India needs skilled civil engineers for the booming construction industry

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Engineering students are found to be lacking in areas of practical knowledge, technical skills, communication skills, and knowledge of application. Augmenting this gap is the lack of experience in the relevant skills that are required for emerging construction jobs, writes Prof Mrudula S Kulkarni, Head, MIT-WPU School of Civil Engineering, MIT-WPU (Formerly MIT Pune).

Prof Mrudula S Kulkarni, Head, MIT-WPU School of Civil Engineering, MIT-WPU (Formerly MIT Pune)

Prof Mrudula S Kulkarni, Head, MIT-WPU School of Civil Engineering, MIT-WPU (Formerly MIT Pune)

For a country teeming with engineers, it is rather perplexing that the placement rate for civil engineers was registered at a mere 38 percent during 2012-13 and 2015-16 compared to the other AICTE approved engineering streams. This dismaying statistic reflects the glaring skill gap that thousands of engineers graduating every year experience finding themselves to be misfits for industry roles.

By the next year, more than 65 percent of our country’s population will be between the ages of 29-35, making for a large workforce. However if the necessary steps to bridge the education-employment gap are not taken, this potential strength in numbers will soon turn into a heavy liability.

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The failure of the present-day system of education is the biggest cause for such a scenario. We have been following the same outdated, monotonous syllabus from years ago, with little to no modification or update to maintain the relevancy of skills and advances in technology that are befitting modern day construction. There is an inherent disconnect between the curriculum based learning in college and ‘employment-ready’ skills students need to thrive in the industry. Construction industry has seen sea change over last few years due to modern technology and integration with ICT, IOT, and interdisciplinary knowledge sharing. Present day Engineering curriculum is not at par with modern construction trends, and students have no access to experimental studies which aggravates this situation.

After the agriculture sector, construction is the next biggest sector in India. It is substantial to the infrastructure growth in our country; and is the second largest contributor to our GDP. Projects of Express Highways, metros, Airports, Flyover bridges, Tunnels are being under taken in huge number in every state of India. Every year close to 1.5 million engineers graduate, the construction industry is expected to employ a whopping 80 million workers by 2020 as per India Today.

We need approximately 4 million civil engineers in the next ten years to fulfil the booming potential of the real estate space and planned infrastructure. However the corresponding average supply available would only be 642,000 civil engineers according to a report by the Economic Times. Such a shortage is likely to lead to difficulties in recruitment, a rise in the cost of industry ready human resources, delayed delivery of tasks, and sub-standard quality of construction. The need for civil engineers, updated to modern technology, and skilled enough to take up challenges of creating world class infrastructure, is overwhelming, to say the least. 

While India has a legacy of civil engineering, this field of study hasn’t flourished as it should have and has experienced an alarming decline of 6.27 percent in employment. The lack of qualified professionals for the development of infrastructure and real estate stems from the discrepancy between what engineering educational institutes are teaching students and the work they are expected to perform with ease once they graduate. What is needed Civil engineers trained for specialisations in Tunnel Engineering, Infrastructure engineering and Construction Management ,Structural Engineering .The curriculum is needed that builds profession of civil engineers and also hand holds him towards industry acceptance , through internship programmes. One of such curriculum is offered by MIT World Peace University Pune, India.

Since the first component of this skill gap is at the education level, institutes that offer civil engineering education can contribute to mitigating this issue. For a professional engineering program to be a success, it must have an inbuilt component of deep experiential learning. This experiential learning will ensure quality and relevant skill application of young civil engineers. New generation engineers are required to cope with rapid changes in both domain knowledge and nature of problems to be solved. Engineering profession is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary; making demands on knowledge, skills as well as personality.

Let us further explore some measures engineering institutes of study can take to contribute to preparing civil engineers for jobs in the 21st century:

Qualified faculty

The most significant impact on a student’s academic and professional career is created by experienced and skilled faculty. They play a critical role in the success of a student. When institutes of engineering employ faculty who are well-qualified, have industry experience or linkups and have excellent communication skills, they can play an instrumental role in the formation of a budding civil engineer’s career.

Placement support

Civil engineering professionals are lagging far behind and perceived to be underpaid compared to their counterparts in other industries like IT, banking etc. Engineering institutes can improve this scenario by setting up career cells with an increased focus on building and developing the necessary employment oriented skills in students so as to help them kick-start their careers. At the same time Civil Engineering remains all-time favourite sector of self-employment and entrepreneurship.

Industry-academia interface

Institutes that have in place substantial collaborations with different stakeholders from the construction are able to offer internships, training and scholarships to students depending on performance and levels of academic qualifications. This is beneficial for students as well as the industry. In India, industry bodies like the Construction Industry Professional Training Council (CIPTC) and Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) are dedicated to such collaborations to promote technical education in the construction industry. Such activities have a tremendous impact on the employability of civil engineering students.

Educational institutes and stakeholders of the construction industry including the government have to make a collective effort to reduce the skill gap for engineers, otherwise their work and skills are at great peril of diminishing. Graduating Civil engineer with industry internship will always be choice of recruiters. To make the students reach that height is the responsibility of educators, so the onus is on Universities offering Civil Engineering Course.

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