India Is In The Middle Of An Engineering Education Crisis

Vikram Shah, CTO, InternshalaAn IIT Madras alumnus, Vikram has been with Internshala for over six years now, and has been forefront of the company's successful journey so far.

B Tech (Fail): Empty seats, ghost campuses, un-skilled graduates - No, these are not lines from a horror movie for engineering students; these are recent headlines of major Indian newspapers! They discuss how engineering, once the most preferred career choice among students, is now no longer a good career option for them. Students are now not choosing to go for engineering any-more. In the last five years, vacancies at engineering institutes approved by the AICTE have remained over 47 percent, with the 2016-17 witnessing almost 54 percent seat vacancy.

This is because of the unfortunate state of engineers in today's world. It was believed that studying engineering would lead to a promising career, but the reality is very different. There are over 15 lakh students who graduate with an engineering degree in India each year. But 80-90 percent of them do not have the skills to get a good job once they graduate. The curriculum of colleges fails to impart the hard and soft skills essential for this. For a lot of students who do land a job, it is typically a menial one, such as in a call center, and the salary is low. The few students who manage to bag a good job often make ill-informed career choices. Without knowing what career they want to pursue, they take up the jobs available at hand. Eventually, this leads to the individual being unsatisfied with the job, leading to resentment and frustration. Therefore, most individuals never get a chance to live up to their true potential.

Moreover, India is on the verge of a demographic dividend. Today, approximately half of India's 1.3 billion people are under the age of 26. By 2020, India is forecasted to be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29. If utilized well, this can be of a huge advantage to us, as we will have a very high percentage of our population belonging to the working age. For
this to happen, it is important that a significant portion of this population is given the hard and soft skills to be able to realize their potential and pursue meaningful careers. However, if we fail to utilize this well, this demographic dividend may turn into a disaster. In a few years time, this trend will reverse and the percentage of non-working population will surpass the working population.

This is the generation meant to transform India. If we miss the opportunity for rapid growth now, it will become a lot more difficult in future. The lack of skills and expo-sure to students is hampering our ability to take advantage of our demographic dividend. