Izyan Syahirah Hasanuddin (right) and Dzafriq Hafez Johari discussing the progress of the KVMRT-UG project.

IMAGINE the chance to construct world-famous buildings such as the Petronas Twin Towers or major local projects such as the Bakun dam in Sarawak, or to get involved in a lifestyle-improving process through urbanisation.

As a developing country, Malaysia’s construction activities are the major backbone in building up its gross domestic product.

The country’s development is correlated with construction through urbanisation as more residential and commercial buildings needed to be built to cater to the population and economic growths.

Malaysia needs at least 200,000 engineers by 2020 in order to attain the status of a developed nation. To date, there are only 70,000 registered engineers in the country.

Engineering is divided into many areas — mechanical, electrical, civil, aerospace, nuclear, structural, biomedical, chemical, computer, industrial and environmental — which impacts our daily lives.

There is a huge demand for civil engineers in Malaysia and it is also expected to get a boost as the country gets ready to upgrade its infrastructure and power sector.

If you’d like to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems — from providing clean drinking water, to high quality housing, — then a career as a civil engineer could be for you.

WHY CIVIL ENGINEERING?

According to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) pro vice-chancellor (strategy) Professor Dr Shahrin Mohammad, engineering is one of the world’s most important jobs with civil engineering being the oldest profession in this field.

It is the most extensive branch of engineering, he added, with creativity and technical skills needed. Civil engineers plan, design, construct and operate the facilities essential to modern life, ranging from bridges and highways systems to water treatment plants and energy-efficient buildings.

“Civil engineering is constantly developing; for example, recent developments in analytical techniques and modelling have led to dramatic improvements in the understanding of how structures behave, while new materials have led to economies in construction.

“We can anticipate future challenges from increased population, a greater concern for the environment, global warming and long-term changes in weather patterns and sea levels.

“Civil engineers are needed to help find solutions to such problems. As a career, civil engineering will call upon all your skills of creativity, analysis and construction, to help create a better, safer and more attractive environment for us all,” he said.

Shahrin, who is the former dean of UTM’S Faculty of Civil Engineering, said the field can be defined as the art of directing great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of mankind.

“Civil engineering demands logical and analytical thinking. It equips students with the skill and the will to take on the challenges. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education,” he said.

To become a civil engineer, there are two stages involved — academic and professional practices.

“Civil engineers need an accredited bachelor’s degree with skills in decision-making, leadership, mathematics, organisation and problem-solving.

Beginners or fresh graduates will earn an average of RM2,800.

He added that young workers should aim to obtain the status of Professional Engineer (Ir) after gaining sufficient experience.

LIVING ON THE FAST TRACK

“Looking back, I’m grateful to be able to work on the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project, otherwise, I won’t be where I am today,” said 26-year-old engineer Izyan Syahirah Hasanudin.

The project, a proposed three-line MRT system in Klang Valley/Kuala Lumpur, was announced in December 2010 by the Government and launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on July 8, 2011.

Izyan earned her degree in Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from UTM Skudai. Prior to that, she did a five-month fast track foundation at the same university.

After graduation, she was hired by MMC Corpration Bhd and seconded by MMC Gamuda to join the KVMART-UG (underground) project.

Izyan said what she studied at university was basic compared to the advanced engineering involved in a big project like KVMRT.

In the male-dominated industry, Izyan, who started working at the age of 22, found the environment intimidating and tough.

Initially, Izyan had doubted herself and wondered if she would be able to cope, but her first task as a site engineer taking care of the Pudu launch shaft since November 2015 until now has changed her perception.

“For the first few months I felt awkward, as most of the general workers and senior-level engineers are male.

“But after a while I managed to get the hang of it and adjusted well to my male colleagues whom I mostly call ‘abang’.” she said, adding that female engineers need to be strong mentally.

For a large-scale project such as KVMRT, Izyan said she gained knowledge when moving between different disciplines of engineering and technical work on the job. She was involved in the first line of this project, the Sungai Buloh - Kajang Line (SBK Line), which stretches 51km and have 31 stations.

“I have to be on site daily to monitor the operational progress, thus making full use of my civil engineering knowledge while learning on the job from my superiors and peers.

“It was an eye-opener and good experience as not many female engineers get to be on ground,” she said.

More importantly, being assigned to an underground worksite has exposed her to a multitude of engineering work. “I am encouraging my siblings, cousins and friends to join me as well, so we can have more women in the engineering field,” she added.

Having five years’ experience handling the KVMRT projects has made Dzafriq Hafez Johari, 32, an assistant manager (plant) at MMC Gamuda.

He has now been entrusted with Line 2 Sg Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP) since 2015 as well as a training role at the Tunnel Training Academy.

“I joined the company in 2012 as site engineer and was given the task to handle Line 1 of the KVMRT project.

“I must say a good understanding of the geology and experience in tunnelling and the associated civil works in different geological formations is vital in constructing the MRT efficiently and safely.

“It was difficult at first because my field of study was in electrical & electronics engineering. But as time went on, I find that civil and electrical & electronics engineering are inter-related and vast knowledge of both components are needed.

“I am looking forward to learn new things as the projects progress. Since the project is concentrated on underground tunnelling, the operational team will be on site 24-7.

“Normally, site engineers like us clock in for 12 hours daily,” said the Universiti Tenaga Nasional graduate.

His advice to young civil engineers is to “take the opportunity to experience as much ground work as possible, to build up reputations”.

“We need more engineers who are technically competent as we do not want to rely too heavily on foreign engineers in the near future.

“Expatriates are still needed for knowledge transfer but we want to train and hire local talents,” said Dzafriq.

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