India is a very unique market with moderate demand for fresh engineering graduates. Having said that, India produces close to 1.5 Million engineering graduates every year, but the irony is only few of those are employed, others have to settle either for non-engineering based jobs or self-employment. There is a need for fundamental shift in the overall technical higher education system as well as building innovation culture in the early days of higher education.
Except Tier 1 institutes and other prestigious institutes, most engineering colleges are unable to provide engineering education to their students that would fetch them a decent job. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has approved the progressive closure of more than 410 colleges across India during the period 2014 - 2017 due to substandard of education. There are skill gaps due to not so good standard of engineering education. In a recent study NASSCOM predicted that by 2022 as many as 6 million skilled emploes will be required in cyber security but not so many professionals are available.
The need of the hour is to revamp higher education system through continuous innovation to not only to upskill engineers, but in some cases to reskill them. So how do we do that? This has to be done in "Three-in-a-box" approach with hand in hand collaboration of Academia, Industry & Government. Essentially, few new ingredients have to be added in order to upgrade the overall higher education system which are "Builtin Innovation System"; "Industry Driven Internships"; "Technology Based Reskilling"; "Cross College Exchange" and "In-house Learning & Development". Now let us examine these in detail.
"The need of the hour is to revamp higher education system through continuous innovation to not only to upskill engineers, but in some cases to reskill them".
1. Built-in Innovation System:
Universities and colleges must setup an innovation system from an early stage (Semester I) where students should be encouraged to bounce their new ideas and do something on their own. For e.g. developing a new product or solution and showcasing. In each semester there must be a 24 hours Hackathon planned, at end of that each group should be able to demonstrate. To encourage more participation there should be grade points attached to this activity for each semester. Subsequently top innovations can be shared with Industry for further exploration toward future start-ups and funding etc.
2. Industry Driven Internships:
There is a significant gap in understanding of the current trends & technologies in the industry. Students don't have deeper connect to the industry from the beginning of their professional journey. So, large organizations should plan short term internships and projects from the first semester onwards. This way there will be a connection between the students & the industry and also, it will get the students closer to the latest trends & technologies. Universities will need to plan out these internships as part of curriculum and allocate time for each semester.
3. Technology Based Reskilling:
There is a huge demand of skilled employees in the areas such as Mobile, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Blockchain etc. More so, there is a gap on understanding on how these technologies can solve real world problems i.e. shortage of well-defined use cases. Universities can plan focussed courses on these technologies and Industry veterans can serve as mentors or guest faculty to assign projects in these areas. This can be backed up with Analytics so that it can predict what kind of skills are needed in future so that advance preparation can be done to get the skills ready in house.
4. Cross College Exchange:
There is a great need for cross college faculty & students exchange programs. These should be in built in colleges curriculum to boost "Out-of-box" innovation. This could also boost ideas & knowledge sharing, specifically upskilling from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and Tier 3 colleges & cities. There can be start-up challenges, courses sharing, upskilling etc. There should be a way to "rent out" faculty & students in a way that wherever the talent is, they bring new, fresh ideas and learn from the best.
5. In-house Learning & Development:
Engineering colleges and industry have to work hand in hand to come up with joint In-house Learning & Development Centres where mass population cannot only be upskilled but also, more importantly, reskilled. While there are some large enterprises that are doing some reskilling and upskilling, however it has to expand in collaboration with Academia and in a much broader way for better outreach & increased employability.
To conclude, there is huge opportunity to create a long term sustainable ecosystem & platform, where Academia, Industry and Government can collaborate to adopt some of the above frameworks to create better skills, jobs and future for everyone.