Worthless degrees and jobless graduates

Many technical institutes in Maharashtra have inadequate faculty and facilities, and students who pass out from them are ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the job market. ABHISHEK KERKETTA

In Maharashtra, erosion of AICTE norms has made technical graduates unemployable

Mumbai, April 24

Srikanth Pillai ( name changed) completed his B.Tech (Biotechnology) from Navi Mumbai’s South Indian Education Society (SIES) College of Engineering some years ago. After unsuccessfully looking for an engineering job for over a year, he began preparations for the bank probationary officers’ exam. Today, he is a qualified engineer, but works in a non-technical field, in the Bank of Maharashtra. His parents spent almost ₹4 lakh on the B.Tech course, which they could have saved had he sat for the probationary officers’ exam right after graduating from any college.

Pune-based Chirag Jadhav faced similar problems after passing out of the city’s Parvatibai Genba Moze College of Engineering. He took an education loan of ₹3.2 lakh to complete a BE in Computer Science, but never got a job after the course. “The college had promised campus placements at the time of admission, but it didn’t keep their words. After an eight-month job hunt, I joined a company to offer online tuition,” he says. In 2016, he got a break with grocery e-commerce start-up Raincan to work as a product engineer, where he could utilise his technical skills.

Qualified, but unemployable

But lakhs of engineering graduates in India are not as lucky as Jadhav. According to a 2016 report by job skills credentialing company Aspire Minds, nearly 80 per cent of engineering graduates in India are not employable. Most of them are forced to take up jobs in non-engineering fields or remain unemployed.

Two major factors are responsible for this worrying trend. One, the ease of securing approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to set up engineering colleges has led to the mushrooming of institutes, many of which do not have the right faculty or the curriculum to train students. Second, the courses being taught are not in tune with the industry’s requirements, both in product manufacturing and services sectors.

“There is a perennial problem about the quality of (engineering) students,” Nasscom President R Chandrasekhar told BusinessLine. “Over a period of time, the linearity between revenue and headcount growth in the IT sector has disappeared. Apart from global factors like changes in the economies of many countries and protectionism, there has been an increase in the levels of automation, and companies need to respond to these changes and hire accordingly.”

The skill sets required have also changed. IT now requires higher levels of leading-edge skills like cloud analytics, robotics, process automation, and so on, and engineering graduates of the day do not always come qualified.

“Companies not only provide tech inputs, but have to understand the business domain to deliver value. So, a good understanding of the business aspects and having multi-faceted orientation are a must. These factors are further aggravating the mismatch between skill sets being imparted and those that needed by the industry,” Chandrasekhar adds.

His views are echoed by Stephen Sudhakar J, Senior Vice-President–HR & GS, Hyundai India. He says that with rapid changes in the industry and innovation in manufacturing, engineers need to have multi-faceted knowledge: for example, a mechanical engineer must have a good understanding of electrical and electronics disciplines, and vice-versa.

Hit the ground running

“The current, fast-paced market environment needs a higher degree of responsiveness. We expect engineers now to get on the job with minimal training, unlike in the past, when long training periods after joining the company were the norm,” he says.

Most important, there are disruptive changes in business models every five years. “However, the curriculum and practices in institutes have not kept pace, rendering them irrelevant. Not all engineering institutes are making that extra effort to equip the students for modern organisations,” Sudhakar adds.

These requirements can hardly be fulfilled by most of the colleges, which do not even meet the criterion required for approval by the AICTE. After 2010, the AICTE has permitted online submission of forms for securing approval to set up an institute or to increase the student intake or even for courses offered. The website generates a ‘deficiency report’ in case something is not found in order in the application submitted by a prospective institute. However, in most cases, no such report is generated online.

The institute further has to merely attach an affidavit certifying that the information submitted online is true. As a result of this ultra-simple procedure, a plethora of institutes have come up. The number of approved institutes in Maharashtra alone is over 650.

Violation of norms

VE Narawade, Secretary of the Citizen Forum for Sanctity in Educational System, says nearly 80 per cent of the private engineering colleges in Maharashtra are flouting norms in respect of land or infrastructure or faculty. “The AICTE is shying away from taking strict actions against the defaulters,” he claims.

With inadequate faculty and facilities, it is not surprising that the students who pass out of such institutes are ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the job market. Unless the AICTE sets things right, engineering graduates will continue to flood the job market but remain jobless.

Published on April 24, 2017

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