How IIT-M helped L&T fix the shortage of civil engineers

A tie-up between IIT Madras and L&T Construction shows how sponsored courses can be jointly developed and delivered

An acute shortage of postgraduate civil engineers plagued L&T Construction back in the 1990s. In particular, the construction giant faced a severe dearth of bright MTech candidates for its growing business. While BTechs are good enough for most construction engineering jobs, L&T recruits MTechs in Structural Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering etc from various institutions across the country as design engineers. Additionally, it sought post graduates with strong technical and construction management training to be groomed as leaders.

 

Core Engineering became unglamorous in the 1990s

The paucity was an outcome of heady growth of the sunrise information technology (IT) sector. Then, the prevailing trend among engineering graduates, cutting across streams, was to opt for jobs in IT. Such opportunities were better paying and seen to be more glamorous with opportunities like going abroad. The burgeoning IT industry was also desperately in need of trainable manpower. Companies would pick up candidates, including civil engineers, train them for a few months and then put them to work.

Those years were not only marked by a lack of interest for jobs in core engineering but also by fewer candidates opting to study further. Why would candidates want to specialise in a subject, if they are not sure they will work in that area in future? points out Dr Kalidindi N Satyanarayana, Professor, Building Technology & Construction Management Division, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, one of the earlier coordinators of the innovative course that came about when the construction giant L&T approached the premier engineering institute.

 

L&T decided to approach institutions to launch a sponsored course

Pressed to the wall, L&T Construction decided to take matters in its own hands and decided to collaborate with premier educational institutes to impart quality engineering education. It was willing to invest in young minds through a sponsored courseto assure its manpower needs and especially to prepare the next generation of leaders. So, L&T Construction approached IIT Delhi and IIT Madras, and proposed that they launch a sponsored programme to attract bright minds to study construction technology and management. This required an interdisciplinary program that was structured with students coming from Civil, Mechanical & Electrical Engineering background. The construction major chose IIT Delhi and IIT Madras because they had existing programmes and qualified faculty which could address their requirements, say Professor Koshy Varghese and Professor K. Ananthanarayanan, the current coordinators of the programme.

In 1997, IIT Madras and IIT Delhi entered into a novel partnership with L&T Construction to launch a user-oriented Masters in Technology programme in Construction Technology and Management. The programme is aimed at training candidates to be construction project engineers and managers, not design engineers, clarifies Dr Satyanarayana. Few institutions in the country are delivering such a programme at the post graduate engineering level.

The challenge for the educational partner was to devise a joint course development and delivery mode, which would satisfy L&T Constructions needs as well as retain IIT Madras s academic freedom.

 

Roles of the partnerswere clearly defined

L&T Constructions involvement and IIT Madrass roles are clearly demarcated.

 

JOINT DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY:

At IIT Madras, L&T Construction also provides inputs for the syllabus and course content. The courses are conducted by IIT Madras faculty and aspects of industrial practice covered by L&T experts through guest lectures. At IIT Madras, the programme is coordinated by a team of faculty from the Building Technology & Construction Management Division in the Department of Civil Engineering with active support from faculty members from the participating departments.

STUDENT SELECTION: Of the 30 seats offered at IIT Madras, 15 are for fresh graduates selected through an entrance exam and interview process jointly conducted by the participating IITs and L&T. The remaining 15 seats are for internal candidates from L&T Construction, who must be graduate engineers with two years of working experience. These candidates are selected through aptitude assessment and interview. The L&T scheme under which they sponsor candidates is Build India Scholarship Programme.

 

EMPLOYMENT ORIENTED EDUCATION:

At the outset, L&T Construction conducts an induction process for all the students, on the basis of which it allocates a Business Unit to each student. Students can then select their technical elective subjects in line with their respective Business Unit. For example, a student expected to work with Roads and Runways Business Unit can choose electives in the area of Transportation Engineering, Pavement Engineering, and Geotechnical Engineering. A student expected to work in the Power and Transmission Lines Business Unit can take courses in the area of Electrical Power Systems.

Students are assigned a one-year thesis just like regular MTech students. Some of these projects are in technology areas while others are in construction project management areas. To make the projects more relevant to industry, students train on an L&T project site for six weeks during the summer. After this, they work on the live project under the supervision of a project guide from IIT Madras and an advisor from L&T Construction. The results of many of these projects are implemented in L&T Construction, and they have enabled utilisation of latest management techniques and construction technologies in both in Indian and overseas projects.

 

The tie-up worked for both the partners

Both L&T Construction and IIT Madras have benefited from the research resulting from the students projects. Due to the availability of field data and project sites for experimental work, findings from many projects have led to research publications in conferences and journals. In addition to research contributions in various technical areas, a few areas where research has made a significant impact include Building Information Modelling (BIM), Lean Construction, heavy lifts planning etc.

In the last 15 years, IIT Madras has produced over 400 MTech graduates for absorption in L&T Construction. These pass-outs have been extremely successful in the construction industry and are sought after by all the business groups within the organisation. In future, L&T Construction is expected to partner with other technical institutions to extend its Build India Scholarship Programme. IIT Madras experience in delivering this course will be invaluable for potential partners to evaluate their capability to deliver the programme


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