Students’ Employability – University’s Responsibility

Few weeks ago I had attended a seminar on the topic of structural changes in curriculum for enhancing employability through skill development in PLM conducted by a reputed company. As our state technical university was the co-organizer, members of all the Board of Studies were invited to attend.

The point raised by the representative from the company was that in today’s world of recession, lay offs and cut backs, industries don’t want to spend on training and want engineering graduates who know the work for which they have been selected. As the company is well known for their CAD/CAM softwares, he talked about the scope of CAD/CAM which is huge in manufacturing and automobile industries. A student well versed in CAD/CAM is more than welcome in many such industries. Their aim through this seminar was to promote the inclusion of those skills in the teaching curriculum which would make the student industry ready and thus increase his employability.

McKinsey Global Institute survey results: India produces 360,000 engineering graduates, 600,000 graduates in arts/science/commerce. 25% of engineering graduates and 10% of other graduates are employable. 5000 persons are registered for Ph. Ds in science and engineering but only 100 persons complete them successfully every year.

I feel the presenter made the mistake of starting the seminar with a presentation on their software products. By the time of the first break, most of the people were feeling that the seminar is more of an advertisement platform and the representatives were marketeers for the company. People from hard core engineering branches especially the old ones like mechanical, electrical and civil have no idea about PLM. And that included me!! I think they should have started first with the relevance and context of the seminar topic!!

Anyway moving on, some interesting dialogues made me write this post.

# The presenter suggested the idea of including the CAD/CAM softwares and special modules as a part of the curriculum. He also suggested that the subjects can be better understood if students are shown the virtual simulation of working and design of the various things they study.

A professor said “what will be the use? Will they help score more marks in exam? what is their importance from exam point of view?”

# The company had brought a guy who was a pass out from one of the pvt engineering colleges in this state and obtained a certification from the company. He told the audience of his interest in design field and of the investment of time and money he had to make after getting degree in order to learn CAD/CAM and get a job. He said it would have been better if he had learned these during the four years of his B.E. and not spend extra time and money.

Another professor got up and took the microphone from the guy and said – “It is not our responsibility to take care of each and every student’s interest and teach all of them as per that. Already a student has to give around 40 papers during his B.E. Can you imagine the number of papers if all these are included in the curriculum? It is not possible for any college or university to cater to every student so that they can pursue their interests and get jobs in their desired fields”

Almost all of the audience applauded this professor.

But I beg to differ.

The audience consisted of all the policymakers, curriculum makers, lecturers, professors and principals of different engineering colleges. Most of the people were quite old who follow and believe in traditional pattern of teaching. They belong to the old school who measure the importance of any subject or any academic thing in terms of the marks it will help to score. But I think engineering is quite a dynamic field, one in which demands of the present world influence both the teaching methods and the curriculum.I have just 5 yrs experience in this profession but I am confident enough to refute my esteemed seniors’ view that it is not the institution’s responsibility to look after every student’s personal interest. If you are giving admission to the student then it is your responsibility that the finished product i.e. the student here, is able to get a job in the market. It will increase the reputation of your institution and also help in getting admissions next year especially when there is an engineering colleges boom! Just setting up a training and placement department is not enough!!

The study ‘Employability Skill Index’ was done by PurpleLeap, a talent management institute, among 9,000 students across 95 colleges in the country, including 600 students from 15 engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh. 36% of the students fail on all major skill counts –  communication, problem solving and technical skills. Only 7% found employable when all factors are considered

Why are there elective subjects in the final year of B.E.? The reality in most colleges in my state is that students don’t have the freedom to choose the elective subject they want to study. Instead they have to study the subject whose teacher can be provided by the college. Further I don’t think including any skill development subject will increase the load on the student. He/she will have the freedom to choose which skill development subject to study and there should be no theory paper/exam of that subject. We need to come out of the mindset that only a theory exam can evaluate the understanding of a subject by the students. If he/she is interested in any subject, he/she will obviously work hard in that subject and also grasp it quickly and effectively.

According to a survey, jointly carried out by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the World Bank, 64 percent of surveyed employers are “somewhat”, “not very”, or “not at all” satisfied with the quality of engineering graduates’ skills.

