Experts in the Indian electronics world opine that mere college education cannot get candidates good jobs. You need to have that ‘extra’ bit to make it to the professional world. And that can be offered only by finishing schools.
By definition, a finishing school is a supplementary training school that attempts to compensate for the deficiencies of colleges by providing specialised vocational training (hard skills) or personality development programmes (soft skills). Whether you want to get into telecom engineering or VLSI, there is a finishing school for all kinds of engineers in India.
Engineering education in India: The loopholes
In an interview with EFYTimes.com correspondents, Dr Sameer Prabhu director of Industry Marketing, MathWorks, says, “While engineering education in India has evolved over the last few years, there is still a considerable skills gap when it comes to industry requirements. According to the National Employability Report (NER) 2011, while India produces more than 500,000 engineers annually, only a miniscule 3.51 per cent are appropriately trained to be directly deployed on projects. Further, only 2.68 per cent are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of computer science and algorithms. One of the main reasons for this is lack of exposure to industry-standard tools and software.”
Experts are of the view that the current curriculum emphasises on theory rather than practical technological applications in the industry. Highlighting the need of employ employability in engineers, Raghu Panicker, country sales director, Mentor Graphics, says, “The main challenge today is not making the engineering graduates employable but also to ensure that there are more number of competent industry-ready engineers for better productivity and innovation. We have seen that fresh engineering graduates who get hired by leading companies have to go through induction on product engineering oriented or process engineering oriented or focused
in-house training programmes. These programmes are usually driven and guided by internal engineers, managers and product/process specialists, and run for over four to six months. These programmes involve a lot of effort, time and costs for any corporate. This is where finishing schools come in.”
Is the investment worth it?
After spending good money in doing an engineering course, one would obviously not give finishing schools a second thought. But students cannot undermine the importance of investing in training at finishing schools.
Col. N.C. Pande from EFY Tech Center, says, “While the colleges make a theoretical background for the students, finishing schools teach them the practical aspects of things. In India, a vast majority of engineering colleges and universities have not updated their curriculum to incorporate the current needs of the industry with respect to exposure to new technologies, products and processes across sectors. Hence the need for this supplementary training that can enhance ‘job readiness’ and hence cut down the time required by companies to make the fresh hires productive.”
Rajeev Kabra, chief executive officer and director, Cognitel Technologies, adds, “There are three important ingredients for disseminating knowledge on any topic: content design and development that is current and relevant, content delivery through well-qualified teachers/trainers, and content delivery infrastructure through use of physical or virtual classroom, labs, etc.
“As regards content design, universities in India are guided by a framework set up by a central body, which is how it should be. This framework is quite detailed and also prescribes specific courses that are mandatory for students to complete their undergraduate programme. However, we are constrained by lack of nimbleness to change the curriculum in line with the advances in technologies and the needs of the industry. Of course, this is not easy but this can be achieved through use of external help from institutions/companies that are focused around creating such content.
“The next big challenge that our colleges face is how to produce trainers/teachers that can deliver this content and keep themselves updated with latest technology trends.
“Finally, there is a need for infrastructure that can be used to provide hands-on experience to students, particularly in technical education. On the aspect of industry readiness, the linkages that need to exist between the colleges and the industry are not as pervasive as they need to be. We have provided many colleges across the country an opportunity to understand from us the demands of the jobs that exist for freshers in the IT and telecommunications sector by way of discussions and student visits to our labs.”
Colleges can help the industry by providing a well-planned framework that would encompass what the corporates need and accordingly train the engineers to be industry-ready. Panicker opines, “They could also partner with leading companies, to frame the finishing school concept, to give the right mix and exposure that is necessary and prepare them for challenges in the VLSI and semiconductor industry. The finishing school concept has always been used in the short run, but I think it would be good if we really focus hard and have a finishing school with a long-term vision.”
What role do finishing schools play?
While this is not a mass generalisation, a fair majority of engineering or management graduates are not adequately exposed to the outside world. The basis of summer internships and longer-duration industrial training programmes that were incorporated in the Indian education framework was to facilitate this. However, very few get to undergo these programmes in the industry due to the growing number of engineering graduates from colleges all over India.
Numerous smaller training organisations that claim to provide such training have sprung up in all corners of the country, but there are very few which can provide the much needed real-life job experience to candidates. As a result, they are not well aware of the specific skills that they require to land a job once they step out of their colleges.
The curriculum of finishing schools is designed to ensure better adaptability by engineering students from different streams. The main focus of the finishing schools is:
1. Increase the industry-readiness of the fresh engineering graduates so that they are productive from day one
2. Bridge the industry and education sector gap by catering to the needs of VLSI and semiconductor industry
3. Create a path where the industry and educational sector can synergise efforts to train better manpower
4. Develop the requisite industry know-how for students to facilitate better employability
5. Ensure more number of industry-ready engineers are available for the industry to recruit
Be smart while selecting a finishing school
If you look at the yellow pages of your city, you may find a long list of finishing schools for engineers. Make sure that you make the right choice. Kabra says, “There are a number of schools that provide personality development programmes, which is the softer aspect required for any graduate. There are also vocational training companies that offer programmes for job readiness in different sectors. The core issue is about how many such schools are making the necessary investments to deliver high-quality education in terms of producing and updating content to be in line with the present and future needs, having trainers that have relevant industry experience and providing the infrastructure that can support hands-on experience (for technical trainings). There are no officially published numbers for such focussed training houses. But a random sample of training schools in any city will perhaps be enough to bring this issue to light.”
So you need to check the credibility of an institute before joining it. In fact, the industry is also taking a step forward for guiding candidates in this direction.
Panicker adds, “The Indian VLSI and semiconductor industry is focusing in the right direction by trying to develop finishing schools for better adaptability by fresh engineering graduates. We have partnered with Sandeepani School of VLSI Design, VEDA IIT, C-DAC centres, ECIL and RV-VLSI design centre to provide a finishing school kind of platform to enable fresh electronics engineering graduates to acquire skills that are needed by the industry.
“The concept of finishing school is definitely on the growth path and we will see more number of finishing schools mushrooming in the next five years. The finishing school concept would be more successful if there is a strong synergetic partnership with universities, industry and industry associations. These partnerships should cater to different aspects and needs of the industry. The finishing school should strongly focus on providing industry-ready training in technical areas like VLSI and semiconductor industry. This should be supplemented by enough exposure to soft skills.”
The author is an assistant editor at EFY