ASCE Making Its Global Vision Relevant to India

ASCE Making Its Global Vision Relevant to IndiaKathy J. Caldwell
A high-powered technical team of ASCE was in India last month to explore further technical collaborative opportunities between the Indian Civil Engineering Community, institutions and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The team visited various technical institutions and related organizations and had a number of workshops and meeting events in different parts of the country. During the team's visit to Delhi, Kathy J. Caldwell, ASCE President; Patrick J Natale, Executive Director; and Dr. Anil K Kar, President ASCE India Section had a meeting with S.K.Khanna.

Kathy explained that ASCE provides opportunities for civil engineers to network with all members of the project team. The benefit is really the benefit to the profession of producing well trained professionals who share a commitment to advance engineering and construction practice to bring about an improved quality of life for citizens. ASCE's work is guided by a global Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025, which focuses on creating a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life. This vision offers a framework to guide the work of those dedicated to providing infrastructure essential for life. Kathy said, "As President of ASCE, I am excited to experience how the India Section is poised to lead the contributions of your vibrant civil engineering community helping to achieve this global vision."

It is indeed heartening for the Indian Civil Engineering community to know that the President of ASCE came to India herself to promote ASCE. What would be your focused promotional agenda for the civil engineering community in India?

ASCE has about 1,500 members in India and its leadership came here to visit the ASCE India Section and to provide guidance and assistance to the Section's leadership in extending ASCE offerings throughout the country. We participated in a workshop to brainstorm the future of the India Section and what it might look like throughout the country. What we wanted to do was leave the decision making to the local leadership as, ultimately, the local entities know better what services are sought after by the members and how to deliver those services. One outcome of the meetings and the workshop was to form four branches of the India Section, which will allow ASCE to serve its members better at the local level. We were able to share how this type of governance is working in the United States and in other countries. The India Section is currently based in Kolkata and the establishment of branches will enable the local member to have closer ties with ASCE and attend networking opportunities provided by the branches, including seminars and other continuing education for the membership.

Please tell us in brief about ASCE activities and functions and its missions relevant to the Indian civil engineering sector.

ASCE's presence is already established in India. The ASCE India Section was formed in 1988 and has functioned successfully by offering several technical programs every year since then. It is important to note that a key part of ASCE's mission is to provide value to its membership, including the provision of opportunities for lifelong learning on the latest technological and professional advances within civil engineering. In addition, ASCE provides opportunities for networking with other civil engineers and for mentoring the younger members as they develop their careers. The benefit to ASCE is really the benefit to the profession of producing well trained civil engineers who bring about an improved quality of life for citizens, wherever they may reside. Sharing solutions across the globe ultimately results in a better engineer and better engineering.

What is your overview of the technological status of the Indian civil engineering sector? Are its methodologies and business practices compatible with those ASCE has observed abroad?

There are many good universities that are producing gifted engineers in India. They are making use of the latest technology in their course work. What is important is that they are trained to become influential leaders in creating a sustainable world and providing a better quality of life for the people of India. Business practices are different in different parts of the world. Civil engineers are generally versatile, adapting to local practices with a core sense of purpose to improve the quality of life.

The manpower crunch is looming large globally in all industries, and the Indian construction sector is no exception. What needs to be done at the macro and micro level to make a comfortable position in India?


ASCE Making Its Global Vision Relevant to IndiaASCE President during a group meeting with the Institution of Engineers (India)

Investing in infrastructure creates jobs and stimulates the economy. In the U.S., for example, every billion dollars invested in infrastructure creates 30,000 or more jobs, for engineers, managers and for skilled tradesmen. In India, there is a huge market to develop infrastructure and thus there will be continued demand for a skilled workforce.

India is fortunate that her children embrace science and engineering. Yet, civil engineering enrollments have recently been declining as those students instead pursue the high technology sector in greater numbers. On the macro level, educational planning may need to anticipate a continued shift away from engineering, construction and the skilled trades. Programs can be put in place to identify promising students and demonstrate that those careers are among the best jobs for the 21st century, offering strong employment prospects and high pay. On the micro level, organizations like the ASCE India Section can support workforce training and development programs to help retain experienced professionals and educate and train new recruits.

