The engineering degree has until now been considered the gold standard for any graduate, as a ticket to a better life ahead, with promises of everything from a life abroad to a well-settled career.
As a bellwether of the unemployment levels among engineers in the city, this paints a not-so-rosy picture of what was once a most coveted discipline. An employment assessment firm Aspiring Minds had reported in March last year that over 80 per cent of the 1.5 mn engineers passing out every year find themselves unemployable for any job in the knowledge economy. The report referred to a lack of technical, cognitive, and linguistic skills required for software-related jobs in start-ups.
The massive skill gap being faced by India is leading to underemployment of millions of engineers who are now willing to take up low skill jobs for which the base qualification is an SSLC pass or even lesser. In the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are already making thousands of jobs redundant. Shop floors across factories, that are now looking at newer ways of social distancing will be compelled to hive off manpower and substitute it with automation. Forbes had listed AI, Machine Learning (ML), and Cloud as part of its top 10 digital skills to possess as part of the emerging tech portfolio. As per a report released earlier this year, as many as 25 mn jobs will be created globally in this space, and India will need about 6 mn jobs in this sector. The silver lining is that at least 1 in 2 engineers can be made employable with the right intervention.
Going forth, the world will need data scientists and bioengineering specialists by the thousands, who can act as bridges between the healthcare and engineering sectors – and aid in the creation of goods and services for a world living with COVID-19. From making low-cost ventilators to modelling the spread of the virus in clusters, the need for analytical thinking and deep-dive research cannot be over-emphasised. In October last year, the Directorate of Technical Education (DOTE) under the Higher Education Department said it will offer real-time soft skills training to students in conjunction with industries to motivate them for self-employment. To start with, there needs to be a conscious attempt from the part of the academia to narrow the mismatch between the skills sought by a completely transformed workplace and the training imparted to students.
This means that engineering colleges will have to keep pace with the industry, update their curriculum as rapidly as technology, and the environment evolves. Putting students through simulations with real-world deliverables, offering them a hands-on approach under the mentorship of industry experts and tailoring programmes to job requirements, will go a long way in addressing the massive skill gap and unemployment concerns faced by the youth.