EN­GI­NEER­ING FU­TURE CHALLENGESA

New Straits Times - - Front Page - ZULITA MUSTAFA zulita@nst.com.my

IMAG­INE the chance to con­struct world­fa­mous build­ings such as the Petronas Twin Tow­ers or ma­jor lo­cal projects such as the Bakun dam in Sarawak, or to get in­volved in a life­style-im­prov­ing process through ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

As a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, Malaysia’s con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are the ma­jor back­bone in build­ing up its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

The coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment is cor­re­lated with con­struc­tion through ur­ban­i­sa­tion as more res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings needed to be built to cater to the pop­u­la­tion and eco­nomic growths.

Malaysia needs at least 200,000 en­gi­neers by 2020 in or­der to at­tain the sta­tus of a de­vel­oped na­tion. To date, there are only 70,000 reg­is­tered en­gi­neers in the coun­try.

En­gi­neer­ing is di­vided into many ar­eas — me­chan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal, civil, aero­space, nu­clear, struc­tural, bio­med­i­cal, chem­i­cal, com­puter, in­dus­trial and en­vi­ron­men­tal — which im­pacts our daily lives.

There is a huge de­mand for civil en­gi­neers in Malaysia and it is also ex­pected to get a boost as the coun­try gets ready to up­grade its in­fra­struc­ture and power sec­tor.

If you’d like to solve some of the world’s most press­ing prob­lems — from pro­vid­ing clean drink­ing wa­ter, to high qual­ity hous­ing, — then a ca­reer as a civil en­gi­neer could be for you.

WHY CIVIL EN­GI­NEER­ING?

Ac­cord­ing to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) pro vice-chan­cel­lor (strat­egy) Pro­fes­sor Dr Shahrin Mo­ham­mad, en­gi­neer­ing is one of the world’s most im­por­tant jobs with civil en­gi­neer­ing be­ing the old­est pro­fes­sion in this field.

It is the most ex­ten­sive branch of en­gi­neer­ing, he added, with cre­ativ­ity and tech­ni­cal skills needed. Civil en­gi­neers plan, de­sign, con­struct and op­er­ate the fa­cil­i­ties es­sen­tial to mod­ern life, rang­ing from bridges and high­ways sys­tems to wa­ter treat­ment plants and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient build­ings.

“Civil en­gi­neer­ing is con­stantly de­vel­op­ing; for ex­am­ple, re­cent de­vel­op­ments in an­a­lyt­i­cal tech­niques and modelling have led to dra­matic im­prove­ments in the un­der­stand­ing of how struc­tures be­have, while new ma­te­ri­als have led to economies in con­struc­tion.

“We can an­tic­i­pate fu­ture chal­lenges from in­creased pop­u­la­tion, a greater con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment, global warm­ing and long-term changes in weather pat­terns and sea lev­els.

“Civil en­gi­neers are needed to help find so­lu­tions to such prob­lems. As a ca­reer, civil en­gi­neer­ing will call upon all your skills of cre­ativ­ity, anal­y­sis and con­struc­tion, to help cre­ate a bet­ter, safer and more at­trac­tive en­vi­ron­ment for us all,” he said.

Shahrin, who is the for­mer dean of UTM’S Fac­ulty of Civil En­gi­neer­ing, said the field can be de­fined as the art of di­rect­ing great sources of power in na­ture for the use and con­ve­nience of mankind.

“Civil en­gi­neer­ing de­mands log­i­cal and an­a­lyt­i­cal think­ing. It equips stu­dents with the skill and the will to take on the chal­lenges. Many civil en­gi­neers work in de­sign, con­struc­tion, re­search, and ed­u­ca­tion,” he said.

To be­come a civil en­gi­neer, there are two stages in­volved — aca­demic and pro­fes­sional prac­tices.

“Civil en­gi­neers need an ac­cred­ited bach­e­lor’s de­gree with skills in de­ci­sion­mak­ing, lead­er­ship, math­e­mat­ics, or­gan­i­sa­tion and prob­lem-solv­ing.

Begin­ners or fresh grad­u­ates will earn an av­er­age of RM2,800.

He added that young work­ers should aim to ob­tain the sta­tus of Pro­fes­sional En­gi­neer (Ir) af­ter gain­ing suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence.

LIV­ING ON THE FAST TRACK

“Look­ing back, I’m grate­ful to be able to work on the Klang Val­ley Mass Rapid Tran­sit (KVMRT) project, other­wise, I won’t be where I am to­day,” said 26-year-old en­gi­neer Izyan Syahi­rah Hasanudin.

