Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Chemical are still considered as the core subjects in engineering. A brief look at the evolution of engineering will tell us why it is so.
The existence of engineering can be traced back to prehistoric human inventions of basic tools, objects and machines like wheels and pulleys. These inventions came in to being by deploying the mechanical principles of engineering. Later bridges, buildings, and the wondrous architectures were hinged on the science of civil engineering. This was followed by the invention of steam engine in 1698 which ushered the science of electrical engineering into the limelight.
The emergence of electric motors, telegraph system, transistors in the 18th century, created the discipline of Electronics engineering. Manufacturing of large scale chemicals, invention of aircraft around 19th century gave way to disciplines like Chemical and Aeronautical engineering.
Finally, in the wake of the third industrial revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution between 1950s and 1970s, created a massive shift from mechanical technology to electrical analogue technology. This swing led to the proliferation of Information Technology and revolutionary digitization in the modern times. Almost all types of enterprises began to depend on computer application and telecommunication technology to store, disseminate, monitor and manage data. As a result of this drift many IT consulting firms emerged to facilitate optimal use of Information Technology to boost businesses.
The IT and allied industries are still going strong and foraying into more sophisticated fields like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to redefine future industry dynamics, churning more job opportunities and engineers for these fields. Moreover, as technology is evolving other popular streams like Electronics and Communication, Instrumentation, IT, Automobile, Biomedical, and Pharmaceutical engineering among many others have also emerged to cater to the needs of the present-day industry.
Meanwhile, the importance of the core engineering subjects now seems to be taking a backseat as the newer engineering streams are gaining prominence. Are the core engineering subjects like Mechanical, Civil, and Electrical slowly declining in relevance or there is a silver lining to this apparent slump in these fields? Let’s discuss some of the perceptions we have developed regarding opportunities in the core engineering sector with some objective data driven trends.
Core engineering is no longer the driving force in the industry
Think of any industry without engines and machines! Even in this digital age we cannot think of running any industry without the help of machines and engines. Without the study and application of electricity and electronics we cannot power these machines in to action. To be able to meet most of our infrastructural requirements be it bridges, buildings, or water drainage system, we need to rely on the science of civil engineering. Last but not the least, generating energy by utilizing the organic and inorganic resources of nature cannot be achieved without the understanding of chemical science. For instance, the usage of natural gas, oil, coal, petrochemicals, polymers to boost industries is heavily dependent on chemical engineering. In a nutshell, any kind of industry is standing on the pillars of core engineering sciences and its application.
Building the nation’s economic strength is greatly dependent on the country’s ability to produce and manufacture their own products. This will enable the Indian industry to prosper, cut down expenditure and open up opportunities of export and foreign investment. In fact, the launch of government’s Make India Initiative, in September, 2014 was undertaken in response to the country’s plummeting economic growth rate in the global market in 2013. The vision of this initiative is founded on building the nation’s potentiality of manufacturing its own products and goods. Competence in core engineering subjects is the key to support this kind of manufacturing capacity in India.
Specialized engineering subjects are in demand
Although newer and more specialized engineering streams seem to be taking over, we must not forget that they are originally the ramifications of the core streams. Even today majority of the technological issues can be solved with the help of the core engineering disciplines. The remaining 10% of the technological challenges can be resolved with the help of interdisciplinary knowledge.
The core engineering streams can be pivotal in forging the foundation of an engineer by equipping him/her with the “creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design.” Today, engineers equipped with core subjects can go for much broader and advanced dimensions of application in design, development, analysis and execution of projects in any given field. Although, specialized engineering streams exist, it is hardly a wonder to find mechanical engineers of the twenty-first century making path-breaking headways in the field of biomechanics, biomedical engineering, transportation phenomena, industrial engineering among many other emerging fields.
There aren’t enough job opportunities in the core engineering sector
It is partially true that compared to the employability boom in IT, Software and Electronics fields, the core engineering study is gradually becoming an outdated concept to the students. A recent news report by Economic Times states that “Less than 8% engineers fit the core engineering roles.” Low employability rate for core engineers is seriously a concern because a nationwide analysis reveals a huge skill gap of engineers in the core fields. This poses a serious threat to the country’s growth and self-reliance.
On the other hand, it is estimated that the government's Make in India Initiative will generate 100 million jobs by 2022. Engineers with core engineering knowledge and skill are expected to bridge the gap and spearhead the country’s future growth. Emphasis on basics and core subjects is the need of the hour. We need engineers who are passionate about designing, building and producing new things with the basic concepts of mechanics, electronics, civil and chemical. There is a gold mine of opportunities waiting for the core engineers, but if there are no takers, it will seriously impede the growth of this country.
In order to grow, we need balanced expansion. We need experts from every field. We need extensive knowledge collaboration. Surplus in one field and deficit in another can create serious imbalances in all respects. The need for core engineering is on the rise and we need optimum supply of engineers to meet the upward curve of demand in this sector.
Leading engineering colleges and institutions recognize this huge opportunity. They realize that for India to become world’s leading manufacturing hub and knowledge based economy, it should be equipped to become unparalleled centres of learning and innovation. There is pressing need for curriculum revamp and comprehensive overhauling of engineering teaching methods and techniques to develop dynamic technological leadership in all aspects. The country is blessed with talent, which if combined with cutting-edge knowledge resources, a solid education foundation, and zeal can help us to capitalize the opportunities that await us.