India produces almost 1.5 million engineers every year across different streams. However, the past couple of decades have witnessed a curious trend, with large numbers of these graduates seeking jobs in industries and roles that have nothing to do with their engineering specialisation.
There are mechanical engineers who seek marketing jobs; IT engineers who pursue a career in finance; and telecom engineers who foray into the media and communication industry. The IT boom in India during the 1990s was probably a powerful trigger for this trend, attracting graduates from even traditional streams like mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering towards high-paying, white-collar desk jobs.
Even today, there are many who pursue engineering courses without having a definite career in mind. And this is a worrying scenario because industries such as manufacturing, petrochemicals, and engineering are facing a dearth of talent, while the people who should ideally be filling that gap are looking elsewhere. The reason for this is twofold: the inability of most engineering institutions to cultivate a mindset of curiosity and innovation among its students, and a general lack of awareness among graduates about career possibilities in the aforesaid industries.
Companies in the manufacturing and engineering domains should make themselves visible by conducting seminars and events in engineering colleges. These can serve as excellent platforms to inform students of the kind of work they do, the kind of jobs it entails, and the career progression they offer. Students must know that a brief stint on the shop floor early in their career proves invaluable in later years.
Whichever the industry, the first few years of a graduate’s professional career are bound to have a steep learning curve. India has great capacity for producing engineers, but the curriculum doesn’t quite equip graduates with the real-world skills required on the job. This is the reason why almost all companies put new hires through induction and training programmes.
Today, everything from shop floor operations to business strategy is informed by data and assisted by technology. The training programmes in manufacturing and engineering firms must be devised accordingly to groom fresh recruits. Or one can hire the services of third-party professionals to impart training in areas like man-management, communication, and creative thinking.
Increasingly, engineers will be expected not only to be technically proficient but also to be able to work in multi-national, multi-disciplinary environments. Their ‘soft skills’ will need developing – something that the curriculum in India’s engineering institutes falls well short of achieving.
The need for well-rounded engineering graduates is consistent across industries, as are opportunities for personal and professional growth. Those who opt for manufacturing or engineering can also specialise in specific technology areas of their choice.
Until a couple of decades ago, engineering was the most sought-after branch of technical education in India. Today, India has more engineers and engineering colleges than it needs, but only a few have industry-worthy credentials. Manufacturing and engineering are crucial building-blocks of the new-age India and they need enthusiastic young engineers who will channelise their energy and ingenuity into a career which they love, and which fulfils their highest professional ambitions.
The writer is CEO, The Anup Engineering