Developing Competencies of Engineering Students and making
them more eligible for employment


By

Prof. B.R.Venkatesh
Professor and Coordinator
Department of Management Studies
Global Academy of Technology
Bangalore
 


An overview of Indian education system and engineering education

India is a federal republic comprised of 28 states and seven union territories. Education is managed through a partnership of the central government, State governments and a large number of Private Managements. The central government establishes broad education policies and is increasingly responsible for regulating and maintaining standards in higher education. Federal policies serve as guidelines to the state governments, which administer most schools and universities within their jurisdictions.

Education policy is formulated by a number of bodies under the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). In engineering and other technical disciplines, the central policymaking and regulatory body is the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). AICTE determines the requirements for new universities and programs of study, and outlines curriculum standards and norms. Further, AICTE periodically monitors the maintenance of standards by the educational institutions. While accreditation of various Engineering programs by National Board of Accreditation (NBA) helps in ranking of the programme / institution and thus help engineering aspirants while choosing the program / institution.

The main source of funding for public universities and colleges comes from the central and state government in the form of grants, with a small percentage derived from fees. Indian education observers frequently note that many higher education institutions are under funded, especially in the technical sector, where labs and classrooms are often under resourced and understaffed.

A booming growth in the number of technical institutions especially in the private sector has led to particularly acute issues and concerns for the engineering sector, where colleges are struggling to hire well qualified and adequate number of faculty, graduates are failing to find employment and regulators are under pressure to improve standards.

Indian Engineers by the Numbers

According to the AICTE, approximately 440,000 students were enrolled in first-level engineering degree programs in 2004-05, 265,000 at the diploma level and 33,000 at the master's level. By comparison, the seven IITs had a total of 25,000 students enrolled at all levels in 2002-03 (Rao report). Figures capturing the annual number of graduating engineers are a little harder to come by; however, a 2005 study by Washington, D.C.-based National Academies estimates that 200,000 students graduate each year from first-level engineering programs across the country (revised from an original estimate of 350,000). A study by researchers at Duke University pegs the number slightly higher at 215,000, but notes that almost half are graduating from three-year diploma programs.

By comparison, the National Academies estimates that U.S. institutions graduate 70,000 engineering students annually, while approximately 100,000 students graduate from institutions in the European Union. In China, that number is close to 640,000, of which approximately 350,000 graduate from bachelor programs and 290,000 from short-cycle associate-equivalent programs.

In 2002-03, the seven IITs together graduated 2,275 B.Techs, 3,675 M.Techs and 445 Ph.D.s, with 11,700 undergraduates (four-year program), 9,500 graduate students and 3,800 doctoral students. Taking the Duke estimate of 215,000 first-level engineering graduates, IIT bachelor of technology graduates represent just 1 percent of the total graduating class of Indian engineers each year.


Various studies including NASSCOM-McKinsey Study 2005 throws up some interesting insights to validate India's positive human-power status:

* The number of IT-BPO professionals employed in India grew from less than 200,000 people in 1998 to over 1.6 million in 2007, largely because of the country's demographic profile and network of high-quality academic institutions.

* India currently has around 347 institutes of higher education and 16,885 colleges with a total enrollment of over 9.9 million. These produce around 495,000 technical graduates, nearly 2.3 million other graduates and over 300,000 post-graduates every year.

* Even at current levels of employability, India has the largest pool of suitable offshore talent, accounting for 28 percent of the total suitable pool available across all offshore destinations.

* India's emergence as a preferred outsourcing destination has created the need for about 2.3 million professionals by 2010. Based on current estimates, a shortage of 0.5 million skilled knowledge workers may arise if remedial action is not taken.


This article highlights on the issue of a large gap that seems to exist between the industrial requirements and Fresh engineers' competencies.

What are the Existing problems in our education system?

Probably, it would not be possible to exhaustively cover the entire gamut of problems that exist today in the education system. However, an effort is made to study and analyse a few major problems relevant for today's scenario.

The growth rate of engineering institutions in the recent past in India has been phenomenal and the problems associated with this growth are also very high. In this context, it is noteworthy to look into the quality issues of the engineering education system in India.

States like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh showed the phenomenal results that could be obtained by opening up the higher education sector, our policy makers did not learn. These two states became the largest suppliers of skilled software and hardware engineers by ensuring that they allowed private engineering colleges more than 30 years ago. In a matter of less than ten years, Hyderabad and Bangalore began to be respected all over the world as the centers of the new knowledge economy. These states also went ahead and allowed various communities to open their own colleges and this resulted in high access to education to members of backward and poor communities who earlier were left out of the main stream as extremely few and only high merit based seats were available in Government colleges.

Few common problems are noticed among engineering colleges which are as follows:

* Insufficient number of well qualified and passionate faculty.
* Lack of Infrastructure
* Minimum Student Faculty Interaction
* More emphasis on Theoretical Lectures than on Practical Applications
* Higher order orientation on passing examinations than acquiring knowledge.
* Lack of Industrial Exposure
* Low self esteem, confidence, and fear of facing Interviews
* Lack of students' competencies required for employment.

