Getting the graduates

25 September 2013

The summer is exam results season. Universities and colleges compete for the best students. Faculties have a last ditch attempt to persuade prospective students to sign up to their courses. The decision the students make is an important one, the qualifications will be the overriding factor in getting their first job. Choosing the right course is analogous with choosing the right career.

As an industry, our role in all of this is to encourage the best and brightest to embark upon a career underground. We need to excite and inspire young minds. And we need to educate them in the skills and training needed to enter the industry, so that when they commit to a degree course they leave it equipped with the skills needed to pursue a career in tunnelling.

The British Tunnelling Society can be proud of its efforts in this area. The BTS Young Members body has been committed to promoting tunnelling in schools and universities since it was set up five years ago. The committee was awarded the Tunnels 2011 Investor in People award for its work in schools and in the civil engineering industry. The group has made efforts to recruit engineers into tunnelling, support their development and retain them.

At the World Tunnel Congress in Geneva earlier this year BTS Young Members chair Petr Salak and BTS chair Damian McGirr called for the creation of a young members group for the International Tunnelling Association (ITA).

Following discussions, the new ITA president, Soren Degn Eskesen called on member nations to form their own young member groups, or if they already existed, to make them known to the ITA. Interest has been shown, and work towards creating young member societies is underway in: USA, Canada, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy. Norway established such a body in 2009 and Australia prior to WTC 2013.

Obviously missing are India and China. A study by EngineeringUK showed that each year China produces 76,400 engineering graduates and India 124,400 that are globally employable. This compares to just 8,600 in the UK. While the UK and the USA have a better per capita performance for producing globally employable engineers, the actual workforce available from India and China is so massive it could greatly impact on skills shortages faced in tunnelling and other areas of engineering.

Tunnellers are a nomadic bunch. When experienced engineers are posted to a foreign project it is an opportunity to develop the regional understanding of engineering; to get involved with the local tunnelling community and help them develop our profession as an attractive career for local graduates.

The two go hand in hand. A need to make the tunnelling industry more attractive to potential young engineers, and an international platform to allow young tunnellers to interact and exchange ideas in an organised forum. Who better to encourage, or make easier the transition from education to industry than those who have just made it