Engineering as an occupation has a diverse outreach. The term ‘engineering’ spans a wide range of industries and applications. People who practice engineering with their creative minds and bring forth solutions to diverse real world problems are called engineers. A core engineering mind make ‘things’ that work and make ‘things’ work better. While on the onset it may seem that an engineer requires just technical skills but in reality he or she needs to have a set of skills and knowledge- visualizing, creative problem solving, problem-finding, adapting, systems thinking and continuous improving. They should be curious, open-minded, resilient and resourceful. Engineers are required to not only use their background knowledge in sciences, but also tap into their native and rational thinking, making it a dynamic profession finding its application everywhere- from agriculture to renewable energy, space systems to automobiles and many more.
Engineering is a broad field, typically being described as including four main disciplines: civil engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. In recent years, fifth distinct but important discipline of digital or software engineering has also been introduced. These five disciplines have numerous sub-divisions. But with changing times and needs of an evolving society, the explicit need for ‘Emerging Engineering Disciplines’ will certainly be an exciting story for the future generations.
According to a Forbes article titled ‘10 Great IT and Engineering Jobs in 2016 and Beyond’ it includes Web Developer, Network and computer systems administrator, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, environmental engineer, computer systems analysts, information security analyst, software engineer, data scientists and petroleum engineer. Biotechnology, genetic engineering and aeronautical engineering is also gaining considerable prominence.
There are various factors responsible for new engineering disciplines, which are also leading to significant changes in the practice of engineering as a profession. Constraints imposed by environmental considerations, customization demanded by diverse customers, opportunities offered by technology developments in several sectors, availability of sophisticated diagnostic and computational tools, wide choice of materials, implications of globalization and focus on sustainable engineering is pushing engineers to think out-of-the-box and find creative yet feasible solutions in most efficient and cost-effective manner.
If engineering students are to be prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, focus of their qualification should be professional practice integrated with technical knowledge and skills. This is only possible when engineering curriculum that is taught in colleges and universities is in sync with industry requirements. Academia and industry needs to work hand-in-hand to train engineers for present and future needs.
With increasing demand for work-ready professionals, students graduating in emerging disciplines will not only provide solutions to the existing problems, but also be the torch bearers of these disciplines and in the process will create further opportunities in the 21st century.
Author is the Dean of College of Engineering Studies at University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun