Saturday, July 04, 2020

How to bridge the industry academia gap?

Student, institutes, industries and employability

Discussion about employability of engineering and management students is not new. As per the report  only 15-16% engineers are employable and only 10% management graduates are employable (Employability report.). It means when employers hire engineering and management students they have to invest on training, skilling and developing most of the students. 

Let’s take an analogy of product and customer. Students are the product of colleges and companies are customers, however, how many times colleges approach companies asking what they need? What types of skills and behaviours are required for industries? How many times professors go to industries to learn what happens on the shop floor? And accordingly design the course so that product is delivered as per the requirement. I think this is a two-way process, however accountability is more on those colleges to make students more employable. Most of the time, colleges interact with industries only for seminars, conferences and inviting professionals in the campus. This is just a “feel good factor” for colleges, feeling that they are interacting with industries. There are very few exceptions where they understand the requirements and design the syllabus, plan some sandwich courses, and arrange internships for the student.  For others the only motive is relationship building and having a placement. Most of the time colleges, institutes and placement committees contact companies only during placement season requesting placements without asking what companies need. Management institutes have become grooming institutes only focusing presentation skills, interview skills, language skills etc. This is good but students think that these are the only skills which matters. When they realise that this is not enough, then they join private professional institutes to upgrade their skills, which ideally colleges should have done.     

On the other side, for students it is just a degree which they think that it would take them towards their goals. Majority of the students get their degrees and struggle for getting the job. Finally, they end up doing petty jobs on the assembly line or working from small companies doing everything. The struggle never ends. The attitude of the students is not developed properly. They are more concerned about salary and job profiles instead of learning. I get surprised when students ask recruiters what their job profile would be.

Students should focus on learning and developing instead of just focusing on the job profile. They need to understand that they become productive after a lot of efforts invested by the companies. It takes a minimum 1-2 years to become employable. 

This debate is discussed on every forum, still it remains there. 

Unfortunately, Corona pandemic has brought different challenges for the students who are waiting to start their career. Companies are not hiring. Fresh hiring is on hold. It must be stressful. However, these days will also go.

To improve the employability, institutes & colleges should focus on the following:

  • Mandatory internship for teaching staff: There should be mandatory internship for professors for 2 months in a year in industries. Along with this every professor should have at least 4 consultancy assignments with industries. This can be paid or unpaid as per the requirement.  
  • Participation of industries in designing syllabus: Industry and academia interaction should not be limited to only seminars and lectures. It should go beyond like designing the course for industries as per their requirements. Companies may not afford to hire students but still they can develop students. And companies will not do it free. Institutes should think how to reciprocate the efforts of industries.
  • Specialized course for specific segment or industries: There can be specialized courses designed for specific segments and industries in collaboration of industries. This also can be for the group of industries.  

Few tips for students as under:

  • Develop yourself in your domain: You need to be strong in the domain which you chose. When you are taking any degree, it is expected you have learnt all theories, principles. Go the extra mile to learn the domain, functional skills.  
  • Develop a few more skills that will make you a more marketable candidate for the field you’re trying to break into. Keep learning and check around to find out which skills are highly valued, like coding, Analytics, social media, IoT, sensor technology etc.
  • Focus on developing your behavioural skills: Behaviour and soft skills make you more employable. There are a variety of such skills, but mainly these are networking & influencing, selling skills, communication skills, presentation skills, design mindset, agility etc.  
  • Network strongly with the seniors, alumina and professional in the field of your interest. Reach out to them, get their help to review your resume and be connected with them.
  • Find our opportunities to learn by offering your time on projects, assignments, research and offering help to professional networks on small things like handling their social media page or digital marketing etc. it will show that you have the right attitude.
  • Go for social work: Make sure you’re doing something useful that also gives back to your community or a cause that you’re passionate about. This will keep you feeling productive and fulfilled, while also giving you another line on your resume. 

Few training & placement officers are trying hard to bring the corporates and industries on board; however, this is limited to their level only. After the corona virus pandemic, the skilled workforce will be available in lateral hiring and if colleges and institutes & also students don’t wake up, it will be difficult for the students to get jobs in future. Institutes need to create the differentiator and should ask the question themselves: why will industries hire their students?  


Anonymous said...

Very rightly identified.. It is the need of today..!! It will help in coming years to all .. Institutes , Students and Industries as well...

From : Shrikant Mirajkar

Dr.Shiralkumar Rawandale said...

Excellent thoughts sir. You touched almost all necessary aspects. Yes, the institutes & students have to work on making the Ready Freshers which can be productive for industry. Syllabus is also the major concern. In most of the universities, it is designed & delivered by Faculty only. At least in design of syllabus, maximum part should be designed by industry professionals. We have to involve more industries for syllabus design & industry professionals have to spend that much time for institutions. Regards, Dr.Shitalkumar Rawandale

Manish Johari said...

Valid points made, Vinod.
Keeping the accelerating pace of change in mind - if the Industry requirements as expected in year 1 have shifted by the time students get out in year 4 - what happens?
Maybe it is time to make the students responsible for their learning. They have to learn and not depend on teachers to teach them.
Then, maybe they would get a chance to stay up-to-date with the changing trends in the industry & skill themselves up to be 'employable' !

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