Equipping engineers for the workplace of the future
In the decades of 1980 and 1990 engineering and medicine were the most sought after careers. Things changed in the 2000s and several other career options emerged, however engineering continues to be the career of choice for many. It is not surprising therefore that over 15 lakh engineers graduate from various colleges across India every year. However, according to a NASSCOM survey, only 2.5 lakh out of these 15 lakh engineering graduates are employable.
Of course, engineering education has changed over the decades. In the 1980s and 1990s a degree in mechanical, civil, or electrical engineering could easily land one a good job. In 2000s, to support the booming IT industry, computer engineering and electronics engineering started gaining popularity. As technology evolved, various areas like BTech programs in data science, cyber security, biotechnology and many more emerged. However, mismatch between the skills of fresh engineering graduates and those sought by the industry continues to be an issue.
What is engineering education in India? What can higher education institutions and engineering colleges do to ensure that graduating engineers are job-ready and can meaningfully contribute to the workplace of the future?
Academia should collaborate closely with the industry
We live in an era where technology is evolving every day and so are the needs of industry. In these dynamic times, just theoretical knowledge based on existing curricula is not enough. Practical training opportunities need to be made available to students.
Industry practice program should be built as a part of practical training to give those graduating in engineering a chance to work in an industry. This should be an integral part of the curriculum. With thrust on first-hand knowledge, BTech programs should give due weightage to practical learning opportunities.
Industry leaders from across sectors should be invited to the campus regularly to interact with the students. This will give aspiring graduates a better understanding of the latest employment trends and job roles and help them prepare accordingly
Compulsory industry stint
Working in industry, even as a prospective employee, should be an intrinsic part of BTech programs. This will expose students to the real world of work and help them pick up job-reading skills and gain work experience in their respective sectors. Degrees should be awarded only after students successfully complete the industry stint. One should be careful that this industry stint is not just another internship but involves working on live projects as a regular employee would. This stint needs to be monitored by university faculty for better learning and performance of the student. It will also aid in diffusion of knowledge between industry and academia.
Ensuring faculty members are equipped with the latest technological know-how
In today’s fast-paced environment it is critical that academics are up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technological developments. Skilling and upskilling programs should be organized regularly for the faculty members. They should be encouraged to attend industry events and collaborate with industry partners for research projects.
Emphasize on holistic learning
Various educational leaders have promoted holistic learning over time. Students who take an interdisciplinary approach to learning are more prepared for the future world of work. It fosters curiosity while also improving communication and social skills. Therefore, engineering graduates should be encouraged to look beyond their disciplines and pick up skills that are of interest to them. They should be encouraged to make connections in a subject by using their creative skills, which will later assist them in engaging in industry-related activities.
A good mix of curricular, cocurricular and cross curricular activities with a freedom to choose should be made available to the students. Education technology tools such as project based learning and role play contribute to an accelerated pace and diversity of learning in students.
Gone are the days when just an engineering degree would ensure success. To be productive today one needs to learn and adapt every day. Engineering colleges should therefore instill a sense of curiosity in students and help them become life-long learners. It is important to remember that we are preparing our graduates for the future, and dynamism, agility and ability to quickly switch to newer platforms would be critical for success in today’s fast paced environment.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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