorrows engineers.

Every year we run a skills survey of engineering companies to gather evidence from industry on skills demands and skills shortages. We then use this evidence in our discussions with politicians and government officials and in media interviews and press releases. We are currently in the process of gathering the data for the 2013 study, however the seven previous reports can be found at www.theiet.org/factfiles/educa.../skill-survey-page.cfm.

Whilst there are undoubtedly actions the government can take to improve the situation, there are also many things that companies can do themselves. A good example of this is the Power Academy, which was set up by the power industry, universities and the IET to overcome a looming shortage of power engineers. The Academy has been running since 2004 and currently sponsors around 50 engineers a year through their undergraduate studies, giving them the much needed practical skills and experience along the way.
Regards,
Paul

-------------------------
Paul Davies
Manager, Policy Dept.
Institution of Engineering and Technology.
 28 February 2013 01:00 PM
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MAWilson

Posts: 48
Joined: 22 February 2006

Contrary to mbirdi's post, the IET has for many years been "lobbying" government and parliament on the problems of skills shortages and skills gaps. We also work closely with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the other engineering institutions to co-ordinate our messages. A recent example is the appearance of Nigel Fine, IET Chief Executive and Secretary before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to give evidence to their inquiry into Educating tomorrows engineers.

Every year we run a skills survey of engineering companies to gather evidence from industry on skills demands and skills shortages. We then use this evidence in our discussions with politicians and government officials and in media interviews and press releases. We are currently in the process of gathering the data for the 2013 study, however the seven previous reports can be found at www.theiet.org/factfiles/educa.../skill-survey-page.cfm.

Whilst there are undoubtedly actions the government can take to improve the situation, there are also many things that companies can do themselves. A good example of this is the Power Academy, which was set up by the power industry, universities and the IET to overcome a looming shortage of power engineers. The Academy has been running since 2004 and currently sponsors around 50 engineers a year through their undergraduate studies, giving them the much needed practical skills and experience along the way.
Regards,
Paul


Hi Paul,

While I can't be overly critical of the IET and other institutions for the work that they do in terms of promoting the profession, especially as my own efforts are somewhat lacking these days, I will however endeavour to give my perspective on how I see things in terms of the skills gap etc.

The institutions seem to only pinpoint graduate level persons and to another extent Apprenticeships completely leaving out college level graduates where the bulk of engineering lies. All the surveys consistently indicate that universities don't provide the necessary intermediate skills yet this myth that university is the way to go is constantly perpetuated. Higher math is taught at college level if people don't know and detailed Laplace transforms and Fourier analysis is rarely required in a vast amount of engineering jobs. Take for example some sort of PID controls are used in more than 90% of manufacturing control application yet the concept is brushed through at the degree level with the calculations only taught. Systems wise this is inadequate and using a Math Cad package does not make someone understand this.

Next I would say the problem with graduate recruitment is there is a lot of upward movements and change in career paths where the investment by companies in training are never met. It would be interesting to see the retention statistics for graduates in their jobs after 5 years in terms of the adequate transfer of expertise. This is quite important because systems & process wise there is the potential of a great gulf being created though the Graduate in question would undoubtedly have gained competencies. It would be really tragic if the chase for competencies eventually leads to the extinction of expertise in the manufacturing and process industry. These are the discussions which industry should be having which to often is clouded in HR and Management Speech; and nothing puts engineers off as well as these two.

M Wilson BEng (Hons) MIET
 28 February 2013 01:23 PM
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CelticHeathen

Posts: 46
Joined: 10 December 2012

Originally posted by: MAWilson

Contrary to mbirdi's post, the IET has for many years been "lobbying" government and parliament on the problems of skills shortages and skills gaps. We also work closely with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the other engineering institutions to co-ordinate our messages. A recent example is the appearance of Nigel Fine, IET Chief Executive and Secretary before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to give evidence to their inquiry into Educating tomorrows engineers.



Every year we run a skills survey of engineering companies to gather evidence from industry on skills demands and skills shortages. We then use this evidence in our discussions with politicians and government officials and in media interviews and press releases. We are currently in the process of gathering the data for the 2013 study, however the seven previous reports can be found at www.theiet.org/factfiles/educa.../skill-survey-page.cfm.



Whilst there are undoubtedly actions the government can take to improve the situation, there are also many things that companies can do themselves. A good example of this is the Power Academy, which was set up by the power industry, universities and the IET to overcome a looming shortage of power engineers. The Academy has been running since 2004 and currently sponsors around 50 engineers a year through their undergraduate studies, giving them the much needed practical skills and experience along the way.

Regards,

Paul




Hi Paul,



While I can't be overly critical of the IET and other institutions for the work that they do in terms of promoting the profession, especially as my own efforts are somewhat lacking these days, I will however endeavour to give my perspective on how I see things in terms of the skills gap etc.



The institutions seem to only pinpoint graduate level persons and to another extent Apprenticeships completely leaving out college level graduates where the bulk of engineering lies. All the surveys consistently indicate that universities don't provide the necessary intermediate skills yet this myth that university is the way to go is constantly perpetuated. Higher math is taught at college level if people don't know and detailed Laplace transforms and Fourier analysis is rarely required in a vast amount of engineering jobs. Take for example some sort of PID controls are used in more than 90% of manufacturing control application yet the concept is brushed through at the degree level with the calculations only taught. Systems wise this is inadequate and using a Math Cad package does not make someone understand this.



