THE marketability of engineering graduates depends to a large extent on the state of the economy. However, certain disciplines are more unstable than others, said Inti College Malaysia's Benny Lee.
“When the economy is bad, the need for civil engineers as well as electrical and electronic engineers decreases. These sectors are usually the first to be hit and the last to pick up.”
On the oft-asked question of students, “What sort of engineering should I do?”, Lee's advice is simple, “Do what you like.”
Lee also counselled parents not to force their children into engineering. “They will not perform well if they don't like it.”
The talk on engineering was another one that drew the crowds. Students spilled into the corridor outside to listen to the panel of four speak on various career and study options during the recent Star Education Fair 2003.
Prof Brian Tuck, head of the engineering division at the University Nottingham in Malaysia (UNiM) said the basic task of an engineer is to design things.
“Engineering is a creative job. As a professional you are expected to take responsibility for large projects. You aren't told what to do but are trained to assess the situation and come up with the best solution.”
He said that after four years of engineering education, a well-trained engineer would leave with a deep understanding of the subject, have the ability to think creatively, be confident of his judgement and have a belief in himself.
“Be sure engineering is what you really want to do as it involves hard work and commitment. Anyone who tells you there is an easy way to become an engineer is not telling the truth.”
A representative from the Institution of Engineers (IEM), Prof Dr Norman Mariun, a lecturer from Universiti Putra Malaysia, revealed that chemical engineers are the highest paid.
He also told students, especially those studying in private colleges, to check on the recognition of their courses with IEM, the Board of Engineers and the Engineering Accreditation Council.
Prof Mariun said accreditation was important as Malaysia was a signatory to the Washington Accord which guaranteed mobility for engineers.
He advised students to brush up on their English and communication skills while in college, since this was as important as technical knowledge.
Consultant engineer Chee Meng Sang gave the audience an insight into the challenging job of a professional consultant.
“About 50% of engineers will work as consultants,'' he said, describing engineers as backroom boys who don't get noticed as much as other professionals.
“I have learnt a lot as a consultant engineer. I started a business together with my partners after working as an engineer for eight years.
“As a consultant engineer, your knowledge needs to be up-to-date. You must also be decisive and not give up easily.”
He said consultant engineers should avoid repackaging old ideas as fresh solutions.
“If they do, they will be labelled catalogue engineers who use existing specifications wholesale for a new design. “
Chee also stressed the importance of soft skills such as communication, finance and management.
“You might have the best solution in the world, but if you can't communicate it to your client it won't be accepted.”