Not long ago, Aum Tshering lamented that none of her six siblings got into Science stream after Class XII and went on to become an engineer.
For her, an engineer was a respected and a prestigious job. When her daughter finished high school, she took education loan and sent her to India to study engineering.
Her daughter is back with a degree in engineering. But she couldn’t get through the civil service examination. She is still looking for a job. Aum Tshering’s patience is waning.
Two years ago, Dendup graduated from the College of Science and Technology (CST) with a degree in civil engineering. The 24-year-old is still looking for a job.
Like them, many engineering graduates are realising that theirs’ or parent’s dream of becoming an engineer, especially a government engineer, is becoming harder to achieve.
Last year, more than 300 graduates sat for the Royal Civil Service Commission exam, which recruited 74 engineers. In 2017, RCSC recruited 68 engineers.
Some are lucky to be absorbed in the public corporations or private construction companies, but many are forced to wait to compete with more engineering graduates joining the market.
With a growing construction sector, why are there no jobs for engineering graduates?
A chief urban planner said that while there are jobs, many graduates do not want to work outside the urban areas. “Everybody wants to be in the government. How much can the government absorb?” he said.
Construction Development Board’s (CDB) director, Phub Rinzin said that most graduates did not want to work at sites and preferred an office job. “The scenario I feel is also because of the construction companies’ commitment of resources at the time of bidding.”
He said that when the procuring agency designs the bid, many specific resources were required. “However, when construction companies commit resources, most of the requirement remained only on paper.”
In 2017-2018 fiscal year CDB monitored about 119 sites. About 60 percent failed to deploy the committed resources, which includes human resources.
Phub Rinzin said the main finding was that most of the construction works were quoted very low. “So companies cut costs by not recruiting engineers.” He said that about 24.5 percent of engineers working in the private firms were non-Bhutanese.
Graduates feel that lack of work experience is the main challenge to land a job outside the civil service. “Everybody is looking for experienced people,” said one. To get some field experience and make them employable, graduates look up to internship programmes.
After graduating from India last year and not getting through the RCSC exam, Tshering Samdrup is interning with the Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL). “I wanted to gain some knowledge and experience working with senior engineers at the project,” he said.
He said that during the course of four years, engineering was mostly theoretical. “For us to really start working, we need some experience and that we tend to get from internships.”
Dendup said he interned for two months with National Housing and Development Corporation Limited. “I applied for jobs in private constructions. You need linkages to get employed in the private sector.”
CDCL’s former director of department of engineering and construction, Reezang Wangdi, said there needs to be strong human resource regulations in place to supervise these graduates especially in private construction companies.
At CDCL, he said, when graduates were guided and taught, they learnt the trade well and performed better. “They are competent but private companies don’t have guidance and most graduates are lost and frustrated.”
A graduate in electronics and communication from CST, Rinzin Dorji, is teaching at a private school in Thimphu. He wanted to leave the profession and sit for RCSC, but there was no vacancy.
“Introducing the electronics and communication course in the country was early,” he said.
While many engineer graduates are in the country applying for jobs, Tashi Tshering, an Information Technology engineer is waiting to go Japan around April this year.
CDB recorded more than 4,900 engineers in the construction industry according to its annual report.
Planners said that the situation would improve with the decentralisation policy. “With the local government receiving 50 percent of the budget, they would want human resources,” said an urban planner.
“The government should take a drastic step in developing the private sector. Everywhere it is driving the economy and creating jobs, it is not happening here. The government can’t employ all,” he said.
Some are calling for realistic human resource planning with the government’s numerous plans and policies. “Today, there is a mismatch between jobs available and university graduates. We have to plan what kind of human resource we want and prepare accordingly,” said a planner.
Meanwhile, Aum Tshering is forcing her daughter to intern with a thekedhar (contractor) to gain some experience. But her daughter is waiting for vacancies.