Engineering Education in India: Challenges and solutions

Unlike a few years ago, Engineering seems to have stopped being the top career choice for the Indian youth. The number of admissions in engineering colleges is dropping like flies in the wake of unemployed engineering graduates.

For the past few years, the number of students taking admission in engineering colleges has declined sharply. In 2017–18, the number of students enrolled in engineering dropped to 750, 000 from 944,000 in 2013–14. The employability of engineering graduates has been a major concern among colleges and is possibly the major reason for the drop in enrollments in engineering colleges. This year, of the total engineering graduates in the country, 58% could not get campus placement.

Challenges in engineering education in India
Poor campus placement among engineering colleges is driving the youth away from considering engineering as a career option. A general consensus among engineering aspirant is private engineering colleges are not good enough, and some even drop their aspirations to pursue engineering if they don’t get into a government engineering college and rather pursue other more cost-effective professional courses which meet their career expectations better.

Government initiatives like making internship mandatory for engineering students have helped to make engineering education more industry oriented. This has ultimately increased industry exposure among undergraduates. However, it only helps to a certain extent to make Indian engineering education more skill development-oriented and very little to make graduates job-ready.

Traditional skill development programs (like aptitude training and personality development classes) in engineering colleges prepare each student for generic job roles in the industry. Thus, only inviting companies that are interested in hiring graduates with fundamental skills like aptitude and communication skills, and keeping graduates away from potential job opportunities which require more niche skills. And, keeps colleges bereft from inviting companies which are looking for graduates with new-age skills like data science, machine learning, AI, etc.

Moreover, traditional skill development programs consider each student equal in learning capacity which is a wrong assumption to make. Each student has a different learning trajectory, so working with a one-size-fits-all skill development program is likely to benefit just a few students.

Overcoming these challenges and improving overall placement percentage
Given the poor placement of engineering colleges, and in some cases, dipping campus placements, colleges need to take active measures that potentially increase the employability of their students and in turn spike their placement. Following are some of the measures that can be implemented to improve campus placements.

  1. Building niche skill development programs — Skill development programs need to be more specific in terms of the skills they impart to students. Learning niche skills can drastically improve the employability of students. Considering that the learning trajectory of each student is different building individual skilling programs is a problem. Online learning platforms are a good means to solve this. Availability of a multitude of niche technological skills on one platform and the ease to learn at your own pace from anywhere can save a lot of college’s resources.
  2. Understanding the skill demand of the industry — Shortage of skilled workforce in the industry and poor placement among engineering colleges is a clear sign that the students do not have the skills companies are looking for in them. Hence, colleges need to take proactive measures in understanding the skill demand of the industry and build skill development programs accordingly.
  3. Proactive participation of TPOs in the Industry — Training and placement officers need to be actively involved in the industry, to understand how the industry is progressing to develop training programs accordingly. At the same time, relying on and wishing the same companies to recruit year after year isn’t a good idea. TPOs need to learn novel approaches to reach out to more companies.

Overall, to increase the placement percentage of colleges, simply running skill development programs isn’t enough. There’s a need to build a campus employability ecosystem which includes skill development programs for students, training programs for TPOs, and active involvement of higher management of colleges with the industry. More than building this ecosystem, continuously improving this ecosystem is more imperative to spike placement percentage of a college.

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