India is a developing country with ample human resources available. With 1.2 billion plus population how much of these resources is effectively used is the billion dollar question! The same question applies when it comes to engineering graduates. Every year around 1.5 million engineers are passing out, India is become a factory churning out engineers. According to the recent reports hardly 7% of them are employable and the ratio is traveling down as years pass by. Why is that out of many graduates only handful of people are employable?
Its industry-academia gap! It’s the gap between the engineering education system and the industries expectation from entry level engineers. Academia gap is emerging because there is something lacking. So what is lacking in our education system? How to bridge the gap between academia and industry? Let us take a practical view of addressing this gap with 5 recommendations from our side. Read on!
1. Build student motivation:
Be it any skill, motivating students plays a very important role. Thanks to our social structure, it is not necessary that all engineering graduates must inculcate analytical and problem solving skills that makes them a great engineer. As every person is unique their strengths lie in different area. Good number of them today are opting for engineering because of compulsion, which automatically brings down their motivation. On the positive note, every person will have talent in them. As the saying goes fish can’t be judged with its ability to fly.
Engineering graduates should be given opportunities where they discover their strengths. It can be done by making students work on something out-of-the-box and providing them with strong encouragement. The out-of-the-box activity can be anything – organizing college fests, participating in hackathons, making them work with NGOs, providing opportunity to explore their creative side with activities like painting etc. While most of the engineering colleges have clubs to do these activities, it can be used as a mechanism to identify what an individual is really good at. By providing more responsibilities in that direction will automatically increase their motivation and gain confidence to try out something new.
On the other hand students should never be demotivated as we never know what each one will turn out to be. Demotivating just kills the creativity and the confidence of the students. Indian education system is all about how much do we remember and eventually marks that matters. By making students participate in diverse set of activities which can lift them up and increase their motivation.
2. Build a balanced syllabus:
Engineering college syllabus is one of the highly debated topic these days. Most of them say syllabus should be scrapped and completely made with latest topic. While we can have a long debate on this topic, we recommend to have a balanced approach. For example engineering subjects can be categorized into foundational subjects (ex: Digital Electronics) and advanced subjects (ex: Artificial Intelligence). Advanced topics can’t be built without giving enough focus on foundations. Also foundational learning need to be made as hands-on with 70% – 30% focus on practical vs. theoretical.
Once students build strong fundamentals they can be provided opportunity to learn advanced topics. In order to learn latest technologies, other mode of learning (ex: e-learning) can be explored. Today there are lot of free or very reasonably priced courses are available in popular course providers like Coursera, NPTEL, Udemy, Edx, Academicearth and many of them. Using these platforms students can learn from the best teachers. In this case also students should be given hands-on exercises, assignments and projects where they end up building something. This will further increase their motivation part (as discussed in part-1) and make them ready to learn any new technology as they step into their career.
3. Provide workplace exposure:
When studying in colleges, students are not aware about workplace expectations. Hence awareness is to be created by exposing them with real-time workplace. Internships works very well to bridge the gap between academia and industry, some of the universities in India (ex: VTU) has already made it mandatory as a part of engineering curriculum. By working on internship, engineering graduates not only learn in terms of their job expectations but also learn about other behavioral aspects. These behavioral aspects include written and oral communication with colleagues and seniors, taking complete ownership of the given work, delivering quality output and learning on real-time tasks. Also by attending company level common activities like team meeting, offsite-workshops and company all-hands meeting interns can build big picture of how an organization functions.
Along with internship students can be made aware about the corporate world by having different engagement programs with the industry. Some of them include having guest lectures by experts, 1:1 mentoring, having experts as project guide, having industry experts as extended faculty etc.
4. Capacity Development:
Capacity development is another important way in which industry-academia gap can be reduced. It should be seen as a long term and continuous improvement mechanism (popularly known as Kaizen principles) using which capacity can be developed across the whole ecosystem. Here are some of the actions that can be taken at different ends.
- Individual: Every individual must take a step to improve their capabilities which include students, faculty and organizations. The learning attitude is yet to be cultivated by different mechanisms using which individual can continue to enhance their knowledge and skills. This will also help an individual to become a life-long learner and adapt to changes as they face in future. With new technologies disrupting traditional ways (ex: Artificial Intelligence), having a learner mindset makes a huge difference.
Organizational: In India there are 10,000+ engineering colleges which can be organized better. Organizational capacity building can be done in form of bringing up better practices of teaching, standardizing evaluation mechanisms and better way of collaboration. There are many umbrella organizations are created like National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) which already has STEP program which can be leveraged across different government and privately owned universities along with their colleges. Such common adaptation mechanism will build overall organizational capability.
Social level: All these capacity building should be done at a social level. This is interactive public administration where a society as a whole should work on. They should take the feedback in the positive manner and start working on it. Social level capacity development is to develop the society as whole.
5. Consistent knowledge transfer:
Last but not the least, all the above mentioned points need to be weaved into a consistent knowledge transfer ecosystem. This ecosystem should connect new curriculum development, faculty development programs, developing better teaching practices, building industry partners for internship, having industry expert ecosystem with strong backup from management of engineering colleges and universities. This consistent ecosystem should provide new thoughts and latest happenings in a motivating and thought provoking manner.
So, where do we stand now and what has to be done? India stands first in producing more number of engineers but quality and employ ability requires significant improvement. The industry-academia gap need to be bridged. Across the world motivated and skilled brain is the most precious asset, which is available at large scale in India.
Thanks to its demographic advantage India is expected to be the youngest country by 2020 with 64% of its population with average age of 29. This huge mass need to be converted into a positive force by making the spirited youth employable. Bridging industry-academia gap plays a very important role in this whole scenario where students, universities, organizations and government need to energize and work together to make it happen!