Fast track is the right track for new graduates

Graduate engineers need a better career structure, as well as more money. While the latest IDS survey confirms the tight labour market that every engineering employer knows only too well, it’s not just pay and benefits that will have to adjust. Employers reckon that new graduate pay levels for first jobs in engineering are just […]

Graduate engineers need a better career structure, as well as more money.

While the latest IDS survey confirms the tight labour market that every engineering employer knows only too well, it’s not just pay and benefits that will have to adjust.

Employers reckon that new graduate pay levels for first jobs in engineering are just about right. But real problems can occur a few years on, when pay grows more slowly than some other professions, and frustration is liable to set in.

Part of the problem is the flat structure of many companies, which leaves few chances for promotion. In some firms, there are just four layers separating the shopfloor and the general manager. Not surprisingly, engineers who get pay rises in an attempt to retain staff are frequently out looking for a new job within six months simply because their own job does not develop in line with their ambition.

One way round this is for graduate engineers to take on the role of team leader within production cells – for example leading best practice and change management within a production team on the shopfloor.

The appeal is obvious – the chance to implement new working practices, boost productivity and get noticed. However, this can turn out to be a poisoned chalice for younger graduates, no matter how smart, if the support of older shopfloor hands or senior management is unforthcoming.

If graduates can succeed in such roles, they should be on a fast track to senior management. And they can succeed too, given the right company culture, training, skills, and salary.

This is something within the resources of most organisations. After all, optimising a production cell can lead to cost savings way beyond any extra expenditure on training or support for those leading the project.

Motivated, smart graduates can unlock all kinds of productivity gains for a company. But smart graduates who feel frustrated won’t.

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