Everywhere you go, whether it’s your home, the supermarket or a concert – you adapt your behavior, thoughts and actions according to each place to carry out what you have gone there for. Similarly, every few years, there are various advancements that penetrate the professional landscape, from various regulations and practices at the organizational and government levels, to the implementation of new technology for smoother operations. And, if you don’t adapt to these changes, you risk being left behind.
A widening skill-gap
Skill gaps in the workforce are a problem at-large in India today, and engineering, in particular, is facing a severe shortage of skilled talent. 80 percent of Indian engineers are not equipped for jobs across the knowledge economy, as per a study by Aspiring Minds. The level of employability is directly related to the skills that the talent possesses, but this also largely arises from what engineers have been taken through during the course of their education.
The fact is that education in India largely favors theory over the practical application of subjects. Additionally, due to a largely standardized system, lack of funds, as well as several infrastructural issues, the syllabi at most institutions and training centers remain outdated. Since there is a sort of rigidity that comes with the standardization of syllabi, there is often a mindset of imparting education through training, as opposed to facilitating a guided environment of self-learning. Most engineers have less than 1 hour a week of hands on coding experience! This is a factor that plays a major role when the same talent pool is trying to enter the workforce, as they need to have the ability to take on tasks independently and confidently in various scenarios.
Advancements with emerging technologies
Historically, the demand for service level jobs has been mostly been met with the increase in the number of engineering talent that is produced each year. However, over the years, there has also been a rise in technical IT jobs. Now, the advent of emerging technologies is disrupting jobs across industries and sectors. As per the ‘Future of Jobs’ report by the World Economic Forum, machines are expected to replace 75 million basic jobs and emerging technologies will create 33 additional jobs which require more advanced skill sets, both by 2025.
With these developments in play, the skills of engineers that are coming out of the old system are becoming increasingly redundant. Moreover, given the lack of practical application, several of them end up having low confidence in their ability to code. This leads to them failing coding tests and interviews even at a more basic level. Due to this, several engineers end up pursuing other jobs that require a lower level of skills since they are easier to land.
Most are compelled to do this in order to provide for their families and other financial commitments. However, this becomes a vicious cycle of sorts, as it leads to them being stuck in odd-jobs which do nothing for the advancement of their career and skills.
The road ahead for a better-equipped engineering workforce
Statistics reveal that there are over 1.5 million engineers who graduate every year in India, but only a fraction of this talent pool (0.4 percent) are confident coders. Moreover, as per PWC research, a mere 25 percent of those graduating in technical fields and 15 percent of other graduates qualify as ‘employable’, with over 67 percent of employers in India identifying skill-gaps among new recruits.
As this problem is already so prominent, it will only gain momentum with the rapid pace at which the industry is changing. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for educational institutions and training centers to start shifting their focus on helping fresh engineers meet the standards of the industry today and for the near future.
This can be achieved through a three-pronged approach which is broadly based on hands-on experiential learning, expert mentor-ship and industry-relevant projects. What needs to be taken into account is that the industry today requires engineers to have versatile coding capabilities, with different languages and frameworks applicable in a number of scenarios.
To help them achieve this, engineering education must include practical exposure for students with industry-oriented live projects. This will help them to gauge the impact of their abilities and skills in real-world scenarios within the professional realm. Moreover, getting industry experts on board as mentors will ensure that, even while the engineers code independently and work on projects, they have the right guidance and direction.
In essence, this approach with a greater focus on practical-based learning will help equip future engineers to be confident with their own capabilities, thus helping them adapt to any developments within their future jobs. An industry-centric education will act as a test-run for the actual jobs that they will be applying for, and working in, as a result of more robust skill sets that are tailored to the field. With this, they will be able to contribute to their own, as well as the organization’s growth, in a sustainable and scalable manner.
The article is written by Narayan Mahadevan, Founder, BridgeLabz