You have the engineering degree from a reputed institute with great grades and a strong list of references, but you still don’t get the call from a potential employer. The employer rejects your application as he is looking for a trained individual who can handle the situations from day one. He does not have enough time to train you. So it’s time you enroll for a good training institute to hone your skills and increase your chances of grabbing an attractive job offer.
Bridging the skill gap
Among industry veterans, there is a clear consensus about the gap that exists between the quality of knowledge imparted by the engineering institutes and the industry requirements. In other words, the pace at which the curriculum develops in engineering colleges is slower than the pace at which the industry advances. Enrolling in a suitable training institute helps the engineering aspirants to bridge the skill gap.
“Updating the curriculum to reflect the industry’s needs is the first step. Over the last decade, technologies such as electronics and computer science have grown both in breadth and depth. It is not easy to formulate an undergraduate curriculum in these areas. It is hard to decide what to include and what to leave out. We see two extremes in our colleges today—the IITs have a single undergraduate programme in ‘electrical engineering,’ whereas most colleges have split the EE programme into electronics, telecommunication, power engineering and so on,” says Dr C.P. Ravikumar, technical director, University Relations, Texas Instruments India.
“There are equally powerful arguments for (and against) a ‘breadthoriented’ programme and a ‘depthoriented’ programme. Hiring managers who are looking out for industry-ready engineers could look for depth in a specific topic. Such managers could have apprehensions about a breadth-oriented programme. However, breadth cannot be ignored entirely since system design is becoming more and more inter-disciplinary. Perhaps, there is place for both breadth-oriented and depth-oriented programmes and colleges must evolve their programmes in cooperation with industries that hire from them. This underlines the importance of industry-academia interaction,” he adds.
Having defined a curriculum, the more important question is “how to deliver this to the students?” “Due to the rapid expansion in the field of technical education, engineering colleges in India do not have the required number of qualified faculty members. This becomes evident when an interview panel faces graduating students or when we review contest entries. There are some solutions to this problem, such as use of technologies like audio/video conferencing, use of Open Source courseware available from reputed universities, invite experts as visiting faculty, organise faculty internships, conduct faculty development programmes and so on,” explains Dr Ravikumar.
Vivek Sharma, regional vice president, GCSA-India operations and director, India Design Centres, STMicroelectronics, adds, “In India, there are some institutes which are world-class and then there are institutes which are not good at all. There is huge difference between the engineering graduates from these institutes. Good talent is coming only from a few institutes; many others are producing a good proportion of engineers but there is not enough percentage of good talent.”
Sharma continues, “It is very important that the students understand the ecosystem of the market. For this, universities and institutes need to work closely to understand the needs of the market in coming times. The universities should focus on research activities that the industry would need. To address this issue, industries can initiate bringing the university trainees and have them work for some time in their environment. Also, they can jointly set up research labs so that industries can work with the academia on projects for the market. I strongly believe it as a very meaningful way to bring the need of the industry to the university.”
Indrajit Sabharwal, managing director, Simmtronics Semiconductors, suggests for engineering colleges that “Fifty per cent of the course which is imparted should be knowledge-based, 25 per cent should be industry-applicable and the rest must be industry knowledge and training.” “Some engineering institutes are following this practice and are successful too,” he adds.
Use of technology can improve the situation. Sharma says, “Institutes usually have links with very good faculty. With technology, their accessibility can be increased. For example, some institutes which are far off can be connected and one can listen to lectures of the most talented faculty through technology. Technologies can help the institutes which are missing on good faculty and also to the institutes which don’t even have the faculty. This is one way with which we can bridge the gap. Also, universities can regularly look into the curriculum to make it more contemporary—not to say that universities should not look into the basic fundamentals. Strong fundamentals are what I strongly advocate and skills can be further nurtured by the industry. Many times universities focus on skills which can be acquired rather than the real fundamentals.”