The Constructor

A Panoramic Glimpse of the Modern Construction Sector

Construction of Third Rail Dowel

Construction of Third Rail Dowel

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Construction is one of the largest sectors that provide employment to millions to both manual and non-manual categories starting with helpers to construction managers. Millions of man-hours are required to complete a large scale project.

The largest job I worked as Resident Engineer in a Project Management Company in Doha Qatar for construction of International Airport, had consumed 400 million man-hours until the project achieved 92% of progress.

At the peak of the construction, there were 50000 manual laborers working on-site and the Non-Manual count was about 6000. The project took ten years, while my stay lasted 8.5 years.

In India, when you graduate many of us join construction as you are not lucky enough to grab/ secure government jobs or you are battling poverty and cannot continue with higher education. Indian technical education leaves millions of engineering students with not adequate employable skills. It’s a pity that some of the diplomas and graduates end up working as Skilled Labor or Foreman in the Middle East.

Working on a project site is hard and can be hazardous due to the risks involved. Project sites, many times are in remote locations and will call for living in Camps and away from families. This is more difficult when you work with contractors with no ethical programs in place or fail to fully implement even if they have one.

Construction of Third Rail Dowels

Typical Positions on a large project

In a typical project- site set up - departments that manage the job include: Core Team, Contracts Department, Projects Controls, QA/QC, Procurement, Engineering/Field Engineering, Interface, Construction, Survey, Safety, Logistics, Plant and Machinery.

I am listing some of the Typical Positions available on a large project site as below:

  1. Project Manager
  2. Contracts Manager
  3. Procurement Manager
  4. Construction Manager
  5. Safety Manager
  6. Commercial/Finance Manager
  7. Planning and Controls Manager
  8. Design Manager or Engineering Manager
  9. Interface Manager
  10. QA Manager
  11. QC Manager
  12. HR Manager
  13. Resident Engineer
  14. Labor Relations Manager
  15. Sub Contract Manager
  16. Purchaser/Buyers
  17. Expediters
  18. Contracts Administrators
  19. Permits Engineer
  20. Quantity Surveyors
  21. Planners
  22. Construction Coordinators
  23. Discipline design engineers or Field Engineers
  24. Survey Engineers
  25. Site Engineers
  26. Safety Engineer
  27. Draughtsman in Civil, Architectural, Piping, etc.
  28. BIM modeler
  29. Labor Camp Manager

Make yourself aware of job responsibility for positions in construction that you are applying for and be prepared for interviews.

Positions also depend on the nature of projects like in Airport Construction you have an AGL engineer who is installing Aviation Ground Lighting or Pavement Engineer who is working on Runways or Taxi Ways. 

Try to be an expert in a certain type or sector of construction. If you happen to join the construction of tall buildings try to stick to it. For example, Clients from Aviation or Metro prefer to recruit experienced professionals who have built airports for specific periods of time.

This becomes decisive for senior positions.  One client interviewed me to ask if have a minimum of 4 years of experience in Metro Project while I had just completed 2 years and I could not switch the job.

Various Construction Sectors

Some of the well-known construction sectors include but not limited as below:

  1. Oil and Gas – Building LNG Terminals, Offshore Platforms, Petrochemicals, Gas pipelines
  2. Residential – Building Apartments
  3. Power – Building Power Plants
  4. Power Distribution – Building transmission towers
  5. Aviation Sectors- building Airports
  6. Roads, Bridges, and Tunnels
  7. Industrial construction
  8. Ports
  9. Metro
  10. Rail
  11. Dams/Irrigation

Working Conditions

One of the risks working on construction project sites is that most of the offers are on a contract basis and are subject to termination depending on the completion date of your role. Laying off may not be true in Indian companies but is definite in Multinational companies. 

It’s a struggle to get new jobs and a lot of us may stay without jobs for months. In the Middle East, you can change the companies with No Objection Certificate from the current employer.

And the advantage of working in the Middle East is that you earn tax good salaries and you get to work overtime which is properly compensated.  I have not seen or heard overtime being paid to site engineers in India and they put up 10 to 12 hours of work every day for a fixed monthly salary.

Middle East companies provide you with single status work visas, accommodation, transportation, medical insurance, and food.  There are many engineers who climb up the career ladders and mobilize families.

Teams that make-up a project

  1. Client or Owner of the Project
  2. Consultant 
  3. Main Contractor
  4. Sub-Contractors
  5. Suppliers/Vendors
  6. Manpower suppliers
  7. Third-Party Inspection Agencies
  8. Testing Agencies

Client or Owner who works mostly as Steering Committee hires the Consultant to design and float tenders for the project. Sometimes the same consultant is appointed to manage the project, supervise the construction, and report the project health & contractor’s performance to the client.

Never stop learning

For the current generation, I want to mention that a bar is raised to post-graduation and skill-based for you to be employable. In my experience companies prefer postgraduates over graduates for a given post.

There are post-graduation courses in Construction Management you can choose. You get to learn Scheduling, Cost Control, and Cost Estimation. There are also courses in Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Project Management (PMP)

So even after you start working as a construction engineer or site engineer continue to develop the above skills through distance learning or evening courses. 

NICMAR is one of the few best institutes that offer skill-based construction courses. 

PMP certifications also attract lucrative job offers in the construction field.

Software applications are increasingly put to use these days – for cost-effective integrated design. BIM software like AutoCAD Architecture, Revit. Vectorworks, ArchiCAD, and MicroStation.  This software help manage the engineering, construction, and Operation Maintenance work of the project effectively.

There are also specific trade disciplines you can choose namely Construction Coordinators, Bridge Engineer, Paving engineer, Welding engineer, Coating Engineer, and in MEP discipline apart of usual Electrical and Mechanical Engineer you can choose to be a Piping Engineer, HVAC Engineer, etc.

From my most recent Metro job, I came across people who work as Signaling System Engineer and Communication System Engineer. You can also choose to be a Safety Engineer and Environmental Engineer which call for specific courses and certificates in ES&H. Many MEP candidates are making careers in testing and commissioning.

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