With a recent report suggesting that as much as 95% of engineering graduates from Asia’s third-largest economy are unfit for programming jobs, there’s been an on-and-off debate around employability of India’s Engineers , an issue that rears its head every now and then. This year, Indian techies are having a tough year, accused for stealing jobs from locals in the US, UK, Australia, and Singapore, and on the other simply lacking even basic programming skills.
The heads of the country’s esteemed institutions for engineering studies, Directors of Indian Institutes of Technology consider these claims to be exaggerated, but think that the issue is still a concern. “The concern about engineers employability really arises because of the large number of engineering graduates produces every year from Indian colleges with outdated curriculum that they are made to study, poor teaching infrastructure as well as shortage of good faculty in institutes that are not premium or much reputed”, IIT directors spoke to ET.
“The country is producing as many as 10 lakh engineers a year. There needs to be a serious review,” said Indranil Manna, director at IIT Kanpur to ET . “Do we really need so many engineers? Are there that many jobs?”
Since most of students join the courses with the intention to learn, so the onus of bringing out quality engineers lies not on the students. Good teachers, good labs and infrastructure, which is not available in a majority of the institutes beyond a few at the top are questionable. For this the system which has allowed so many institutes of questionable quality to mushroomed needs to be blamed.
Director of IIT Delhi, V Ramgopal Rao agreed that there was an overproduction of engineers, which needed to be addressed. But saying an overwhelming majority of them can’t be called unemployable. “Our job is to produce graduates who are broadbased and who can be trained for a given job. Not to be so narrowly focused that they can only do one kind of job. We must strengthen our ITI and polytechnic diploma education by incorporating a significant hands-on training component,” Rao suggested through ET.
Even today, Indian parents’ fascination to see their kids becoming engineers, so keep pushing their children to gravitate towards engineering subject, that often guaranteed wealth, status, and, with some luck, a one-way ticket out of the country. This is another reason behind the overproduction of engineers. A handful of high-performers from top IITs get high packages, the same is not the case with most fresh graduates from not counted as premium institutes. This forces many fresh engineers to take up jobs unrelated to engineering.
A few years ago, a McKinsey report said just a quarter of engineers in India were employable. Of late, some other studies put it less than 20%. More recently, a survey by employability assessment firm Aspiring Minds said 95% of Indian engineers can’t program or code.
“There is no doubt that this (debate over employability) is not applicable to IITs, NITs, some notable Centrally Funded Technical Institutes (CFTIs) such as the IIITs, IIEST, IIST, etc. Some leading state universities including Jadavpur University and Anna University colleges are imparting very high-quality education as are private institutes such as BITS Pilani, VIT, Amity and SRM, among others,” Gautam Biswas, director at IIT Guwahati told to Economics Times. He added that there are some concerns about colleges and institutes that are not able to raise their qualities and standards.
“The main problems were inappropriate curriculum, poor syllabi, inadequate laboratory infrastructure and a shortage of quality human resources for teaching. Attention should be focused on all these areas while institutes without adequate teaching support may seek help from industry experts through special seminar or lectures. Even in IITs, soft skills are to be enhanced. The programing skill, knowledge on Big Data analytics and Internet of Things are to be introduced at second-year level for all branches,” Biswas added.
Devang Khakhar, Director IIT Bombay said that no student is ready to immediately join the industry right from the campus. They need to go through training programmes, and often soft skills including English speaking before they can be sent to work. On the surveys claiming 95% of Indian engineers unfit for jobs, he said the findings needed to be taken with a pinch of salt. “If the situation was that dire, so many IT companies wouldn’t be recruiting in such large numbers.”
Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head of education and skill development at KPMG in India, said that the engineer employability debate needed to be looked at from a macro perspective. The real problem is whether what is being taught is correlating to current industry requirements.
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In many countries such as Germany, Singapore and Australia, have two qualities of higher education: one that creates people relevant for scholarly and research-oriented and other that is more industry use. In India, there isn’t enough engagement with industry, whereas the need of the hour is more Universities aligned to the requirements of industry.
Blaming Engineering graduates for their employability is just like barking up the wrong tree. Over the past few months, IT giants such as Infosys, Wipro, and Cognizant have all announced plans to fire hundreds of employees. Moreover, as the industry evolves and automation increases, thousands of jobs are at risk. There should be communication between Industries and Academia to clear their requirements. An effort is expected from Industry to tell academia how things have changed and what they now want.
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