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Graduates and Atkins An Employer’s Perspective Neil Thomas MA, CEng, MICE, MIHT Director, WS Atkins Consultants Limited 16 April 2003.

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Presentation on theme: "Graduates and Atkins An Employer’s Perspective Neil Thomas MA, CEng, MICE, MIHT Director, WS Atkins Consultants Limited 16 April 2003."— Presentation transcript:

1 Graduates and Atkins An Employer’s Perspective Neil Thomas MA, CEng, MICE, MIHT Director, WS Atkins Consultants Limited 16 April 2003

2 Introduction Atkins One of world’s leading providers of professional, technologically-based consultancy and support services Around 15,000 staff 120+ offices in UK and 50+ overseas Annual turnover in excess of £800 million Recruit up to 300 graduates per year, of whom the majority are engineering graduates

3 Introduction Highways and Transportation H&T alone employs over 3000 staff Graduate Recruitment Target for 2003 – 70 No, of whom 60 are engineering graduates. Mainly civil engineering, some electrical/electronic.

4 Graduates at Atkins Numbers recruited has increased as company has grown For 2003 target is approaching 300 Variety of degrees and disciplines, but majority are engineers and in particular civil engineers Most engineering graduates are on formal training agreements

5 Graduates at Atkins Recruit from variety of universities Opportunities for graduates with all classes of degrees, but more specialist and technically demanding disciplines will usually require an upper second class degree from a higher ranking course Post graduate qualifications preferred in some specialist areas, such as geotechnical engineering

6 The Challenges Increasing workload requires more graduates Reducing UK engineering graduate pool Decline in technical understanding of graduates Core non-technical skills Increased expectations of graduates Unacceptably low retention rates Attractiveness of other careers Is Engineering still a vocation?

7 Graduate Numbers Number of engineering graduates has dropped over last 6 years, typically by around one-third No indication of the numbers picking up, especially when some courses are suspended, such as at Aston Has coincided with an increase in workload, particularly in the transportation field

8 Graduate Numbers Solutions Recruit higher number of overseas students Work permits easily obtained, but can lack core skills Increased use of sponsorship, industrial year and summer placements, as many return as graduate employees Overseas recruitment campaigns/exchanges Australia, South Africa, Poland, Eastern Europe Use engineering graduates to concentrate on technical work, and use others for non-technical functions.

9 Technical Understanding Increasingly concerned at lack of understanding of basic principles Graduates need to develop ability to self-check their work and not blindly accept their results Technical drawing appreciation and ability to communicate using sketches generally poor Many businesses have now introduced a technical test and interview as part of the selection process

10 Technical Understanding Balance of theory and practice on courses important Use of codes and standards on courses of some use, but graduates will often end up using sector specific codes. (NB: Eurocodes will replace current standards as the decade proceeds) In reviewing CVs, place importance on relevant work experience

11 Example Technical Question A road is on a vertical hog curve of constant radius 1000m. Two points (A and B) on the road are at the same level and separated by a horizontal distance of 100m. Estimate the level distance (H) between the highest point on the road and points A and B? AB H L=100m R=1000m

12 Example Technical Question In the following example, two balls of equal size are released from rest at the top of an inclined plane to roll down to the bottom. The balls have identical mass, but one is solid and the other is hollow. Which ball reaches the bottom of the slope first and why? Hollow Solid

13 Example Question 123 BA Which span or spans would you load with a uniformly distributed load to give the maximum sagging moment at point A? i)1 and 3ii)1, 2 and 3iii)2 onlyiv)1 and 2 Which span or spans would you load with a uniformly distributed load to give the maximum hogging moment at point B? i)1 and 3ii)1, 2 and 3iii)2 onlyiv)1 and 2 Which span or spans would you load with a uniformly distributed load to give the maximum shear force just to the right of point B? (1 mark) i)1 onlyii)2 onlyiii)2 and 3iv)1 and 2 This diagram represents the three spans of a line beam

14 Core Skills Concerns that certain skills are lacking in graduates Particularly written and verbal communication Not too concerned at management skills as these can be developed on the job Atkins has identified 5 core skills that graduates can be assessed against and for which they must reach a base level. These are: Motivation Self-Regulation Judgement Perception Communication Skills reflect a demanding market-place

15 Retention Poor retention rate for graduates In 2001 Atkins was losing over 50% of its graduates within their first three years – across all disciplines Retention rate for engineers was better, but still not good Helped by graduates being on formal training schemes Why? “Reality of the job and training did not match up to expectations” Once chartered there is much less attrition Remuneration levels compared with other careers

16 Tackling the Attrition Rate More thorough recruitment process with assessment centres Increasing use of sponsorship and work experience to identify future recruits and to establish realistic expectations. For example, have been part of University of Surrey/ICE Sponsorship scheme since its inception. Greater flexibility within training to match individual priorities Enhancing links with universities, not only through sponsorship, but also by helping with project work, course assignment, guest lectures, etc.

17 Conclusions Universities, Employers and Institutions need to work together to: Increase awareness of engineering as a career, perhaps by joint initiatives such as careers events (held in University Labs etc) Increase applications to engineering courses Better manage graduates expectation’s e.g through guest lectures, insight into real engineers’ careers, more interface with employers Agree skills required by graduate engineers, and focus on these within academic courses e.g appropriate management skills Develop greater opportunities for student sponsorship and industrial experience


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