At the 45th Anniversary of the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE), President Trotman delivered the feature address and informed his gathering that the engineering industry was unhappy with the quality of engineering graduates from the University of Guyana (UG) and that its benefactor, the Government of Guyana should enhance the capacity of the institution to enable future graduates to acquire the necessary skills and quality to meet the needs of the engineering industry.
I was Dean, Faculty of Technology (FoT) and Head of the Civil Engineering Department at UG in the ’70s and at that time the engineering graduates were receiving a high quality education which was evidenced by the ease with which they found employment opportunities, acceptance to the final year BSc (Engineering) course at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine and PhD programmes elsewhere. I happened to meet some of these graduates subsequently and found many of them holding senior positions in varied engineering establishments worldwide.
It was with great disappointment to learn that there has been a downward spiral in the quality of engineering education at UG over the years, to the extent that the industry is unhappy with the quality of its graduates and hesitant to offer them employment. It seems therefore that the new Vice-Chancellor has a lot of work to do to upgrade standards at the FoT to enable its graduates to acquire the skills needed for the engineering demands of Guyana and the 21st century.
To start with, a well-structured and executed UG undergraduate engineering education programme should meet most if not all of the basic engineering skills needed by the industry. If there is a shortfall in any specialized engineering skill which is not available locally, this could be obtained through outsourcing, as is done in many developed countries. However, there is no doubt that the FoT faces some major challenges such as adequate staff, upgrading its curricula and laboratories, external examination of its courses and certification for quality control and much more. To fulfil the needs of the industry and Guyana generally, UG should consult with all stakeholders with respect to the changes which would be necessary to the existing education and training of engineers.
Finally, Mr Trotman was of the opinion that a lot of the specialist training and education required to move Guyana forward could not be acquired at the undergraduate level and that post-graduate studies were the answer. However, post-graduate studies tend to be academically oriented and lack the kind of education that Guyanese engineers need to satisfy the industry and to enable them to carry out their duties as competently and efficiently as professional training would do.
This is reflected in the staff qualifications of many consulting engineering firms who have done and are doing valuable work in Guyana. After all, most newly minted engineering graduates expect to be well compensated on receipt of their first paycheck for their years of intense grind, but because of their lack of relevant experience, employers soon become disenchanted with their performance.
It would be useful at this juncture if Mr Trotman could tell us what GAPE has and is doing to assist its young members to obtain professional training after graduation to advance their career in a meaningful way, while at the same time contributing substantially to move Guyana forward rather than challenging the government to provide post-graduate studies for young engineers who after their studies will require on-the-job training anyway. As a parting note, training which is now provided at the undergraduate level in the proficient use of CAD and a few other apps should provide most young engineers will the skills needed to design the most challenging structure.