As increasing number of engineering students graduate, they face a limited job market and scope for their skills.
Limited number of engineers recruited in civil service and retention of old employees by the private construction companies due to stagnancy in the latter accounts for lack of employment of the graduates.
Two hundred and nine engineers graduated from the College of Science and Technology in Phuentsholing this year with 89 in civil, 41 electrical, 39 Information Technology, 27 Electronics and Communication, and 13 Architecture.
In addition, a few hundred scholarships and private funded engineers in various fields graduated from outside the country, all competing for the limited jobs in market.
Making matters worse, this year the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has announced only five slots for Architect, two for agriculture engineer, four for mining engineer, three for mechanical and three slots for electrical engineers, 27 slots for civil engineer, two slots for survey engineer, three geologists, and five urban planners.
Last year, more than 300 engineer graduates sat for the Royal Civil Service Examination, of which only 74 were recruited. In 2017, RCSC recruited 68 engineers.
A civil engineer graduate, Chencho, who graduated from Andhra Pradesh, India in 2016 is currently running a restaurant in Thimphu town.
“It is challenging to get shortlisted in corporations despite securing good marks,” he said, adding that he is still looking for a job.
Chencho worked for a private construction company for about two years before he discontinued, as he was not satisfied with the monthly salary of Nu 15,000.
“There are plenty of engineers in the market and the companies look only for experienced ones ,” said Chencho.
Another civil engineer who graduated from Himachal Pradesh Technical University, Tshewang Gyeltshen, is a temporary employee at Construction Development Cooperation Limited (CDCL). He graduated in 2017 and worked a year in a private construction company.
“I left the job at the private construction company because the salary was not paid on time, “said Tshewang Gyeltshen.
His monthly salary was Nu 12,000 with free food and lodging. “The market is flooded with civil engineers and it is difficult to get a job. About 60 to 70 engineer graduates are competing for a slot,” he added.
A civil engineer graduate of 2018 from College of Science and Technology, Kencho Tobgay ,runs Bhutan Smart Shop that deals with online delivery of vegetables.
He said he did not look for a job as he is interested in doing business. He plans to start his own construction company in the future.
The President of Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), Thinlay Jamtsho, said the prospect for new engineers looks very risky and uncertain. He said that private construction companies do not have adequate work and they are holding onto old staffs. “If there are no jobs in the market, it is very difficult to absorb the fresh engineers,” he said.
In addition, Thinlay Jamtsho said the work was awarded to the lowest bidder and the lowest quoted bidder compromised the quality of jobs in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) so the construction sector suffered.
He is hopeful that the new evaluation criteria and policy will improve the quality of works and help the construction sector to grow in the 12th FYP.
Talking about the need of engineers in the country, the President of CAB said it depends on the development activities in the country. “In a developing country, there is more demand for civil engineer whereas in developed countries there is demand for Information Technology (IT) engineers,” he said, adding that it would also depend on the ongoing and planned development activities of the country.
Moreover, the President said in hydropower projects, there would be high demand for electrical engineers and infrastructures would require more civil engineers.
While he said as new modern buildings are coming up, equipped with high technology and networking services, need would be for IT and mechanical engineers.
The new modern buildings are also coming with advanced technology and networking that would lead to demand in IT and mechanical engineering.
Additionally, Thinlay Jamtsho said the government should finance taking up any technical jobs and try to enhance the capacity of the construction companies.
“Within the country, as the job market seems saturated, the government should support those companies which have the capacity and capability to move out and work outside country,” he added.
Moreover, Thinlay Jamtsho said the local private construction companies could work as sub-contractors in other countries as with new evaluation criteria the company would be specialized in certain jobs and labor rates are cheaper compared to developed countries.
While government maintaining bilateral relationship with other countries would help them move ahead, the local contractors would be positioned and forthcoming, he added.
Loan accessibility at low interest rate and less collateral would also encourage local contractors, said Thinlay Jamtsho.
With the support, he said the construction companies could play an active role in creating jobs for young engineers.
Similarly, General Manager, Infrastructure Division, CDCL, Tshering Dupchu said, “Bhutan is a developing country, and for any developing country, there are lots of infrastructures coming up and road tunneling could give scope to the new engineers as conventional open road are faced with landslides and roadblocks in every monsoon season.”
He also said CDCL venturing into hydropower projects and urban township project development would create a need for civil, electrical, mechanical, and geo-tech engineers.
However, it would depend on the nature of the development activities and budget allocated by the government.
The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement has plans to start an Integrated Engineering Council that would register and keep a tab on the number of engineers in the country.
Around 366 graduates in engineering and related technologies would enter the labor market in 2019, 343 by 2020, 371 by 2021, 480 by 2022, and 545 by 2023, according to 12th FYP Human Resource Development Master Plan for the Economic Sectors (2018-23).
However, it only includes Department of Adult and Higher Education scholarship program students but does not include the self-funded graduates studying outside Bhutan.
The Report on National Human Resource Development Needs of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2010 highlights requirement of 75 engineers each year from 2009 to 2020 in power generation, 19 engineers each year in 2008 to 2013 and 179 engineers in 2019 and 185 engineers in 2020 in the construction industry.
The report also states that although construction sector employs large number of people, high-end design and foreigners do engineering works, while middle skill works like supervision and administration are carried out by locals.
It also points out an acute shortage of qualified and trained engineers in structural engineering, engineering geology, environment management, survey and design, contract management, and quality control among others.
According to the Labor Force Survey 2018-19, the overall youth unemployment rate was at 15.7%.
Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu