But it lost some sheen with the emergence of more white collar jobs in computer science, mechanical and electrical, says IIT Guwahati director TG Sitharam, who was previously with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
Civil engineering applies science and mathematics to the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure. “Civil engineering transforms society. The economic engines of a nation are based on it,” Sithraman says. Newer fields like IT, robotics, AI and IoT, he says, are built on top of basic infrastructure, and so civil has also become an interdisciplinary subject. “Planning and scheduling, forecasting project risks, modularisation and prefabrication, health monitoring and image recognition (using drones) are bound to benefit a lot from AI, IoT and robotics,” he says. IIT Guwahati has been encouraging interdisciplinary studies and research for civil engineering students.
As India builds more infrastructure, the demand for civil engineers will grow. It is estimated that the country needs approximately 4 million civil engineers over the next decade, to deliver the real estate space and infrastructure it requires.
Unfortunately, less skilled civil engineers have undermined the confidence industry has in the profession. “A lot of civil works, each worth hundreds of crores of rupees, are taken up by contractors who are illiterate. When they commit a mistake there is no accountability,” Sitharam says.
Better civil engineers, he says, will emerge if they are trained better in colleges, and are paid well in their jobs. While the IITs’ civil engineering students tend to get well-paid jobs, those in lower rung institutes often struggle.
Civil engineers, Sitharam says, should be professionally certified to practice the trade. The Engineers’ Bill, meant to regulate the profession like doctors and chartered accountants, has been pending in Parliament for long. Civil engineers, he says, should undergo training for six months before they graduate. “In terms of curriculum we are fine, but the practice culture needs to be brought to the academic programme,” Sitharam says.
HOW TO UPSKILL
To become more employable, civil engineers should develop mathematical, written, oral communication, problem-solving, organisation and decision-making skills. They should develop their work in the laboratories; concentrate more on new techniques in surveying, understand local geology, and behaviour of new materials including the ground (specialise in geotechnical engineering). Civil engineers in the aerospace industry for designing jetliners, space stations and defence-related projects with ISRO, DRDO, etc, will have stable jobs. Some can also be found in the automotive industry. Our students are good in analytical work, doing simulations and modelling.