Letter: Engineers' image

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The sentiments expressed by Colin Blakemore urging the establishment of an independent Ministry or Department of Science (Podium, 8 September) deserve support, and much of what he says applies equally to the engineering community.

However, his diagnosis that pay levels are the reason for the low recruitment into science and engineering is oversimplifying a complex problem with roots in longstanding cultural attitudes among the general public. In fact, according to figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, starting salaries for engineering and technical graduates, at pounds 16,000, are above those for accountancy and above the average for graduates as a whole. This is reinforced by recent research by the Engineering Council which has shown, for example, that the average earnings of chartered engineers are more than pounds 40,000.

Overall, of course, the major tasks for engineering are mirrored by those facing science. We see the biggest challenges being to improve the perception of engineering as a stimulating, creative, team-based profession. This will ensure that more young people of the highest calibre choose engineering as a rewarding career. We are working with other organisations in the engineering community on a strategy to address these challenges and to alter outdated perceptions.

MALCOLM SHIRLEY

Director General

Engineering Council

London WC2

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