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Topic Title: Value of engineers
Topic Summary: Value not changed in a lifetime. Alleged scarcity makes no change.
Created On: 31 July 2013 03:54 PM
Status: Read Only
Related E&T article: What is it like to be a UK engineering graduate in 2013?
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 31 July 2013 03:54 PM
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misceng

Posts: 14
Joined: 27 October 2001

We continually read that engineering graduates are in great demand. A recent article in the Guardian suggested we need 87,000 and graduate only 46,000 each year. Of that 46,000 the article in E&T gives more data on their employment. Analysis of this data shows that for Civil Engineers 44.8% are either in other types of employment (25.7%) or unemployed(19.1%). For Electrical and Electronic graduates the figures are 40% and 21.2%. For Mechanical graduates 29% and 18.8%. This shows that there is a vast gap between the claimed demand and the number of graduates who actually get offered employment that they can accept. Pay levels are probably a factor in the lack of attraction of engineering both to school leavers and engineering graduates.

Since the same Guardian article states "Starting salaries can be as high as £28,000" implying that this is the most that can be expected I am not surprised that many graduates find other types of employment. I became an engineer through apprenticeship and night classes yet the salary I was offered when I completed my studies had the same purchasing power as £25,000 today. I am sure a university graduate would have been paid more. I did not finish my education with a massive amount of debt like graduates today so my income was not reduced by paying off debt. In the many years since I started the standard of living is suppose to have improved but it cannot for engineers who have no increase in starting income.

It has been my experience through a long life (age 84) that when things are scarce eg oil, gas, foodstuffs and houses that the price goes up. This does not seem to apply to engineers. This causes me to wonder whether the scarcity is real which should push up the cost of engineers or maybe it is just a gambit. Perhaps the effort by employers for recruitment from overseas is the means to stop paying engineers what the market forces would otherwise ensure.

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misceng
 13 December 2013 03:03 PM
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macdavies

Posts: 9
Joined: 06 November 2001

Dear 'misceng' I wholeheartedly agree with you. The value that UK employers place on professional engineers has actually steadily diminished since I left school at the age of 18. My 'Professional Institution' The IET appears to have made no progress in enhancing the status of its Members since this time. I have recently retired at state pension age, with only a very modest retirement income based on occupational pensions from four employers plus my state pension after over 47 years of 'prestigious' professional education, training, career development and very productive work for major industries in R&D, ICT and Regulation as a Chartered Engineer (electronics and optical telecommunications). Starting salaries for engineering graduates have declined and 'real' salary progression barely kept up with the RPI despite promotion through the ranks from Junior Development Engineer to Programme Manager and System Design Authority as a Senior Principle Engineer. The ratio of salary at my career peak to the going graduate starting salary barely if ever exceeded about 2 to 1. It would appear that the IET has been less successful in its attempts to 'promote the status of professional engineers' than GPs, MPs, Tube TRAIN Drivers, Insurance Technicians, Teachers and Accountants etc.
I can remember when my salary matched the published salary of backbench MPs - maybe it was 1979 - after negotiating a really good promotion. Needless to say public sector 'professional' salaries have long since grown beyond all recognition - just like the Council Tax did from 1983 to 2009 and my colleagues and I are now retired on 'lower quartile' pensions !

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electron_thunder
 13 December 2013 04:16 PM
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misceng

Posts: 14
Joined: 27 October 2001

Dear macdavies you are right that MP used to have salaries which matched engineers. At the time I was in the Civil Service and the MP salary was linked to the rank above the one I held at the time. Now they get about twice the salary of that rank and are it seems about to get an 11% rise while the Civil Servants are held to a 1% rise!
Your comment on public sector salaries having grown really applies only to the highest ranks which are reported in the press and are normally administrative not professional. Since Maggie Thatcher decided there were too many Civil Servants the professionals have been put in ghettos or been made redundant as I would have been except I escaped to related work. Only the administrators flourish.

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misceng
 19 December 2013 11:34 AM
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irevans

Posts: 192
Joined: 07 March 2002

It regularly surprises me when I read about the shortage of engineers. The real shortage is a shortage of engineers with the precisely defined and inflexible levels of experience that some employers seem to want and who are willing to work for relatively poor wages.

When leaving university I, like other graduate engineers, was contacted by the finance industry - often very tempting offers! In my case I wanted to do engineering, but others went off to banks etc earning a lot more.

And this gets onto another issue: The reward for sticking with engineering? Well, actually not enough engineering - instead; too much project management, too much commercial this-and-that and, dare I say, too much health and safety. Others have got fed up of this and left.

Cheers,
Ian.

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irevans
 12 January 2014 02:44 PM
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JoanW

Posts: 21
Joined: 11 September 2001

I question views in this thread. When I left my last employment in the profession and took a change of direction, according to the salary survey (do they still do that?) I was paid no more than the average engineer of my age/experience etc., yet according to published stats I was in the upper decile of national income.