How can ASCE's important Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century contribute to the development of skills and expertise in the civil engineering profession in India?

The knowledge, skills and attitudes required of an engineer in the 21st century far exceeds those demanded of 20th century engineers, but the time available within an undergraduate engineering program to develop these attributes has substantially diminished over the last 30 to 40 years—at least in the U.S. Civil engineering is a demanding field that requires a broad knowledge base and a combination of skills to practice successfully as a professional. Engineering education in India is currently highly technical. India needs to evaluate the role of the civil engineers in its society and tailor its professional educational program accordingly. The purpose of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century, Second Edition is to define the following:
  1. What are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to enter into professional practice?
  2. How can the Body of Knowledge be fulfilled by tomorrow's aspiring engineers, and
  3. Who should guide the learning of the engineering student and engineer intern?
What this means is that globally, the manner in which civil engineering is practiced must change. And that implies that civil engineering education must change. This change is necessitated by such forces as globalization, sustainability requirements, emerging technology, and increased complexity with the corresponding need to identify, define, and solve problems at the boundaries of traditional disciplines. As always within the civil engineering profession, change must be accomplished mindful of the profession's primary concern for protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.

The profession recognizes the need for change as evidenced in the aforementioned Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. This Vision articulates a global vision for the future of civil engineering. The Vision sees civil engineers as entrusted by society to be leaders in creating a sustainable world and enhancing the global quality of life. As ASCE visits with its sister societies, sections and groups around the world, the discussion about the necessary changes and additions to the training of civil engineers is addressed. Many societies have endorsed the Vision document with a commitment to work alongside ASCE and others to ensure that civil engineers attain the necessary body of knowledge for the practice of civil engineering at the professional level and to become leaders within society.

We hope that sharing this information with the engineering profession in India will enable the profession to make the necessary adjustments to its core curricula going forward, which will reform the manner in which tomorrow's civil engineers are prepared— through education and early experience—to enter into professional practice.

What message would you like NBM&CW to convey to the construction fraternity in India reiterating ASCE's commitment to the members to navigate issues currently affecting the profession and strengthening their expertise through technical exchange and collaborative effort?

ASCE Making Its Global Vision Relevant to IndiaInterchange in Dallas Texas
ASCE provides opportunities for civil engineers to network with all members of the project team. The benefit is really the benefit to the profession of producing well trained professionals who share a commitment to advance engineering and construction practice to bring about an improved quality of life for citizens. Through ASCE's journals, publications, and continuing education programs, we provide world-wide access for professionals to learn from, and contribute to, professional practice. We routinely receive submissions from authors in India and regularly have international attendees at many of our conferences. We strive to offer many of our education programs on-line so that distance is not a barrier to individuals advancing their knowledge or gaining desired credentials. Several of ASCE's technical specialty Institutes are working with engineers in India and in time may establish local chapters, which will help further advance the relationship and synergy between the professions in our two countries.

ASCE's work is guided by a global Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. This Vision states: Entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life, civil engineers serve competently, collaboratively, and ethically as master:
  • planners, designers, constructors, and operators of society's economic and social engine—the built environment;
  • stewards of the natural environment and its resources;
  • innovators and integrators of ideas and technology across the public, private, and academic sectors;
  • managers of risk and uncertainty caused by natural events, accidents, and other threats; and
  • leaders in discussions and decisions shaping public environmental and infrastructure policy.
Endorsed by a number of global engineering organizations, including the Institution of Engineers, India, this Vision offers a framework to guide the work of those of us dedicated to providing the infrastructure essential for life.

ASCE Making Its Global Vision Relevant to IndiaHoover Dam 2011 panoramic view from the Arizona side showing the penstock towers, the Nevada-side spillway entrance and the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, also known as the Hoover Dam Bypass

"As president of ASCE, I am excited to experience how the ASCE India Section is poised to help lead the contributions of your vibrant civil engineering community in working to achieve this global Vision."
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