More women needed in construction sector

Women opt for engineering, while construction suffers image problem

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By  Sean Cronin Published  April 23, 2005

Soaring demand for site engineers and other construction professionals in the UAE is forcing educational establishments to review their courses and intake. And the move could result in more women finding employment in the local industry. The engineering department at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology has launched a review to ensure that its curriculum, facilities and equipment are able to meet increased demand from the sector. But construction still suffers from a poor image among students considering a career in the industry, according to Ged Ryan, head of careers at the colleges. He said: “When we launched the electronic engineering course for women we never thought it would be as popular as it became, so we were surprised at that and that has led us to look at other areas of engineering.” Attracting women into civil engineering may be more problematic, according to Ryan. “Construction has got an image problem and they think they will be out there with a shovel, mixing cement.” This year 20 women signed up to the electronic engineering programme at the college, and this year’s intake is expected to be closer to 40 students. A committee established by the colleges to look into its offering is currently considering proposals to introduce new courses in facilities management, as well as production and industrial engineering. “It is not just about construction. With all these buildings going up, people will be needed to maintain them so we are looking at facilities management as well.” The Engineering Department at Sharjah Men’s College currently offers programmes in electronics, mechatronics and construction. Last year, Sharjah Women’s College launched a specific ‘Engineering for Women’ programme, which has met with a huge response from prospective students. The Women’s College has also approved plans for a new AED10 million academic building for engineering and education programmes. One wing of this 5000m2 facility is already under construction and will offer state-of-the-art engineering laboratories, wireless Internet classrooms, and a multi-media lecture theatre.

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