We always seem to look above us, never below, when considering our income.

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JoanW
 12 January 2014 04:47 PM
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misceng

Posts: 14
Joined: 27 October 2001

JoanW - I am most interested in your comment. You claim to be paid no more than the average engineer and yet claim to be in the upper decile of national income. I am puzzled as to what stats you refer to as I see from the publications of the Office for National Statistics that the upper decile had an average of wages and salary income not counting other benefits of £89,852 in 2012. There may be a few getting that much. Does that include you? I would like a very strong proof to accept that as an average engineer's salary. I held a responsible post and was paid well retiring on an income above average in 1991 of £35000 or about £63000 in today's money.

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misceng
 13 January 2014 11:21 AM
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JoanW

Posts: 21
Joined: 11 September 2001

Hi misceng,
I based it (some years back) on an item such as this one which shows the 90 percentile at something like the high £40ks household income for a couple and about £30k for a singleton living alone. At the time I was an experienced specialist so my salary was indeed above that for an average engineer across the profession as a whole, but it was around the median for chartered engineers of my age and experience.

At least that's how I recall it at the time. I haven't seen a salary survey such as those published by the IEE for many years so I can no longer make that comparison. Googling today, I find this page interesting too.

My main point was that as engineers we aren't badly paid in the bigger scheme of things and also have the non-financial benefit of being in what is a generally wonderful and fascinating profession compared with many, many others.

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JoanW
 13 January 2014 05:14 PM
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misceng

Posts: 14
Joined: 27 October 2001

Hi JoanW
There seem to be big differences in the statistics relating to household income. The graph in the Guardian article shows household income of £28k at 90% and a median of £14K while the Government figures show an average total earnings per person over the whole economy of £24,700 for Sept. 2013. Many households with two earners will have more.

It is difficult to get figures comparing like with like. The ONS figure of £89,852 I quoted is the average for households in the range 90-100%. The figure for 80-90% is £57,213. This value is very different from the Guardian graph. Looking at the spreadsheet, for which the Guardian article gives a link, seems to show that the graph is more related to individual earnings. This still does not tally with the ONS figure for average earnings. Yes the average will be greater than the median but not I think by a factor of 1.76. So it seems the old saying that goes "Lies, damned lies and statistics" still applies.

You may be interested in my letter published in E&T Jan 2014 in which I refer to several previous letters.

misceng

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misceng
 13 January 2014 07:49 PM
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JoanW

Posts: 21
Joined: 11 September 2001

Hello again,
we've got to be careful here that we're not arguing about different things. I agree with the assertion in your letter that the entry paths to the profession have changed since our day, and not necessarily for the better (but I don't want to enter a discussion about modern recruitment and development practice - I'm too long out of it for that).

I agree too with the point that statistics must be chosen carefully for the message they give and if one wishes to draw solid conclusions then it's necessary to delve back to the source data to compare like with like, if that is indeed possible.

I still assert, however, that engineers were (in my day) paid reasonably well compared with other professionals in the UK and that we have always tended to compare ourselves with better-paid people not the less well off, of whom there are many. According to the data I've pointed to, whether it is reliable or not, yerav'rage modern engineer earns similar amounts to yerav'rage modern accountant or lawyer. Remember, as barristers have recently been pointing out, fees don't equal take-home pay.

Engineers were singing ain't it awful about their salaries and status when I entered the profession and they were still doing so at the other end of my career. It seems to be an essential part of being an engineer.

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JoanW
 13 January 2014 09:12 PM
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misceng

Posts: 14
Joined: 27 October 2001

Hi JoanW
Thanks for your reply. Like you I have been a long time out of it. I don't think we can get sufficiently reliable data to prove conclusively either of our points of view.

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misceng
 27 March 2014 08:27 PM
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kasese

Posts: 183
Joined: 31 March 2006

I understand that the Saudi's are looking to recruit 8000 engineers/FLM (ex UK) for a $20bn / 26 plant complex (Sadara) in Jubail Saudi Arabia.
This may affect the rates in the chemical sector -it will be interesting to see what happens if they succeed.

Tim Guy
 02 April 2014 03:14 PM
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RodneyDuggan

Posts: 5
Joined: 11 February 2007

My 23 year old step-daughter left school with no qualifications and has just landed a job managing wedding events for a hotel chain at a starting salary of £28,000 per annum.
I am 63, and qualified as a Chartered Engineer and MIEE (now MIET) in 1992, and currently hold a senior professional engineering position with a global testing and safety certification company. I have just reached the heady salary of £30,000 per annum after several years.
I have never been promoted in my career, it comes to HR and admin staff but it doesn't often happen to engineers.
So why does the lack of qualified engineers ever surprise anyone?
Statistics

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