The project, a pro­posed three-line MRT sys­tem in Klang Val­ley/Kuala Lumpur, was an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2010 by the Gov­ern­ment and launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak on July 8, 2011.

Izyan earned her de­gree in Bach­e­lor of En­gi­neer­ing (Civil) from UTM Sku­dai. Prior to that, she did a five-month fast track foun­da­tion at the same univer­sity.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, she was hired by MMC Cor­pra­tion Bhd and sec­onded by MMC Ga­muda to join the KVMART-UG (un­der­ground) project.

Izyan said what she stud­ied at univer­sity was ba­sic com­pared to the ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing in­volved in a big project like KVMRT.

In the male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try, Izyan, who started work­ing at the age of 22, found the en­vi­ron­ment in­tim­i­dat­ing and tough.

Ini­tially, Izyan had doubted her­self and won­dered if she would be able to cope, but her first task as a site en­gi­neer tak­ing care of the Pudu launch shaft since Novem­ber 2015 un­til now has changed her per­cep­tion.

“For the first few months I felt awk­ward, as most of the gen­eral work­ers and se­nior-level en­gi­neers are male.

“But af­ter a while I man­aged to get the hang of it and ad­justed well to my male col­leagues whom I mostly call ‘abang’.” she said, adding that fe­male en­gi­neers need to be strong men­tally.

For a large-scale project such as KVMRT, Izyan said she gained knowl­edge when mov­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines of en­gi­neer­ing and tech­ni­cal work on the job. She was in­volved in the first line of this project, the Sun­gai Bu­loh - Ka­jang Line (SBK Line), which stretches 51km and have 31 sta­tions.

“I have to be on site daily to mon­i­tor the op­er­a­tional progress, thus mak­ing full use of my civil en­gi­neer­ing knowl­edge while learn­ing on the job from my su­pe­ri­ors and peers.

“It was an eye-opener and good ex­pe­ri­ence as not many fe­male en­gi­neers get to be on ground,” she said.

More im­por­tantly, be­ing as­signed to an un­der­ground work­site has ex­posed her to a mul­ti­tude of en­gi­neer­ing work. “I am en­cour­ag­ing my sib­lings, cousins and friends to join me as well, so we can have more women in the en­gi­neer­ing field,” she added.

Hav­ing five years’ ex­pe­ri­ence han­dling the KVMRT projects has made Dzafriq Hafez Jo­hari, 32, an as­sis­tant man­ager (plant) at MMC Ga­muda.

Civil en­gi­neers need an ac­cred­ited bach­e­lor’s de­gree with skills in de­ci­sion-mak­ing, lead­er­ship, math­e­mat­ics, or­gan­i­sa­tion and prob­lem-solv­ing.” PRO­FES­SOR DR SHAHRIN MO­HAM­MAD Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) pro vice-chan­cel­lor (strat­egy)

He has now been en­trusted with Line 2 Sg Bu­loh-Ser­dang-Pu­tra­jaya (SSP) since 2015 as well as a train­ing role at the Tun­nel Train­ing Acad­emy.

“I joined the com­pany in 2012 as site en­gi­neer and was given the task to han­dle Line 1 of the KVMRT project.

“I must say a good un­der­stand­ing of the ge­ol­ogy and ex­pe­ri­ence in tun­nelling and the as­so­ci­ated civil works in dif­fer­ent ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions is vi­tal in con­struct­ing the MRT efficiently and safely.

“It was dif­fi­cult at first be­cause my field of study was in elec­tri­cal & elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer­ing. But as time went on, I find that civil and elec­tri­cal & elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer­ing are in­ter-re­lated and vast knowl­edge of both com­po­nents are needed.

“I am look­ing for­ward to learn new things as the projects progress. Since the project is con­cen­trated on un­der­ground tun­nelling, the op­er­a­tional team will be on site 24-7.

“Nor­mally, site en­gi­neers like us clock in for 12 hours daily,” said the Universiti Te­naga Na­sional grad­u­ate.

His ad­vice to young civil en­gi­neers is to “take the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence as much ground work as pos­si­ble, to build up rep­u­ta­tions”.

“We need more en­gi­neers who are tech­ni­cally com­pe­tent as we do not want to rely too heav­ily on for­eign en­gi­neers in the near fu­ture.

“Ex­pa­tri­ates are still needed for knowl­edge trans­fer but we want to train and hire lo­cal tal­ents,” said Dzafriq.

Izyan Syahi­rah Hasanud­din (right) and Dzafriq Hafez Jo­hari dis­cussing the progress of the KVMRTUG project.

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