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Wednesday, 14 August 2019 | Martin Radley

India has been known as the manna in the world of education. Students from all parts of the world would come here to learn and extol the benefits of quality learning, especially when it comes to engineering. Placements were aplenty as IITs and other institutes provided students with golden access to the best education, with the choicest jobs to follow.

Times are changing for the worse. Reports bring out a stark reality. As per the Higher Education report by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst and Young (EY) 99% of MBAs and 80% of engineering graduates in India are unemployable.

The malady: These numbers are not just a reflection of the present state of employability in the country, but also the state of education that is doled out in batches, for years after years. The state of education is deplorable as institutes fail to arm students with the right kind of practical and industry-related knowledge and hence, the unemployment. Students are faring poorly at interviews, with nearly 27% of the engineers fail even to pass an interview. The combination of outdated curriculum, inadequate infrastructure, poor quality of faculty, combined with old delivery platforms, make it difficult to equip students with relevant skills.

The epoch of darkness called placements: In terms of employability, the shift from degrees to employability is met with a roadblock called placement and there's a conflicting pattern that one can see. While industry complains that 80%-plus engineering graduates are unemployable, universities/colleges boast that 90%-plus of their students are placed — a disparity that dismays all.

Settling for any and every job or digressing to other sectors is the new norm among these jobless techies. Most engineering graduates are "placed" into internships that require as much as a year more training with an average package of about 3.5 lakhs p.a. Most of these interns end up in IT service or support jobs, which form the majority of the lower slab job roles.  While these are good and necessary jobs, they don't suit the stature and knowledge of a CS graduate. Only about 5% of CSE graduates get placed in highly skilled CS jobs with an average package of more than 5.5 lakhs p.a. Thus, capabilities are lost in the flurry to bag just any job, creating a sense of despondency and resentment.

While, NASSCOM and industry have been asking universities/colleges to make "job-readiness" an Educational Outcome for a long time now, but Universities/Colleges must be thinking that having a placement rate greater than 90% means they are meeting industry needs. How else can we explain the continuing high-level of unemployable graduates reported by industry?

A reconciliation: A reconciliation is required to uplift the situation. To understand what is happening with placements one needs data on university/college engineering graduates.  What happens to them when they graduate, and where are they after three, seven and 10 years of passing college? This data would measure if the graduates are actually job-ready and would provide valuable feedback on what the university can do to tackle the problem of unemployable engineering graduates.

Also, the key is to consider job placements as slabs, and not as a single job placement, where apt skilling and education is necessary to move ahead in the ranks. Having practical skills in 21st century, especially on the grounds of technical specialisations such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, mobile applications etc, has actual implications as it helps graduates to achieve higher initial packages and a promising start to their career. The college curriculum needs to be outcome-based, where the outcome includes required job-skills and not just rote knowledge.

Keeping both of the above solutions in mind, can we reach to a point where India regains its older glory, while elevating the state of employment to new heights.

The writer is Martin Radley, Co-founder, Carter Radley

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