Do we have a solution to all these problems?

Probably yes. But, in this article, we are focusing on not all the problems but the last one which certainly is not the least one.

Students' Competencies:

In simple terms, competencies may be understood as a composite product of one's knowledge, skills and abilities in understanding the concept, working out a systematic and skilled plan of action and executing to (close to) perfection.

Obviously, conceptual understanding and building further calls for subject knowledge. Plan of action will call for the sequence of steps to be followed with sense of result and time. This in turn calls for developing skills, while execution is only a reflection of abilities.

Generally competencies may be very broadly classified as

a) Managerial Competencies (Analysis & Decision making, Team Leadership, Change Management, Administration, etc.)

b) Generic competencies (Holistic Health Management, Communication, linguists, Relationship management, Self Management, Time Management, Team Membership, Stress & Emotions Management, Social Responsibility etc.)  and

c) Technical / Functional competencies (Environment Management, Human Resource Management, Investment Management, Financial Management, Industrial Process Sectors, Processing tools, Program execution, etc.)

While Technical / Functional competencies are groomed during regular academic career, Managerial competencies are generally developed and absorbed or gradually built during one's professional career. The generic competencies are normally left out for development within and hence experimentation. Further, it may normally be observed that a person with a high degree of generic competencies would essentially show a very high order of the other competencies as well. Hence, the focus is on developing the generic competencies of engineering students in specific.

Overall development of engineering students- How is it possible?

To concentrate on the overall development of students, in the areas of

* Holistic Health (Physical, Mental and Spiritual),
* Communication skills (English vocabulary, letter writing, Avoiding common errors in English conversation)
* Soft skills (Confidence building, Team work, Leadership qualities, Motivation, Positive attitude),

a customized  Personality Development Program called DOOD- Day Of Overall D evelopment was designed through a detailed thought process and conducted in - Global Academy of Technology - GAT, Bangalore. The audience section was comprised of 48 students from Engineering of different disciplines, viz. Electronics & Communication, Computer Science & Engineering, Information Science & Engineering, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering.

DOOD Objectives:

To develop focus and concentration
To develop self discipline and concern for society
To improve vocabulary and team building
To improve comprehension, retention and reproduction
To improve communication skills – Written, Verbal and Nonverbal
To understand different perceptions and give matured response. 
To decode & interpret coded communication and understand potential customers.

Major events under DOOD

Omkar, Specific Pranayamas / Breathing Techniques, Yogic jogging & exercise,
Stretch work and Yoga Nidra,
Health Tips and Water Therapy,
Learning difficult words
Learning through one's and others' experience,
Games on Team work and Leadership
Practical Précis and Report writing,
Games on understanding hidden communication,
Contextual Letter writing and
Stories on valuing values.
An important point to note that Humor was an integral part of all the activities without fail.

Implications, Results of the program "DOOD"- was it useful?

Students received the program with total energy levels and enthusiasm right from the beginning and the program was highly appreciated based on the feed back gathered.

Markable and measurable improvement in the students' performance, attitude and behavior was observed after the program was delivered.

One Classic example of the after-effects of DOOD:

After attending the program DOOD, One of the students who used to be a total introvert, who seldom wished and who was academically a less than average type, started mixing with people and developed social maturity. Started better interaction with the faculty and also scored First Class Marks in his Final year Engineering examination, (while he failed in few subjects in his early years of Engineering before attending the program), and surprisingly he is found to have developed a greater interest in studies, Purpose in life and he is pursuing his higher studies presently.

Conclusion

Students, Parents and Teachers are the three apexes of the Education triangle.

For an effective education system, efforts from all the three stake holders are very essential.

This calls for designing and executing customized & student friendly training programs which are practically oriented and focused on building the competencies of students. The objective could be placement in a reputed company or becoming a self entrepreneur or anything of being useful to one self and to the society as a good human being and a committed citizen valuing values.

Thus, we may conclude that Developing the Competencies of Engineering Students and making them more employable is not a myth but a  Reality, which of course may be difficult but not impossible.

References:

1) WENR, World Education News and Reviews
January 2007
Volume 20, Issue 1

2) Title: Quality problems of engineering education programmes in India   Author: K.G. Viswanadhan
Address: NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad-678008, Kerala, India   Journal: International Journal of Management in Education 2009 - Vol. 3, No.1, pp. 40 - 55

3) Education system of India, Thomex.com, Amir Ullah Khan

4) NASSCOM press information note
 


Prof. B.R.Venkatesh
Professor and Coordinator
Department of Management Studies
Global Academy of Technology
Bangalore
 

Source: E-mail August 17, 2010

          

Articles No. 1-99 / Articles No. 100-199 / Articles No. 200-299 / Articles No. 300-399 / Articles No. 400-499
Articles No. 500-599 / Articles No. 600-699 / Articles No. 700-799 / Articles No. 800-899 / Articles No. 900-1000
Articles No. 1001-1100 / Articles No. 1101 Onward / Faculty Column Main Page