Engineering a future
Posted: 26/Jul/2018

When the IT industry was at its peak, even incompetent engineers were able to find jobs, which is no longer the case. Still, this trend has restricted companies’ ability to take up high-end projects or product development task.

Engineering education in the country seems to have reached a saturation point and is witnessing a dramatic decline. Added to this, recruitment in the IT and software industries, which at one time were fuelling the exponential growth of institutes, has gone down drastically. When the IT industry was at its peak, even incompetent engineers were able to find jobs, which is no longer the case. Still, this trend has restricted companies’ ability to take up high-end projects or product development task. And now with the onslaught of automation backed by AI and machine learning, they are finding it difficult to remain viable. Indian IT companies’ current skill and competency set have become a major issue for leapfrogging into the future.  
It is time that we take a step back and get updated on what was once the sought- after industry in India. At the same time, we need to re-look at engineering education from a fresh perspective and work towards bringing a structural change. We have almost doubled the number of colleges in the last 10 years without any planning or foresight. We have not invested in the right kind of digital infrastructure to improve the learning outcome of students, and for faculty, training to handle such a large volume of students.
It has been found that Indian engineering students lack competency in applied skills. The following aspects would help improve engineering education in the country:

Adoption of digital stack and infrastructure to enhance the efficiency of various processes and functions in higher education, mainly to improve learning outcome, outreach, admissions, placement, skilling, administration and continuous training of  who could further produce good quality, employable students. They need to stress on the use of digital infrastructure for knowledge management, sharing of study material and assessment.
Organising regular hackathons to provide exposure to real-world problems for students. The Ministry of Human Resource Development and All India Council for Technical Education have already initiated efforts in this regard.  

Use of massive open online courses (MOOC) for the dissemination of quality video content to millions of students who are deprived of good teaching faculty. There should be credit transfer of MOOC courses into degree programmes.

Improving the school level education so that engineering colleges get better input quality of trainable students with a strong foundation in maths and physics.  
The faculty in any educational institute plays a vital role in influencing the quality of the institution. Faculty’s academic background, research and industry experience must be of top quality and relevance. A well-experienced faculty will determine the quality of knowledge sharing amongst students. A learning management system needs to be put in place to train the faculty as well. 

The curriculum should be relevant and updated as per industry requirements. The courses need to be designed in collaboration with industry and top academicians to cater to the skill requirements in various industries like e-commerce, telecom, banks, computer services, education, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, retail, etc. Relevant industry experts can be invited to address students. This will help them get a better understanding of how the industry functions.

Industry-academia alliance Rather than becoming a critic and silent observer, the industry needs to partner with academia for developing skills. It should bridge the skill gap by introducing courses that keep the students abreast of industry trends. Several companies are making efforts in this direction and are collaborating with academia. 

Students’ learning should be improved through a continuous assessment model. The colleges cannot have typical mid-term and final term. Recruiter’s expectation is shifting to ‘What you can do rather then what you know’. Students can meet the expectation of employers only through practical training.

Institutes should have a superior pedagogy enabled by world-class infrastructure like SMART boards and classrooms. Learning is a process that happens both inside and outside the classroom and participants need to be regularly exposed to industry even to be regularly exposed to industry events, both national as well as international.
While the colleges should enable students to develop scientific temperament, companies need to reskill their employees. Working engineers need to be trained on exponential technologies for witnessing growth in employment like Cloud, mobile apps, Data Science, Business analytics, Predictive analytics, Cyber security, Block Chain, IOT, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Python, Hadoop, Spark, Cognitive Computing etc. A proactive approach by all stakeholders — education institutes, industry and government — can go a long way in helping make all these happen. It’s all about enhancing the current talent pool India has and making it noticeable on the world map.

By: Bhupesh Daheria
Deccan Herald