Being an engineering graduate once and now a cog in the wheel of engineering education, I can safely say that most of the engineering colleges [private colleges which are more in number] impart only the theory to the student, not the practical application. If that wasn’t so, then why would every company be it BHEL or Larsen & Tourbo or Infosys spend so much time and money on training new recruits? It is not a surprise that many companies find engineering graduates unemployable. To tackle this problem we must adopt the new school of thoughts and change the age old ways of imparting technical education to suit the demands of today’s employers; because the aim of any institution should be to aid a student’s life cycle from the time of admission to getting employed.

36 thoughts on “Students’ Employability – University’s Responsibility

  1. I have very mixed reactions on this post… At some points I totally support your point of view and at some I support the professors.

    Would do a post on this, detailing my views

  2. A very good read.

    Yes, our policy makers and profs can only view things through the prism of marks scored. It is a pity. Courses like engineering, management, etc are beyond that… and the thrust should be on practical aspects. Industry interface, training programs (which help the students learn the relevant skills) etc., will help in the employability factor too.

    I feel that over the years… atleast in the last 2.5-3 decades or so… the quality of teaching/teachers/faculty has gone down. Most of them also show a lack of interest in learning and upgrading themselves. Unfortunately.

  3. I completed my engg in 2005. 70% of things I learned are just theory, with no scope of practical research because of limited lab(as it caters to only thats in the curriculum). Our educational systems are mostly exam oriented with students just studying the subjects for exams and teachers preparing them for exams ! I think atleast when a student reach engineering, it should be engineering in action and not just some theory which we learn just for the exams.

    And at the end of the day in the corporate world you end up working on something that you did not learn in 4 years of engineering. How to bridge that gap? well one would be to keep on updating the syllabus with the latest technology etc.

  4. Reema, I think your views hold good. I agree that most of our curricula, not just in engineering, is too theoretical and not suited to LIFE. In fact there has been criticism of Indian engineers in foreign countries, about them finding it difficult to get out of the realm of theory. I think it is about time that more practical education is imparted to students, in all fields. Also, students should have choices, more choices than they have now.

    • The fundamental attitude against theory in India is something that I cannot quite understand. It is not the theory in itself that is bad — it is the sheer incompetence of what passes for academia in India and a fundamentally disrespectful attitude of students towards education as a degree-press and nothing more.

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with theory — hell, I wish I had more of an exposure to things like pure math and theoretical physics when I was back in India. No, the problem is that for the most part, good materials are taught by incompetent folks who do not care for what they teach, combined with a social attitude as education as being nothing more than a chore.

      Worse yet, the education in itself is geared towards examinations and grades — not necessarily one of understanding. There is a rather well known professor of constructionism at MIT who typicallygives his class As at the very first class, and ensures that the rest of the year is spent understanding the course material. In India, such an attitude would be abused by both the teachers and the student alike.

      And of course, there’s the whole question of who should be allowed to teach. Any half decent school in most of the civilized world wouldn’t let anyone teach without a PhD. Yet, it is rather common in India to have “professors” who’ve not completed anything more than a mere undergraduate education. And worse yet, such “teachers” do nothing that’s expected of traditional academia elsewhere in the world — they do not publish, they do not do independent research, they do not keep up with their field — hell, they do not even get to grade the papers of their own students in a good chunk of schools.

      No, the problem isn’t one of theory or applicability. It is one of attitude. An intelligent student with a good understanding can grasp and run with things just, education or otherwise.

      After all, who cares when you can go into “IT”, eh?

  5. Really nice views on an important yet mostly ignored topic!

    Though many will agree with your views, you must also try and find if there are possible ways to bring about a change. In my college for example, there are students chosen as Acad representatives from each branch, who suggest minor amendments that can be brought in courses to make it better (And more related to what the industry/research institutes for higher studies ask for). I’ve already seen a distinct change in the way courses are being taught now (compared to earlier years).

    I think it takes a while for the faculty/administration to accept this and change, so it must first be initiated from the students’ side. Seeing a lot of interest in a particular area (The CAD software for example), might motivate the faculty to introduce it as part of the curriculum!

    Hope to see more insightful posts here!

    • Welcome to my blog! thanks! Here actually introducing anything is not in college administration’s hands. It comes under University’s duty. Keep Visiting.

  6. I agree on quite a few points here, however there can be other options to these suggestions. If I was present in the audience, I would have asked the presenter if the best way to approach this (especially after the reactions from the Professors) will be is by offering internships to the students and let them learn in the practical environment the application of the theories they learn.

