By DOM GALEON
If, like Sheldon Cooper from the hit comedy series Big Bang Theory, you are fascinated with trains and railways, then this new program that will be offered by the Technological Institute of the Philippines or TIP might be something you would want to try out.
In partnership with the Department of Transportation, the TIP will begin to offer Railway Engineering courses this coming school year. “The DOTr’s decision to work with Technical Learning Institutions like the TIP was largely prompted by two things,” says DOTr undersecretary for Railways Timothy Batan. “First, the size and scope of work necessary to complete the Railways Pipeline conceived by the Duterte administration’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ Program, which plans to increase the country’s railway network length from 77 to 1,900 km by 2022. Second, we recognize that, given this bold ambition, our current pool of experienced and qualified human resources is extremely limited.”
Immediately, the DOTr got to work on setting the stage for this new program, the first of its kind in the Philippines— from initially meeting schools and signing memorandums of the agreement early in 2018 to training professors who can implement the planned Railway Engineering program. The TIP will start to offer a nine-unit elective course for its existing engineering courses (Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Communications Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Computer Engineering).
“The Railway Engineering elective track consists of three units in Introduction to Railways System Engineering; three units in Railway Management, Governance, and Operations; and another three units in Advanced Topic on Railway Engineering,” says TIP VP for Academic Affairs Cynthia Llanes. “The review and revision of our curricular offerings is a continuing process. If, eventually, the assessment and evaluation of the pilot program show the need to offer a standalone Railway Engineering Program, that possibility might be considered.”
With what the DOTr plans to do in the coming years, this seems highly probable. “Railway development does not stop at infrastructure building,” says Usec. Batan. “As a result of our partnership and collective efforts, TIP is now ready to offer their first elective on Railway Engineering this coming school year. This course hopes to introduce students to various railway subsystems, such as rolling stocks, tracks, power, and signaling, and make them understand how all these fit in the broader scheme of operations in railway development.”
It’s a matter of supplying a developing industry with properly trained manpower. “As of March 2019, we estimate that we will need at least 7,000 individuals, including graduates, for our current pipeline,” he adds. “In the Project Management offices of the DOTr Rail Sector alone, we are in need of at least 600 technical and non-technical staff to support the implementation of our ongoing projects.”
For their part, the TIP is looking to start this coming school year with one class of about 45 students for the launch of the program, says Dr. Llanes. She adds that there are already students who have expressed interest in taking the elective Railway Engineering track.
To ensure that the school is ready to conduct these highly specialized classes, the DOTr conducted training for TIP’s professors.” Six TIP full-time faculty members were trained to handle the Railway Engineering courses under the DOTr-TLI Consortium Faculty Capacity Building program,” Dr. Llanes explains. “It was a series of lectures on various topics in Railway Engineering, which included a faculty immersion program. A TIP faculty member also participated in the Seminar on Railway Integrated Planning Management for the Philippines, which was held in Beijing last year.”
Apart from technical know-how, TIP’s Railway Engineering elective courses include a class on Railway Management. The idea, Dr. Llanes explains, is to have professionals in the railway industry who are capable of not just maintaining trains and tracks but also managing railway systems. “Instead of sending students abroad to study, we can now adequately train them here,” she adds.
With the tracks now laid, so to speak, it’s only a matter of getting the train to start running. As far as the DOTr and TIP are concerned, everything is ready to begin this coming school year. “The only challenge greater than the actual ‘Build, Build, Build’ is its subsequent operation and maintenance,” says Usec. Batan. “This administration’s promise to provide a comfortable life for all extends beyond what we are building now. Thus, the rise of the railway sector is inevitable and we only expect it to grow further in the coming years.”