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The construction era

india Updated: Aug 13, 2007 04:30 IST
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Nearly a decade back, when I had just entered Architecture School, my mind was in a perpetual dilemma. I kept wondering what I had got myself into. The construction industry had just picked up after the slowing down in '95 and job prospects related to the field where not looking too bright. The number of boys taking up architecture or civil engineering decreased with people opting for other more lucrative branches of engineering, especially software/computer engineering. The starting salary of entry level engineers was around Rs 5000-6000 and the growth prospects were very few.

A few years back working for a construction company as a civil engineer was looked down upon and especially if you were employed in the private sector companies. This was a striking contrast from the time of the British Empire, when civil engineering & contracting was a in a class on its own and it was considered great pride and honor to be associated with the field.

Fast forward to 2007 and the industry has gone through a sea change. 2006 was touted as the year of construction/infrastructure companies with many skeptics labeling it the year of the "plumber and carpenter." The labeling accurately depicted the mindset of how people used to view the construction industry. However, contractors are having the last laugh now.

The development of the country with 7 - 9% growth and double digit growth in the construction & infrastructure has made this sector a real opportunity for trained & qualified staff especially in the engineering field. The job opportunities are tremendous across the various fields be it Civil, Mechanical or Electrical Engineering.

The huge construction activity in infrastructure like roads, bridges, power stations and urban infrastructure like buildings offices, residential, retails etc has really made quality civil engineers and other engineering fields a rare and sought after commodity. The construction industry is said to perform well in the coming years and the quality of people would determine the quality of buildings that would stand testimony to the people behind the buildings/ roads, power plants etc. Honesty, integrity and high degree of commitment are the fundamentals that would scale up an individual's scope in the ladder to reach the top of course with an engineering degree. Today in professional run companies Engineers could even rise up to the top of the ladder and into the realm of decision making.

In connected industries like Real Estate Development, Retail Leasing and Project management consulting the Civil Engineers have climbed up to the highest posts, as their technical knowledge takes them a long way.

In construction the work force can be broadly classified into the following categories in nearly all facilities of services.

1. Project Managers - with several years of of experience in various infrastructure and construction.
2. Senior & Junior Engineers
3. Safety Engineers - Health, Safety & Environment
4. Quality Control
5. Planning Engineers
6. Quantity Surveyors

The above roles requires basically a degree in Civil Engineering, mechanical & electrical to engineering and then it is experience which gained on a project site that will determine the position occupied in the company.

With the number of malls, housing projects, hotels and commercial spaces coming up we shall soon be short of trained engineers to execute the projects and shall be facing an acute shortage of the same in the coming years.
The huge demand and the lack of availability of good quality people is the challenge the construction & infrastructure company would face in the future and some of this can be solved by:

The hiring & training of the people at various positions is nowadays being done at the campus interviews of various regional engineering combined with in-house training at the office level and then at the project level.

The other method would be to have the existing staff go through a series of training to tweak up their existing shields to take up additional responsibilities and also to climb up the value chain.

Various Project management as well as construction companies have already set or are planning to set up institutes that would train the entry level engineers to match up to to demand of the job.

Overseas also, the demand for civil, electrical and mechanical engineers is increasing with many countries like Poland willing to sign up and understanding with the government of India as they are facing a serious lack of trained and qualified engineers.

With the increasing contribution of the construction industry to India's GDP and the growing demand for Dwelling units, Retail Spaces, SEZs, Hotels, Airports, Commercial spaces, the boom in the field is here to stay. The requirement of the day is trained and qualified engineers with passion in their hearts and fire in their bellies, to continuously innovate and use technology of the day to create cutting edge spaces and buildings that would be counted amongst the best in the world.

Sometimes it seemed that this sill intensive industry would never get its due and project management would remain a thankless job, but now it gladdens the heart to see the Civil Construction line finally getting their due. Engineering colleges are back in demand, Building Construction courses have started in various places and more forums are coming up for the same. It seems to be a new era in the age of construction and we all have our fingers crossed that this would be the "Golden era."

A classic case of better late than never, I guess.

(The author is director, Soul Space Projects Ltd , a subsidiary of BL Kashyap Ltd)

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