Is University the only way into Civil Engineering? #TEWeek18

There is a definite misconception about STEM subjects and it is failing young people. Unaware of the alternative routes into civil engineering and lack of knowledge about what kinds of careers are available means more awareness is needed around the ways in which young people can enter a career in Civil Engineering. 

Civil engineering graduates are the third 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 veterinary medicine and doctors. However, a career in civil engineering does not have to begin with University.

There is no doubt that a civil engineering degree can be a lucrative and profitable choice but what are the other options? Vocational qualifications such as BTEC diplomas, NVQs, ONCs, and HNCs, among many others, all offer young people the opportunity to explore civil engineering with hands on experience.

‘We are keen to destigmatise vocational training’ CECA NW Director Guy Lawson said. Citing the ‘site experience’ as a valuable element to these routes which some degree programmes lack.

‘I started as a trainee technician and was required to go to college one day a week on a two-year ONC in Civil Engineering,’ said Oliver Smith, 29, from Bolton. ‘I was able to get hands on experience straight away.’

Daniel Boothby, who sits on and chairs the CECA foundations board, says “I started on the tools completing my HNC at night school. George Cox and sons supported me through my degree, developing my passion for the industry that I look to share through my involvement in CECA foundations”.

Eleanor Westwood, a Business Development Manager for BAM Nuttall Ltd, says: “As many without an industry specific qualification do, I entered the civil engineering industry by chance. Working through bid management, compliance and business development roles, I learnt that there is much more to the industry than just spades in the ground. There is an interesting career path available for everyone, no matter what your background.

“I was recently involved in the creation of the CECA North West Foundations group for young people in the industry, tasked with encouraging and supporting those new to their career in civils. The misconceptions surrounding construction are big issues to be tackled, and I am proud of the way CECA North West have approached this, being fully inclusive and friendly to all those who engage. Guy Lawson particularly, has always welcomed me at board meetings and encouraged my involvement in CECA activities providing an excellent source of support and a useful network.”

Additionally, the stigma that surrounds civil engineering means many young people are left confused about what a career really entails. With a vast number of firms in the North West looking after environmental projects and technology projects, the job goes beyond the building roads and reams of mathematical equations.

CECA NW says, ‘civil engineers ensure we have an excellent quality of life.’ There is no doubt that civil engineering shapes the world. There is a skills shortage in the industry but a booming number of civil engineering projects meaning job security is excellent and salaries are set to rise.

‘Civil engineering is not just about wheelbarrows and wellies,’ says CECA, who laud skills such as problem-solving, communication and creativity. ‘After all, how many jobs are there where you can point to something and say, “I built that.”

This story originally appeared in FE News as part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2018.