Can UK graduates compete with their Chinese counterparts?

Reporter
The Engineer

For many in industry, the reason engineering isn’t seen by more students as an attractive career is simple: the pay isn’t high enough. 

But according to an article published this week on popular student website studentbeans.com, UK engineering graduates are actually doing reasonably well compared to students from other disciplines.

According to the article, which drew on research carried out by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), engineering degrees dominated the top 10 most well paid graduate professions, with chemical engineering graduates earning the third highest wages in the UK at £27,151, losing out only to dentistry and medicine, which earn £30,143 and £29,146 respectively.

It’s a surprisingly positive state of affairs, but one which some engineers fear could be undermined by an influx of cheap labour from overseas.

Talking earlier this week at conference hosted by The Economist, Simon Daniel, CEO of energy firm Moixa, warned that UK engineering graduates are increasingly competing for jobs with Chinese students. ‘There are 10 times more engineering graduates in China; they cost a 10th of the price to produce; and they have a 10th of the salary expectation when they enter the world of work,’ he said.

Although a worrying statistic for a UK engineer entering industry – the availability of large numbers of low cost Chinese engineers may actually be a shortlived phenomenon. As China’s superpower status grows and its middle-class continues to expand, the wage demands of its engineers will rise creating a level playing field for engineers around the world.  Whether they continue rise to the point where UK engineers are eventually seen as a lower cost option remains to be seen.