The wealth creation cycle in construction industry revolves around the political climate, economy, government policies, availability of resources, technology, and skilled manpower. Thousands of engineering graduates leave school in Nigeria each year, and the job opportunities are getting leaner by the day. If I may say, this trend is worse in structural engineering consultancy sector in Nigeria.
In Nigeria currently, construction and real estate companies are recruiting more civil engineering graduates than any other sector. The consultancy sector has been stagnant in terms of job creation recently. There are a lot of explanations to this trend, and the idea is to keep fresh graduates abreast of the current position of the industry.
Current challenges of the consultancy sector;
(1) Inadequate Regulation
In the classroom, there appears to be a scale of fees for professionals in a building project, but out there in the field, there seems to be no professional standard. For instance in the structural design of buildings, it is not very clear whether we charge on the basis of number of floors, or area of the building, or a percentage of the estimated total cost of the building. It appears every organisation has its own way of charging for designs in order to balance their book.
Also fresh graduates and students who have acquired design skills do not hesitate in collecting design jobs directly from architects and clients. With all these challenges of no basic control, the consultancy sector has become a haven of negotiation and bargaining power, instead of professional standard. However, it is important to point out that a few Grade ‘A’ consultancy firms still maintain their standards, and those who need them knows where to find them.
(2) Availability of Design Softwares
The availability of commercial softwares have improved speed, accuracy, and output of many consultancy firms. The negative aspect of it is that the demand for man power has significantly reduced. If a consultancy firm lands one design job per month, then they can comfortably make do with just one design engineer depending on the complexity of the jobs. With these softwares guaranteeing speed in output, engineers spend less time in generating working drawings and documents, thereby making organisations realise that they need fewer hands.
(3) In-house Designs
In order to save cost, most construction and real estate companies have resolved to carrying out their designs in-house by employing the services of a structural engineer. As a result of this, fewer jobs get to real consultancy firms, and the sector continues to suffer.
(4) Crowded Industry
The built environment sector in Nigeria is currently crowded with a lot of professionals offering the same services. In our society today, civil engineers are building, builders are building, architects are building, masons are building, and even quantity surveyors are building. In this case, anyone can easily obtain their working drawings from any source at the cheapest rate, work hard on obtaining COREN stamp, and all the way the building goes. If this issue is notaddressed, the consultancy sector will continue to suffer. This has led to many certified professionals into mediocrity in the bid to survive.
(5) Lack of research and creativity
The conventional system of building in Nigeria has remained largely the same over a long period of time. The advances that have been made in materials science and technology rarely reflects in the construction projects executed in Nigeria. Innovation and creativity is what drives any industry, and if there are no new trends, we will remain stuck where we are. Engineers are encouraged to continue exploits in the areas of adaptation, research, sustainability, cost reduction, and improved technology. This is one of the ways consultancy can be revitalised.
(6) Insignificant Public Private Partnership (PPP)
In Nigeria, the construction industry is still largely financed by public funds, apart from the real estate sector that can be said to be shared equally. So for the industry to thrive, there is need for more public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives to drive the industry forward. It is obvious the government cannot no longer do it alone due to huge capital requirements. This will have significant impact in the consultancy sector.
Finally, I wish to encourage engineers to keep up the acts of hard work and professionalism in all their endeavours. Positive entrepreneurship geared towards service to humanity, research, development, sustainability, and enterprise is highly encouraged. Footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down. Nigeria is ours… God bless.