    I agree that most of the universities in India don’t update their curriculum with the latest and put a lot of emphasis on those stupid exams. And worse is that most of the exams actually test your capcity to memorize instead of your understanding of the subject. We do need to change these age-old traditions, however I have no idea how can we even start approaching the subject. Most of the universities are so stubborn about their stupid rules and obviously the professors always resist the changes…

    • welcome to my blog. Nobody is ready to take students for summer courses or internship for free. Students don’t want to spend extra. Universities are stubborn cuz the people behind are again from the old school! keep visiting!

  7. I totally agree with your views. A students employability should be a university’s responsibility. What sense does it make for a student to score top marks but to go out into the real world and find out that none of what he learnt at university is useful for him in his work environment. Yes, our curriculum needs to be modified to ensure that employers and employees do not spend time, energy and resources trying to upgrade their skills – which can easily be taught as part of the curriculum..

  8. I am a bit neutral about this.

    Keep the curriculum up-to-date, but dont go over-board with trying to include everything.
    Encouragement of early voluntary retirement in universities (Adamant near-retirement prof can be a big hidrance to reform)
    Cannot however make the curriculum with a total intent of placation the corporates, its engineering and not vocational training.
    Stopping this concept of common first year (very few people really switch lines), allowing more relevant courses first up, gettting rid of teaching kinetics to CSE graduates and semiconductor physics to civil engineers, to allow subjects to shift downwards and allow more subject space in last year.
    The primary purpose is to ensure that even if the student is not fully finished product, still is good enough to cover up for her/his deficiencies herself/himself. (Teach to fish, not catch a fish and give). e.g. In CSE, it is not possible to include all programming languages that the industry needs, but a couple of well crafted programming courses, would be good enough for students to pick up anything later on.
    Encouragement to participate in annual festivals, both/either as participants and volunteers.
    I am sorry but I have put things according to CSE perspective but I think they should hold good on other cases also
    Lastly include Economics as mandatory subject.

    • “teaching kinetics to CSE graduates and semiconductor physics to civil engineers” This is so true!! It is also tough for us teachers to teach such students a subject which they know will never be of any use to them.

  9. Very interesting topic…my view is little different here…Theory and practical applies to almost all the subjects. Whatever we learn in collage is good enough to get job if we learn it properly. Our learning system is not proper. We study to get good score only. So we are in need of changing the education system instead looking at new subjects. New subjects are good to have but again base should also be clear. There are thousands of software in market which are used by industries and their version keeps changing so no collage can accommodate all and also cannot change their syllabus that fast..not even computer engineering…and regarding getting job based on your skills is somewhat depend on person too. The guy who was topper in my class is getting less salary than the guy who was last.

  10. Recently I too was invited in one ‘Students’ Employability’ workshop. I agree the need that the curriculum should gear to ground needs, but I was thinking whether we are bringing down the whole purpose of education to employability. When we graduate, we just get a degree, but many times the real education starts when we start working with people and deal with real life situations.

    • Welcome to my blog! Really? conducted by Dassault? “bringing down the whole purpose of education to employability” Hmm interesting point. Keep visiting!

  11. I don’t think students employability is university’s responsibility… they can equip the students but the students must learn the things to compete….

    our syllabus needs to changed a lot… ours is age old system and needs a modification in every level from scool….

  12. The problem with I nian engineers is: They have no clue what they have studied, and when employed in IT companies, do not use even one % of what they have learnt! I think, the whole concept of engineering colleges can be done away with and we can start bpo training institutes so that they will be ready for jobs!

    Destination Infinity

  13. All old professors only think from exam point of view but there is much more to a course than only the theory paper/exam.The concept of cramming all syllabus the night before the exam and puking it out in the answer sheet needs to undergo a serious transformation.
    And a thumbs up to your view that its a college/university’s responsibility to make its end-product employable.

  14. I second Nita’s view on this matter. It is important to impart more practical training, examples or at least change in syllabus in order to meet the demand of growing minds. After all, we are no longer in stone-age and times have change so much. If we can accept and go along with the ever changing trend of technology, why not education?

  15. Pingback: Auditing 2009 and Wishes for 2010 « My Random Thoughts

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