Guy Lawson, Director of Civil Engineering Contractors Association North West

There are misconceptions about the routes to progress into careers in engineering, which is having an impact on the number of young people entering these industries.

Civil engineering is dependent on both graduates and people joining via the vocational route, as that reflects the diversity of careers within the sector – both site-based and office-based.

Many young people are completely unaware of the alternative routes into civil engineering and often choose university, when, in reality, there other ways to get a step on the career ladder without a degree.

Why Should Young People Consider An Apprenticeship In Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering apprenticeships offer great experience for your personal development – they can benefit you in your longer-term career too. In our experience, civil engineering employers particularly value recruits with site experience and practical nous - and that often comes via the apprenticeship route. With an ageing workforce and skills shortages, civil engineering provides great opportunities for career progression – and every project is different.

Why Should Young People Consider A Degree In Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering delivers all of the largest and most essential structures that surround us –transport networks, energy and water supplies, to name but three, as well as such iconic structures as the Mersey Gateway bridge and Liverpool’s cruise liner terminal. Unfortunately, civil engineering – in the UK, though not elsewhere in the world – is not seen as an aspirational career, but it includes legal, financial, environmental and IT roles, as well as opportunities to use the very latest technology.

Why Enter Civil Engineering?              

A career in Civil Engineering truly offers strong job security – due to the wide array of projects currently and becoming available. The scale of civil engineering across the UK also means that it is one of the major careers where progression opportunities and higher salaries are common.

Civil Engineering has one of the highest starting earners according to Engineering UK’s annual report, with the median earnings for an engineer growing 1.7% to £40,953, comfortably above the national median wage of £28,213. Average starting salaries of civil engineers are only beaten by vets and doctors.

What Are the Challenges?                        

The fact is that parents, schools and careers officers simply don’t know enough about civil engineering. Moreover, many students are encouraged to ignore the vocational route into a career and are often diverted to university as the ‘only route’. As a country, we need to do more to encourage students to take the vocational route rather than simply the academic one.

To overcome the pressures of an ageing workforce issue and skills shortage, the industry has to attract young and new talent – which is why we are engaging with schools to show how civil engineering is very different from the ‘wheelbarrows and wellies’ image it used to have.

Civil engineers really do ensure that we all have an excellent quality of life – they, quite literally, shape the world around us and can look back and say “I built that”. But, the role is not always an easy one – new ‘soft skills’ such as problem-solving, communications and creativity are becoming key in the industry showing the need for early hands-on experience.

We are keen to destigmatise vocational training – which offers truly valuable site experience and a route to a great career.

Guy Lawson, Director of Civil Engineering Contractors Association North West

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