Construction firms run after civil engineers

Written by Rohit Khanna | ROHIT KHANNA | Kolkata, Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2007, 05:39am hrs
Lack of employable civil engineers has become a headache for the fast-growing construction and engineering firms, with the real estate boom sucking up available talent.

Industry insiders said that, even five years ago, the supply of civil engineers was good and they could pick up toppers from the campus. Now, they are happy to get any civil engineer.

Rohini Sureka, assistant vice-president of Tantia Construction Ltd, which has an order book of Rs 1500 crore, said companies in Gulf countries and South Africa had started to absorb Indian civil engineers at astronomical salaries from the early Nineties. This started a one-way traffic to the Gulf.

To add to this, the local infrastructure and real estate sectors have been absorbing civil engineers.

Mumbai-based Larsen & Toubro, one of the largest engineering companies, is also facing the crunch. "As a country we are not producing enough civil engineers as more people prefer to join IT than engineering services," said an L&T spokesperson. L&T absorbs around 500 civil engineers a year.

"Working with companies like ours, market value of the engineers goes up," said he. While more serious engineers stay on, people who want to ramp up income or enter different areas and want to go abroad are the potential casualties.

According to Anand Mohta, general manager (east) of consultants Ma Foi, five years back people placed through campus were offered a package of Rs 5,000- Rs 8,000 per month. Some were satisfied even with Rs 3,000- 4,000 in construction field.

"Now construction companies are offering a package ranging from Rs 8,000- Rs 16,000," he said.

Vinod Singh, senior general manager (human resource) of Ambuja Realty, said salaries have doubled in the last fewyears.

"We offer as much as Rs 20,000 to a fresher now, as Indian companies have also changed their mindset and try to retain good employees," he said.

Tantia's Sureka said civil engineers are demanding a price that in many cases is more than their competence level. Dearth of good civil engineers has also resulted in high attrition, she said.

According to Bikramjit Balniyogi, president of Federation of Association of Engineers & Technical Officers (FAETO) and an IITian, the states and the central government have almost 1.72 lakh engineers of which 80% have civil engineering background.

"Public sector is unlikely to get good engineers as they offer around Rs 15,000 at the entry level," he said. FAETO has pointed out the problem in a recent submission to the Sixth Pay Commission.

However, at Bengal Engineering & Science University, Sibpur, the new avatar of the famed BE College, there is a renewed interest in civil.

"The situation is changing as students have started showing interest in civil engineering again," said Nikhil Ranjan Banerjea, vice-chancellor of BESU.

Still, electronics & telecommunications engineering is the first choice for students followed by computer science and technology, information technology, mechanical engineering and then civil engineering.

"Choice of subjects for the students is entirely market driven. They tend to choose subjects that offer a good placement," Banerjee said.