There was a time, when engineering disciplines were considered a good option as medical, considering the opportunities for the job and finical incentives. But that was the story of the past, “the tale of ancient times”. Today the situation has changed altogether. In this age of time, fresh graduate engineers (even experienced ones) are struggling to find a good job. This situation has not developed in a day or two, it was evolving for so long and was compelled to happen, but nobody noticed it, in particular the regulator, the main culprit “Pakistan Engineering Council, (PEC)”.
It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it’s a depression when you lose yours
In this opinion piece, we’ll try to dig the reasons behind the missive disaster.
Incompetence of PEC
The institution of PEC was established to ensure the regulation of engineering institutions. But unfortunately, this institution like many others in Pakistan is politicized severely. Consequently, its main role is being put on the backburner. The institution is divided into parties, in order to contest the elections. Some steps in recent days were taken by PEC, to lower the unemployment among the graduate engineers. But honestly, these are cosmetic steps, having little or even no value.
The gap between demand and supply
In the past, there were the engineering institutions, managed by the government. Therefore, enough funding, and a relatively good quality of education. But today one can’t count the engineering institutions in Pakistan. So, the graduates are increasing year after year. But the market is not expanding to absorb these graduates. So the gap between demand and supply is increasing sharply, with every passing year.
According to a report by PEC total number of institutions managed by PEC are 126, including both public and private sector. In the private sector, the majority of the institutions are not maintaining the quality of their institutions, the quality of teaching and lab staff is not sufficient enough (to be admired). So in real terms students only pass the exams like any other major, and then leave the university. These institutions fail to tell the students, what can engineers do (even independently), for the betterment of society and to earn?
The biggest failure of the government is the poor regulator. The government fails to maintain a check on the regulator, and never tried to improve its performance. As result, the quality of engineering education is decaling, the interest of students in engineering majors is reducing, and unemployment is increasing day by day.
Academia and Industry
There is a lack of communication between academia and industry. This communication laps, need to be improved. Industry needs to bring in their projects/problems to academia for solutions. So that an atmosphere of trust is built, which can facilitate the students in the future, in terms of their understanding for different industries to seek the jobs.
“Industry and Academia are one, that’s why we need to collaborate”
Poor GDP growth
The biggest challenge for the government is the expansion of industry and exports. The GDP growth of Pakistan was never as good as we wanted. The average GDP growth in the recent past has remained under 5%. With such low GDP growth is due to the poor performance of the industry. It means even the existing industry is working with underrated capacity and the majority is also shifted abroad or closed. With this situation, can we create jobs for engineers?
According to a report by PEC more than 50,000 engineers are unemployed in Pakistan, 30% of engineers are working abroad. Moreover, as per statistics of PEC every year 10,000 students graduate from different universities and colleges registered with PEC. It means every year sufficient numbers are added to the pool of unemployed engineers.
All these facts and stories of employed and employed engineers are creating unpopularity of engineering disciplines. Some reforms at this stage are becoming essential to revitalize engineering education and its importance.
The role of PEC needs to be revised. The Chairman of PEC must be selected under some rules and regulations. The elections in PEC must be stopped. The PEC should stop giving accreditation to new institutions at least for two to three years. And the intake of students must be reduced to existing institutions as well. The length of undergraduate should be extended to five years, four years of teaching, and one year of practical work with industry. PEC must force the institutions to provide at least one year of paid apprenticeship (like house job for doctors) to all undergraduate students before awarding them the degree.
Some entrepreneurial skills must be taken as part of the curriculum. So that students may know, what they can do if they aren’t employed.
Changes are a must to improve the quality of engineering education, only a degree with not enough analytical and practical skills will result in useless products, and chaos among the students. And it will also cause an increase in the unpopularity of engineering disciplines.