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Country focus - India

In the first of a new series of occasional features, we take a look at the opportunities for young engineers in India - what skills employers are after and what kinds engineering projects are planned or currently underway.

Country snapshot

India has a population of 1.27 billion and is the second most populous in the world after China. It is the third largest economy in Asia and the tenth largest in the world. Its Gross Domestic Product sits at $1.97 trillion with the service sector making up more than half of this and the industrial sector over a quarter. Agriculture represents just over a sixth. Engineering is one of the biggest sectors in the industrial segment.

What’s going on there?

2014 marks an election year for India and following this it is expected that a large number of infrastructure, highways, power and rail projects will be signed off, creating thousands of jobs for young engineers.

A vast number of projects are already planned or ongoing and it's only feasible to deliver a mere snapshot of some of the more major ones.

Discussion continues on proposals to implement high-speed rail networks across the country but several metro rail projects are planned that will transform a number of India's cities including in Chennai, Kochi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Mumbai (where there is also a monorail project). Meanwhile, there are plans to complete the Chenab Bridge in Jammu and Kashmir by 2016, which will become the highest rail bridge in the world.

India's road network, which spans 4.69 million kilometres and is the third largest in the world, is the focus for major development and upgrading. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the government wants to ensure new roads and routes are well equipped with intelligent transportation systems including CCTV surveillance for monitoring real-time traffic data.

Solar power has begun its march across the country with India's first solar park opened at Charanka Village in Gujarat last year, spread across a massive 5,000-acre site. Earlier this year Tata Power Solar won the biggest solar project to date from the state-owned NTPC at Rajgarh in Madhya Pradesh, which will double the power utility's solar capacity.

When it comes to construction, there are few developments to top Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), a futuristic financial services hub, designed to be on a par with the likes of Shinjuku in Tokyo, Lujiazui in Shanghai, La Defense, Paris and London Dockyards. This central business district between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, which is due for completion in 2017, has state-of-the-art connectivity, infrastructure and transportation access integrated into the design of the city.

What skills are in demand?

In the past, engineering graduates have been mostly hired by the IT/telecoms industry as well as the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Indeed, in the boom years, it was IT/telecoms that sucked up much of the young mechanical and civil engineering talent as well as computer science graduates. The operating and business model of such IT companies is changing though with a shift towards consultancy. The combination of this and the raft of engineering projects sprouting up across the country means the dynamic will change for the 1.5 million engineers India trains every year.

"There is a clear shift from the intense focus on IT or computing engineering to more core areas of engineering like civil, electrical, power and manufacturing along with telecom," says Shekhar Sanyal, country head and director of IET Services India. "And the trend will continue for a country in growth phase as India."

The leading functional areas hiring engineering graduates across these sectors will be engineer-project management, site engineer, civil engineer and production/manufacturing.

Sanyal also points to a shortage of talent in the area of research and development and that there will be a demand for smart engineering solutions in areas such as transport, communications, power and medical.

While there will always be a need for core engineering skills, he believes engineering will have the capability to deliver more as it evolves and gets embedded and integrated with other disciplines and IT. In general, it looks like India will demand a more analytical, creative and problem-solving engineer.

What areas are seeing most activity?

Geographically, the demand for engineers will come from right across the country.

Sanyal explains that most manufacturing units are linked to the easy availability of raw materials and accessibility to ports and rail heads.

"Therefore they could be far away from the big cities," he says. "On the other hand, IT telecom companies are based in large cities, Bangalore and Gurgaon being primary among them.

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