If conventional engineering disciplines such as Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering originated as what we know today as a result of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries in UK and Europe which instigated professionalism in modern civilization, Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering was on account of a similar professionalism of some US academicians a century later.
Chemical Engineering being more modern got a curriculum cramped with much of the information from the former engineering disciplines and some more of its own from the Industrial Chemistry and Applied Physical Sciences.
In that way, Chemical Engineering offered the students a much broader aspects of knowledge about the modern industrial technology and was thought to equip the newly trained engineers with better inter disciplinary skills that are required to work in the complex industries of the twentieth century.
From my personal experience, I can say that those who got trained as a chemical engineer is in a better position to grasp the interdisciplinary complexities of the modern day industries where physio-chemical processes are employed for various kinds of production activities.
Stringent statutory stipulations in industrial safety and environmental issues coupled with the economics of production caused greater opportunities and challenges for chemical engineering. Higher demands of instrumentation and process control automation incorporating modern day advances of digital electronics added more complexity to this field of studies. Developments in corrosion sciences and modern materials of construction technologies enhanced the burden of diverse knowledge in chemical engineering.
As a result chemical engineering began disintegrating into more and more specialized fields. Petroleum and Petrochemical engineering, Bio-chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, etc came into being as a result of academic initiatives in the last few decades.
However, the enthusiastic universities that went ahead with specialized fields of studies some how appeared to care little to create equivalent awareness about such courses and their benefits in the minds of the industrial planners and decision makers.
This has caused the recruiters often forgetting to include such advancely trained candidates from their essential qualification specifications for their new recruits or to allot a lesser intakes for such candidates.
The result was lesser career opportunities for those who ventured to learn more. This resulted in vacant seats in the universities which offered advanced courses.
This in turn created a shortage of adequately trained people for the industries, the latter resorting to place conventionally trained engineers even in specialized interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary areas for which they lacked the necessary background knowledge. This resulted in poor technical management of industries causing poor industrial safety and higher Operational and Maintenance costs.
A vicious circle has been created !
Let me cite the example of India. In the days when I was a student some four decades ago, chemical engineering was one of the most sought after disciplines of engineering.
Now it is not. No new engineering colleges which came into existence in this country in the past one and a half decade period offer chemical engineering as a course of study. Chemical engineering is offered only in the elite and old institutions. Even in those, the responses from the students are lukewarm due to the collapse of career opportunities in this branch of engineering.
At the same time engineers who work in the industry, like me in senior positions, feel the shortage of adequately trained chemical engineers in the intake levels who could take up the industrial challenges.
In India, the massive exodus of fresh engineers of any discipline to non-engineering field of works should be another concern for any body who has long term thoughts on human resource planning.
I would like to get feed backs and opinions on the issue that I just highlighted from engineering academicians, students and engineers working in the industries.
[Chemical Engineers-Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow ]