Engineers’ predicament in Pakistan: What is the solution?

Tariq was a young, energetic and a dynamic boy who belonged to a middle class family. He opted engineering as a career after matriculation. He was a bright student with an academic career that was both exceptional and full of successes.

After passing intermediate (F.Sc. Pre-Engineering) with good marks, he joined a well-reputed university in Pakistan for a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Lucky enough, he was able to secure admission on merit in a top engineering department of his choice. In university too, he performed excellently. Four years of university ended within no time and the day arrived when he successfully completed his degree. Proud as they were, his parents were really happy at success of their son.

But what awaited him ahead was both unexpected and unfortunate for him. As an undergrad, he had foreseen a bright professional career ahead, but he was wrong. After graduation, he dropped his CV at various companies but was denied even the opportunity to express himself in an interview. Some of his fellows pulled the strings and got jobs in their field, but Tariq had no such connections. Some of his friends started their master’s degree with the notion that at least they’ll not remain idle – they were aware of the situation of job-market. Since Tariq belonged to middle class, lack of funds kept him from pursuing further education.

Unfortunately, after a constant joblessness for months, and all the opportunities shunned for him with regard to a bright future, suffering from depression and mental stress, Tariq thought that he had no other option left but to end this travail, forever. An otherwise difficult choice was made rather easier for him under the duress of constant rejection. He made the move and all of a sudden the dreams of his parents shattered. He had freed himself from the shackles of depression, mental stress, anxiety and difficulties leaving his parents behind with a life full of sorrow and grief until their death.

The story told above is true and based on facts, although the name of real character has been replaced for sake of privacy. Such incidents present a gloomy picture of incompetency, inefficiency and maladministration of our institutions and government.

In Pakistan, situation is very grave for engineers. According to a report by Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) published in March 2019, over 50,000 engineers are jobless in our country. In some cases, graduates of year 2015, 2016 and 2017 are seen looking for job opportunities but to no avail. They are anxiously awaiting jobs but there’s no one to end their plight.

After graduation, many fresh engineers face joblessness – in some cases it prolongs to months. Some lucky ones get job in first month after graduation with the help of connections, but neither everyone has connections nor he/she is lucky enough. As mentioned above, some either go abroad for further study simply because they are aware of the situation of job-market and ordeal they can face if they remain in Pakistan, or enroll themselves in master’s degree in Pakistan. Others remain unemployed.

Government and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) has failed in the job placement of fresh engineers. Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) should be lauded for issuing 12,000 supervisory certificates in 2018 to facilitate jobless engineers but its impact is insufficient to address the gravity of situation. Firstly, it didn’t create much difference to improve the employment ratio if one considers the number of unemployed engineers at this time. Secondly, private companies bought supervisory certificates and certificate-holders sold these for good sum of money. So the initiative lost its purpose.

If government is serious to reduce unemployment, and to end predicament of engineers, following suggestions should be considered. More suggestions are also welcome if they are useful in this regard and helpful in any way to benefit engineers.

First, it’s the responsibility of the government to provide job opportunities to the graduates. For this purpose, government should arrange paid internships in collaboration with PEC in government and private sector for engineers. Government departments have the capacity to arrange internships but no one has given keen consideration to this until now. Minimum duration for internships should be at least 12 months so that interns can gain hand-in-hand and valuable experience which would help them in the long run towards their professional career.

Second, there is lack of balance between demand and supply. More engineer graduates per year than the demand of job market. Consider civil engineers in Pakistan. In early 2000s, almost 400 civil engineers were graduating per year. Now, this number is more than 2000. More than 15 universities have established civil engineering departments, thus increasing the influx of engineers in the job market. Construction industry has also expanded during this period but still it is not enough to cope with the overcrowded engineer lot. To solve this problem, one advice would be to limit the number of engineers graduating each year as per demand. And if that is not possible, then there should be enough arrangements to adjust the fresh graduates in the job market which itself is an arduous task considering the state of unemployment.

