Skills that could be your ticket around the world

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The Independent Online

Travel is one attraction of a career in engineering and one that an industry blighted by a shortage of talented recruits is keen to highlight.

Travel is one attraction of a career in engineering and one that an industry blighted by a shortage of talented recruits is keen to highlight.

"Travel opportunities are an attraction for young people," says John Bristow of Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing, which is keen to boost numbers in an industry facing a looming skills shortage. "And engineering isn't just about building oil rigs and motorways. Engineers provide practical help to people and the environment all over the world."

In fact engineers are often on the front line of any humanitarian relief effort, putting their knowledge and skills to good use to provide practical assistance where it's most needed. The charity RedR, for example, founded in 1979 by civil engineer Peter Guthrie, is a database of registered engineers who can be called on at short notice to work for up to three months with front-line relief agencies.

RedR engineers are at the heart of the post-tsunami reconstruction effort in Asia, for example, providing emergency water and sanitation supplies and also tackling the longer term multi-billion dollar task of rebuilding these stricken countries. "There's a huge requirement for sanitation, water, housing and roads, and this stuff is the bread and butter of civil engineering," says Jon Prichard of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

And it's not just civil engineers who count in relief situations: electrical engineers can provide lighting systems for displaced persons in the desert while chemical engineers may be called in to help sort out environmental disasters.

The nature of engineering work in the UK is also opening up travel opportunities for young engineers. Many UK-based engineering firms are moving up the value chain into project management - and many of those big value projects are based overseas.

Amec, for example, which now bills itself as a project management and services company, has operations in 700 locations stretching from the Australian outback to the Arctic. Atkins is also in the brains end of the business with offices across the Middle East, US, Europe and Asia Pacific. "We have two main growth areas," says Alun Griffiths, group HR director at Atkins Global. "In the Middle East, where we have a significant presence in the Emirates and Gulf States, there is some quite innovative architecture and engineering underway. The other key area for us is China, where we have 600 staff in four key cities and which we see as a platform for further expansion there."

Engineers can find themselves clocking up the air miles as they travel from project to project. Anneeza Abdul-Ghani, for example, is a technical health, safety and environment consultant at Shell Global Solutions International, a career that has taken her all over the world, including the UK, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Germany. "I travel a lot and sometimes it's more than I would like because I have three children and a husband in the Netherlands," she says. "They're not always so happy about it but it is the nature of this job."

Will Myles, who works in the management consultancy arm of Atkins, has worked in Indonesia, Australia and the UK and his first job on graduation involved developing the infrastructure at Hong Kong International Airport.

If you're keen to add new stamps to your passport, then maybe a career in engineering could be the ticket for you.