The ENGINEERS in You
Engineers are revered for a reason; from the era of cavemen to the present day age of smartphones and AI, engineering played a significant role. Had it not been for the brains and brawns of all competent engineers of the past and the present too, we would not have led the life we live today - comfy and modern. The world of engineers is so boundless and far reaching that we can securely say that almost everything in our technological world today is a product of engineering; from the telecommunications, transportation to manufacturing, security and even the medical field too. In India a professional degree like engineering which is more focused on empirical ability than arts and humanities, indeed has higher perceived economic returns.
But when reality bites, truth comes crumbling. According to recent findings by Stanford university, Russian and Chinese engineering students are better than those in India. Indian students make substantial gains in mathematics and critical thinking skills in the first two years compared to their counterparts in China or Russia, but when it comes to higher-order thinking skills they perform low, the report suggests. As the demand vs supply of engineering graduates stoop low, a large number of colleges are being shut down by AICTE to placate the adverse situation. There will be around 80,000 less seats in engineering this year. With electronic engineers being the most employable at only 7.07%, the concern for substandard engineering education India faces now is glaring with the exception of IITs and few other esteemed institutes.
Though graduates from India's premiere engineering colleges such as the IITs are still in sharp demand, it is the multitude of other engineers churned out every year whose employability is at risk. The key question to be asked is why our engineering graduates are feeling the pinch of rising unemployment? With an issue like this which is broad spectrum, the relief doesn’t come in a jiffy. Rather the state of affair urges to analyse and adopt a holistic approach to attend to the crisis. Consequently the nagging question slits through ‘Is it the lack of quality education that stunts the scope?
Essentially the macro and fundamental changes where an urgent need for reforms in curriculum and governance can help us to beat the odds. Not being able to cope up with the digitisation and automation which is taking away more jobs than expected and the widening gap between what industry wants and what engineering graduates possess as specialised skill sets is the deal breaker here. Recently a leading CTO in a daily newspaper retorted appropriately, “ The science of manufacturing has moved way ahead but we continue to teach outdated concepts to students. For India to become the world’s manufacturing hub, we need to lead from the front in our understanding of cutting edge methods, knowledge- driven management and implementation capability .”
New jobs will come up, layoffs will happen. Graduates have to make themselves layoff-proof. And how do they do that! The desire to think innovatively and create should not be the prerogative or outlook only for few premier institutions like IITs but for all tech based educational institutes too if they want to resurrect. Efforts to equip professional college teachers by sensitising them about the latest developments in technology, science, and economy and encouraging them to take up domain specific
faculty development research and program is of prime value.
How do we find a middle ground between the ideal and reality then? The need is to think beyond getting a job. Moreover the stronger the foundations of learning, the better are the chances to claim opportunities. From redesigning and updating curriculum world class and getting competent tutors to students being aware and exposed to practicality via industry interface can bring a progressive change. The choice of institution here is critical too. Parent should avoid deciding for the candidate. It is equally not prudent to join a stream because it is popular or because the job opportunities are high. Every parent should orient the child towards finding out their natural interest and the aptitude for the particular subject or branch of study.
If we need to see change, we cannot be doing the same thing again and again. The crux of the matter is we don’t need engineers just by degrees but most importantly by skills because if science is about knowing then engineering is about doing. With automation, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies reshaping businesses and industry, even companies like Wipro, TCS, and Infosys are committed to re-skilling or upskilling their people and learning newer technologies does fetch promising pay scales too. Social skills too come in the way of an individual's growth in knowledge industry as communication, teamwork and collaborative efforts are often important than just analytical brilliance.
There is a huge scope of improvement seeing the potential our country possess. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream project of 'Make in India' aspires to increase manufacturing capacity in India and generate 100 million jobs by 2022. All India Council for Technical Education - AICTE , the apex body for engineering education has taken certain strict actions against colleges across that is failing to meet the stringent criterion and requisite infrastructure to produce quality engineers. Meanwhile, the AICTE is also working to raise the standards of technical education, including the improvement of employability and industry exposure through internships.
When Satya Nadella voiced, “ Our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation” , these words exposed the naked truth. Going forward autonomy, technology based education and industry orientation is the only way out to bring the innovation based engineering revolution in India. As the saying goes When it's engineering, world can learn from Germans. India too can. Germany’s expertise in engineering is indisputable. Engineers borne out of the country are world leaders in their field, renowned for their dedication to precision and functionality. Germany still continues to spur its reputation by placing a strong focus on fundamentals, hands-on apprenticeship and practical applications.
Somewhere to remind yourself the very basic that ‘engineers apply theories of science to solve practical problems in the real world around them’ makes one realise after all why it is that you chose to be an engineer anyway. And sometimes when everything else fails, its those simple moments of self scrutiny or reflection channelising your focus which does give you a path to start your aspiration trail once again with renewed hope, vigour and sense of direction. The aim of education is not merely to land a high-paying job. Money is vital but with no passion to learn, to apply, to create, engineers gradually are ending up interested only in finishing their degrees. What happens thereafter is something else altogether than what they thought of at the very onset of their ambition journey. Somewhere forgetting the actual spirit of their dream with which one started the quest after all.
The good news is that education is a biggest leveller. The belief of Henry Petroski, the renowned American engineer specializing in failure analysis who said, “ As engineers, we were going to be in a position to change the world – not just study it” sums it up all. The numbers in reports maybe grim or abysmal statistics may point towards a menacing situation but with a burning hope for a good future and zeal to succeed, you can either adapt to change or lead the change and take the bull by its horn and make a difference. The kinds and inspirations of APJ Abdul Kalam, Sundar Pichai, Narayan Murthy, E Sreedharan, Sir J C Bose to name a few who did put the Indian engineers in the world map, each one being a story of grit, determination and clarity of purpose. Now is the time when India unquestionably needs more like them from all of you - The true core quintessential Engineers.
Chaitali B is a Content Editor & Strategist, Web Columnist and top Blogger who worked with leading media agencies. Her works are published in varied publications like TOI, Indian Express, Huffingtonpost India, Soulspot, Indiblogger, Narrow Road journal and is part of two international multilingual anthology of poems. She occasionally conducts creative writing workshops and does poetry reading for the community kids.