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Graduates: Keep on looking

With a third of new civils graduates still looking for a job, what should they do and who should they turn to? David Hayward asked employers for advice.

Be persistent, flexible and willing to work virtually anywhere is the advice from employers to new civils graduates unable to find a job this summer. Above all, they insist, stay connected with the construction industry and eventually most of you will get lucky.

“We have been inundated with thousands of enquiries this year and we tell them to do anything they can within construction,” says Aecom graduate recruitment manager Steve Rodgers.

“We have been inundated with enquiries and we tell them to do anything they can within construction.”

Steve Rodgers, Aecom

He points out that his company recruits new graduates virtually every month throughout the year as new opportunities arise. “We keep most applications on file and contact them first.”

“Be realistic over location, salary and the type of work on offer,” he says. “Check out work opportunities in mainland Europe and be very flexible.”

His advice is echoed by ICE membership director David Lloyd-Roach. “Research the market thoroughly and find out where the jobs are,” he says.

“Don’t be afraid to keep bombarding employers. They will not be annoyed with graduates who are obviously keen and proactive.”

Out of the comfort zone

Current research suggests that up to a third of all new civils graduates have yet to find permanent employment. With an average 34 applicants chasing every job, many may be forced well out of their comfort zone.

One controversial suggestion is that graduates should offer their services for free but another, more acceptable alternative is to spend a year working voluntarily for overseas construction-related charities, like Engineers Without Borders. Companies regard this as a real CV boost, while public sector employers seem to approve too.

Asked to consider some form of job seekers allowance top up, as a contribution to the expenses of such overseas volunteers, construction minister Ian Lucas told NCE it “seemed a good idea” and he would consider it.

“Sitting around moaning about the world recession will do no good. We have to be positive.”

Steve Rodgers, Aecom

Other employers advise graduates to be flexible. But Lloyd-Roach says: “Graduates should not be encouraged to go into areas they really have no interest in. That could be counterproductive and put them off civil engineering altogether.”

Interestingly, he and several company training managers, suggested that, if push comes to shove, and construction related work could not be found, it would be better for graduates to look to selected other professions such as teaching.

“A couple of years teaching science or physics could offer an engineering-orientated graduate a good background for coming back to our profession when the market improves,” says Lloyd-Roach.

Rodgers goes further: “If graduates came to me saddled with a hefty overdraft and desperate to work, I would tell them to just get a job − any job” he asserts. “And I’d salute them. Sitting around moaning about the world recession will do no good. We have to be positive.”

Enter now

NCE’s Graduate Awards competition offers graduates recognition and a share in over £2,700 worth of cash prizes.

Any civil engineer who graduated last year should be entering these awards right now and, as employers advise, be proactive. For information, and to download an entry form, visit www.nce.co.uk/graduateawards or contact David Hayward on 01325 461149 or email hayward.david@virgin.net.

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