Employability of Indian Engineering Graduates

“India is one of the largest producers of engineers in the world. Yet the quality of engineers is quite poor and by some estimates only 7-8% of engineering graduates are employable.” According to the HRD ministry, India has 6,214 engineering and technology institutions which are enrolling 2.9 million students. Around 1.5 million engineers are released into the job market every year. But the dismal state of higher education in India ensures that they simply do not have adequate skills to be employed.

These questions arise today because of the shocking results of the survey carried out by Aspiring Minds which revealed that only 7% engineering graduates in India are employed. What’s wrong with India’s engineers? What can be the relevant reasons behind this? Let us examine the reasons that have led to this dismal state of engineering graduates today.

Firstly, unlike in the past where engineering was considered a professional vocation, in recent times, engineering has become just another stream to pursue graduation. It has become like any other traditional graduation programme.

Second, there is lack of quality teachers. There are not enough quality teachers for all of the educational institutes. The tier 1 colleges like IIT and NIT are able to attract and retain quality teachers to some extent, but when it comes to tier 2 and 3 colleges the situation becomes more pathetic. The number of colleges in tier 2 & 3 are very large and the demand for teachers is so high that the colleges have to compromise with quality. There is also another related factor, that most of the tier 3, i.e., private colleges do not offer attractive salary grades that would attract quality teachers. Also most educated engineers join teaching as a profession not because of passion, but because they have to earn a livelihood. The few good professors prefer administrative positions because of lower intellectual demands coupled with higher pay packages.

Third, the syllabus is not updated regularly. Today, students in engineering are compelled to study subjects which are of no use in the industry. There is lack of option for open electives which would allow students to pursue subjects that interest them.  The course contents which are often outdated do not focus on areas which will actually help in the job industry after employment. There is a big gap between what the market needs and what Engineering education equips its future technocrats with. With every single passing day, technology is changing but the syllabus still deals with old technology which nowadays is of no use, so a major reform is needed in the current educational curriculum.

Fourth, a faulty education system - no focus on skilling, is another basic reason. Semester systems and the process of continuous evaluation are not fulfilling their desired roles as the students are not interested in continuous learning-they only want good grades. There is lack of skill based education. Engineering students need to have hands-on training on the basis of the problems they are likely to encounter in the real world. While the vast numbers of engineering students in the country study their textbooks, give their exams and collect their degrees, it is only when they encounter the real world problems do they realize their shortfall. By then, they have to take extra time in order to skill themselves or suffer unemployment. Courses should be designed in such a way that there is more focus on practicals and less on theory. Giving away rewards on the basis of memorizing things should not be encouraged. Instead, marks should be awarded for having better concepts.

Fifth, Lack of proper English skills. A study attributes that the lack of English communicative skills, which they found in 73.63 per cent of candidates, and low analytical and quantitative skills, which they discovered in 57.96 per cent of candidates to be other main reasons for unemployment. Most of the private sector employers do their official work in English and the interview is also conducted mostly in English. Failure to communicate well in English leads to rejections in the interviews and unemployment. Even the IT sector that happens to be the largest recruiter of engineering graduates, requires employees who are fluent and well versed in English, as within around two years of experience on the job, they would have to communicate with international customers. Thus, if the quality of engineering graduates do not improve, IT sector hiring will also go down.

Sixth, lack of innovation and research. Students need to be motivated enough to innovate or think for themselves. As the new HRD minister Prakash Javadekar recently said, "Why do we lack innovation in India? Because, we don't allow questioning. We don't promote inquisitiveness. If a child asks questions in school, he is asked to sit down. This should not go on. We need to promote inquisitiveness, children should ask questions."

Students must be given the space and scope to think and innovate, to question and come up with solutions. This applies to both school education and higher education. Indian students are trained right from their primary education that they never learn to question or innovate. Rote learning instills in students a sort of complacency for more than 12 years of education and they are unable to make the shift from un-questioning learners to innovators in the job market.

Seventh, disregard of essential soft skills: Soft skills have become very important in the present job industry, but they are routinely ignored in educational institutes. The lack of ability of the individual to deliver his views effectively at the interview leads to rejection of even the most brilliant candidate. This is because institutes do not make an effort to ensure that the candidates develop their skills in a wholesome manner which can contribute towards client-handling and team communication skills. Most of the institutes are concerned only with teaching the subject theory but not in developing those skills of presentation, organization of self, or other skills required by the industry. If some of the institutes that take up such trainings, either fail as the students are not serious towards it as they do not consider it important for their course and getting marks or the trainers fail to  develop its importance.

Eighth, there are certain students who are really interested in engineering, but there are others who unwillingly join the course due to some extraneous influences. This results in a lack of interest in learning new skills in this field. Some even choose this career to make them a credible player in the ‘shaadi market of India, so that they can get a hefty amount of dowry during their weddings. The outcome of this forced education is lack of discipline. If you tell an engineering student that tomorrow's test is cancelled, s/he will stop studying. This is really not acceptable. No employer has the patience to ensure there is always a carrot on the stick to keep you focused. 
Ninth, the mismatch between supply and demand. There are huge number of engineering graduates churned out of colleges every year, who do not find adequate job opportunities, as the number of job opportunities that are created in the year (are much less) do not match. In this process colleges have become graduate churning out machines with disregard to quality. In this matter, the AICTE and the State Governments easily grant permissions to start colleges, and thereafter forget to monitor the standards of these institutes. The equation of less demand and more supply can be one of the reasons behind poor employability but more than this; the actual reason is demand versus quality.

Tenth, lack of exposure. Most Indian engineering colleges provide no or very bad internship opportunities. Most engineers have no clue what the industry actually is like. There is no exposure in terms of industry visits or guest lectures from people from the industry. So most engineering students fail to gel with the culture in the industry.

Eleventh, rigidity is another factor. Most Indian engineering students are incapable of working without strict guidelines. They get into the habit of being driven and sticking to a schedule of activities for purpose of compliance. For most product companies, this is a problem. Engineers have to think, and think out of the box. Not just follow orders.

Twelfth, importance of college name is a factor that has a different kind of impact on employment of students. Recruiting companies are prone to visiting only top colleges to recruit potential employees. Thus, resumes from relatively unknown colleges do not get shortlisted. This not only creates a lack in equal opportunities, but also causes a deficiency of quality employees as this process ignores a huge number of meritorious students who do not study in top tier colleges.

 

A constructive paradigm shift needs to take place in the technical education prevalent in the country today. Both the education providers and the recruiters need to work hand in hand to transform technical education, so as to suit the industry requirements and improve employability of the emerging technocrats.