Third, Pakistani firms employ highly skilled and experienced engineers. They don’t hire fresh graduates simply because of inexperience. At least one-year experience is often required to get a job which can’t be gained until one gets hired by some company. Thus, PEC should make it compulsory for companies to hire a limited number of fresh engineers each year which in turn would reduce unemployment.

Four, those who land themselves a job are either unpaid or low-paid. Starting salaries range between 15,000 to 20,000 PKR per month. Majority of the companies don’t provide accommodation and one has to bear costs of meal himself. In some companies, engineers are bound to work on wages which are lower than that of labor. This is sheer injustice to engineers. If you compare it with the starting salaries of medical profession, doctors who do house-job are paid 50,000 PKR per month. Unfortunately, there’s no policy in Pakistan which ensures a minimum but satisfactory salary of fresh engineers. Therefore, it’s imperative for the government to form a policy which would make it compulsory for the companies to pay minimum salary, failure to which should be liable to prosecution.

Five, PM Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme can create job opportunities for engineers. This housing project encompasses various areas including infrastructure development, building construction, road construction, sewerage system etc. Most probably, this project will be completed with the help of contractors and consultants, and would involve many companies. Therefore, it’s an opportunity for the government to create job opportunities for engineers, especially civil engineers who’re directly linked to the project i.e. infrastructure development. It should be made mandatory for companies involved in project execution to hire local engineers and provide paid internships to fresh graduates.

Think for a moment about the predicament of those 50,000 jobless engineers who opted for this path with the hope of making a bright future for themselves and their families, but got nothing except hopelessness, depression and mental stress in return. Life is not easy for them. They graduated with professional degrees in their hands, but ended up without any job, making their whole struggle worthless and putting them into constant state of depression. Tariq remained jobless for more than one year and ended his life with suicide. Had he got a job, he would not have taken such step. Serious reforms are need of the hour to improve the situation of engineering profession in Pakistan, or otherwise, consequences will be dire.

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3 Comments

  1. Ishtiaq Ahmed says

    Interesting Topic.
    In Pakistan, it appears to be a triad of Universities, Employers (Mostly private) and PEC for the down fall engineering as a profession resulting a surplus of unemployed youth.

    Universities, firstly, fail to produce grads of caliber that can make money for employers, thus engineers in their first 5-8 years (aprox.) need high on job training.
    Employers (mostly private) as a result do not hire new / recently graduated engineers.
    PEC does not dynamically regulate the education system or the profession as a whole, creating a viscous cycle that must be broken.

    Beside mandatory practical training there must be a standardized test at the end of four years of study prior to PEC awarding a registration to fresh engineers. This will ensure employers (end users) get the right product (engineers). This will concurrently improve the regional international demand for Pakistani engineers over others.

    In a nut shell, fix education system & regulate profession dynamically.

  2. MUHAMMAD ARSLAN says

    GOVERNMENTS HAS TO TAKE STEPS TO STOP THE ILLEGAL USE OF PEC ENGINEERING CERTIFICATES IN ENGINEERING FIRMS AND MAKE THE FIRMS TO ALLOW FRESH ENGINEERS TO GAIN PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE INSTEAD OF USING THEIR PEC CERTIFICATES FOR THEIR PROJECTS

  3. Mohammad Zubair says

    One of the core issues of Pakistan’s middle class is the dream of an Engineer or Doctor. I mean isn’t there any other profession in this world that is considered honorable and good paying? Around 8000-10000 engineers graduate every year in Pakistan where the environment is already saturated with engineers. We cannot just cry about lack of foreign investment and expect some miracle to happen No! that’s not going to happen. In short what we need is a paradigm shift where people mostly parents should broaden their view of earning a livelihood by visualizing and exploring a new world that includes not just engineers but chefs, fashion designers, writers, dentists, pilots and many more.

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