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Private sector engineers play critical role in economy

Often the role of the engineer is perceived narrowly as that related to designing and construction. But in reality in today's techno-economy, he is also a manager making decisions related to the use of technology, human resources and even finance.


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In the private sector, considered as engine of the growth in modern competitive economy, engineers plays a key role, well beyond the conventional field of construction and operation and maintenance. In innovation and product development, the engineer's role is critical in the private sector to win markets, trade expansion and promote economic growth.

A country opting for export-led growth strategy, as in Sri Lanka, this contribution that engineers make can be substantial, if the total impact is considered.

Transfer of technology

In managing human resources in the use of technology, an engineer is also a trainer, coach and a mentor, though informally in most cases, wherever the workforce is deployed in wide range of projects and work sites.

This task is almost an invisible transfer of technology to unskilled labour in most cases, though it is passed-off as a fringe benefit of some sort. But the impact of such training can spread throughout the economy in many areas of productive work. The rise of master-craftsman (basunnehe) from time to time with different skills can be traced to such informal training done by engineers in most work sites.

But unfortunately, he is hardly recognized as a trainer, even though its outcome can be substantial in productive terms throughout the economy over time. In Sri Lanka over 90% of the qualified engineers passing out of universities work in private sector organizations mostly because government jobs are limited.

This can be considered a blessing in disguise. For the private sector to absorb engineers, it has to grow and the engineer has to make it to grow over time by productive performance.

In the final analysis, it is the revenue and profit accruing to private sector firms that helps it to absorb engineers passing out of universities. Therefore, the role of engineer is not a privileged position as in the case of doctors absorbed into government service. There is no job security for engineers in the private sector either. They have to prove their worth by market place criteria and standard. In the final analysis private sector engineers have to fend themselves and there is no viable organizational environment as such for private sector engineers. They more or less operate in isolation despite their productive contribution to the economy and society.

PSES

The recently formed Private Sector Engineer's Society (PSES) appears to provide a glimmer of hope for private sector engineers scattered around the country, performing and facilitating most of the productive work in the private sector.

According to the President of PSES, Ananda Devasinghe, it is not meant to be a trade union but a society for higher objectives of Training and Development (T and D) of the profession and promoting creative and innovative talent and new product development to many parts of the Sri Lankan economy. The Society has taken for itself the onerous task of promoting inventions and experiments often found in creative and innovative people particularly among schoolchildren. This is highly commendable. Promoting and espousing the cause of young talent in schools in particular, for innovation and inventions as one objective is indeed laudable. In Sri Lanka there is a surfeit of organizations for cultural promotions such as for dance and drama, but no society exists to promote productive innovations and inventions among the young. Even if a few exist, they are not active at national level. The PSES aims to promote active research centres in strategic locations in the country with the support of those willing to help to bring out local innovations and inventions.

The writer is a Management Consultant at SGS Lanka

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