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.
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
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
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.
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
The writer is a Management Consultant at SGS Lanka