News of Information Technology (IT) engineers losing their jobs has become a familiar tune. There are widespread job losses in the Indian IT sector. Media reports suggest that IT engineers are at risk of losing their jobs over the next three to four years because of their under preparedness in adapting to new technologies.
Truth is the global IT industry is moving towards automation and Artificial Intelligence, which is likely to make almost half of Indian IT professionals redundant. The other half of the workforce will have to be retrained. The IT industry is changing rapidly with the growth of digital technologies such as cloud-based services. Although, India is the largest producer of engineering workforce in the world, a majority of them are either not skilled or are in need of a skill upgradation. IT industry faces an employability gap, which can only be plugged by training engineers.
This employability gap is in fact not confined to IT engineers. While there is no immediate threat of civil engineers becoming redundant, civil engineering graduates are no more employable than a fresh IT engineering graduate.
India’s construction industry is growing at 7-8% every year, making it the fastest growing construction market in the world. Estimates suggest that India’s construction market will be the third largest in the world, with a size of $1 trillion by 2025.
As the sector grows, it is adopting new technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), robotics and data analytics and looking towards project management to deliver projects on time and within the specified budget. The problem is that most civil engineering graduates lack the skill sets to implement these technologies.
A common complaint against civil engineering graduates is that they lack field skills and knowledge of basics such as structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, standard codes used in construction, quality control, on field management and design knowledge.
A mere degree in civil engineering does not guarantee the employability of an engineer. In a constantly evolving construction industry, engineers will have to keep pace with changing technologies. Skill upgradation is not an option anymore. It is a necessity.
Technologies such as BIM have not found acceptance in India because of the lack of availability of specialist consultants who are willing to use BIM. This is part of the larger problem of shortage of trained professionals in the construction sector.
Clearly, there is a gap between the education system and the demands of the industry. Ideally, civil engineers should have leadership, analytical, problem solving and design skills. Engineers should know how to use technologies such as BIM and analytics. This will make them job ready and more relevant to the industry.
In a tough job market such as the one that we have right now, it is difficult for civil engineers to find jobs. Companies have cut back on student hiring. There are few jobs left to apply for and knowledge of project management and other skills can give civil engineers an edge over regular civil engineering graduates.
Academic led institutions are best placed to offer courses on project management because such institutes provide hands on training to students through internships at leading construction and infrastructure companies.
Companies should also invest time and resources in training their employees in new technologies. A shortage of trained engineers can slow down the construction sector’s ability to adopt new technologies that can improve execution of construction projects. This does not augur well for an industry that is growing steadily. A timely investment in training engineers will ensure the industry’s growth is not hampered by a shortage of skilled professionals.