Next I would say the problem with graduate recruitment is there is a lot of upward movements and change in career paths where the investment by companies in training are never met. It would be interesting to see the retention statistics for graduates in their jobs after 5 years in terms of the adequate transfer of expertise. This is quite important because systems & process wise there is the potential of a great gulf being created though the Graduate in question would undoubtedly have gained competencies. It would be really tragic if the chase for competencies eventually leads to the extinction of expertise in the manufacturing and process industry. These are the discussions which industry should be having which to often is clouded in HR and Management Speech; and nothing puts engineers off as well as these two.



M Wilson BEng (Hons) MIET


Without disputing any of what you say, there are also instances (I include my experiences in this!) where companies won't invest in their Graduates either because they (a) are "old-school" and under-value those with academic backgrounds (b) have unrealistically high expectations of Graduates' ability to work to a certain level, straight out of University, (c) are afraid that their Graduates will "get trained and then leave us"... or a combination thereof!
 28 February 2013 07:41 PM
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MAWilson

Posts: 48
Joined: 22 February 2006

Without disputing any of what you say, there are also instances (I include my experiences in this!) where companies won't invest in their Graduates either because they (a) are "old-school" and under-value those with academic backgrounds (b) have unrealistically high expectations of Graduates' ability to work to a certain level, straight out of University, (c) are afraid that their Graduates will "get trained and then leave us"... or a combination thereof!


Thanks CelticHeathen,
I hope I'm not conveying some bias when speaking of university Graduates. I've mentored a few and they're very enthusiastic and keen for development such as yourself. My perspective is somewhat influenced by my background without getting too much into detail:
Went to College at 16/17 and got what is equivalent to a HNC qualification (overseas). Worked a few years then decided to study further to degree level. Got a Graduate opportunity and since then moved company to where I am now.

This has really worked for me in that it allowed me to obtain many transferable skills and develop a sound technical ability across different roles. I probably see this as the best path and wish that a college education (BTEC or HNC) was a more immediate path rather than A levels; my background is more reserved for those seeking immediate employment after college and I doubt if the top universities would have a look. This would bridge the skills gap I believe at Graduate level though I'm sure someone would have reasonable counter arguments.

I can sympathise with companies a bit when as you say companies are afraid Graduates will "get trained and then leave us" because of the expense involved. My first place of employment there was about 30% retention of Graduates after 5 yrs. A rule of thumb is it takes about 2 yrs to train a Graduate to an independent working Engineer, another year or so for familiarity with plant & systems then for 70% of the Graduates recruited; there is only a 2 yr payback on training. I can tell you training an Engineer for some of these posts when factoring productivity, time off training and cost of training runs 100's of thousands in terms of investment. This is not the fault of the Graduate who is ambitious and wants' to maximise their potential and earnings considering their sizeable investment in their education. It's a difficult quandary employer and Graduates find themselves in and I can sympathise with both on many points.

M Wilson BEng (Hons) MIET
 02 March 2013 11:21 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Couldn't agree more. Which of course is why pretty much everybody is waiting for someone else to train their graduates.

The company I work for does run a graduate training scheme (although sadly not on the site where I work). But we're a major multi-national and can (just) afford it, and can also give graduates the opportunity to move world wide with us once they're trained. A huge number of UK employers are simply not in that position.

I would make two suggestions:
1. A government incentive to companies to employ science and engineering graduates doing science and engineering (similar to incentives for apprenticeships and science teachers)
2. Companies think very seriously about why graduates leave them once they are trained! In 12 years of running a team of graduate engineers I have had one resignation, and even then the resignee made it clear that they wanted to come back if their family circumstances changed.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 02 March 2013 02:08 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
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Originally posted by: mbirdi
A few weeks ago, the media reported that James Dyson (king of the vacuum cleaners) complained about the shortage of recruiting highly skilled graduate engineers for his R&D division.

Why are all these highly skilled engineering graduates out of work across the EU then? Maybe what he meant was enough of them so that he had so many to choose from that he could then offer lower wages?
A week later, an MP stood up in the HoC and expressed similar concerns to the PM about shortage of Graduates in engineering and technology and more so about shortage of postgraduate engineers.

That one MP stands up in HoC and speaks about something does not mean it is true. Why do engineers have to be graduates and post graduates? If we do not need a degree to be a CEng then why do we need it to work at the top in R&D?
If you are truly concerned about this, you should speak to your local MP rather than waste your time with the IET.

Or alternatively start your own company and take on some apprentices.

Regards.
 06 March 2013 04:30 PM
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StewartTaylor

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Originally posted by: amillar

2. Companies think very seriously about why graduates leave them once they are trained! In 12 years of running a team of graduate engineers I have had one resignation, and even then the resignee made it clear that they wanted to come back if their family circumstances changed.


One of the main problems in areas where there is any significant concentration of one industry is that it actually doesn't make much financial sense to train graduates. If you want post-graduation trained engineers it's much cheaper to wait for somebody else to train them and then offer a few thousand ayear extra on the salary for a year or two. And when most companies are driven by accountants these days....

It's one of these interesting population effects - the one where the cheats or freeloaders prosper as long as enough people do the right thing but when the percentage of bad guys passes a critical level the whole system falls down, no matter what the good ones do.

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.


Edited: 06 March 2013 at 04:39 PM by StewartTaylor
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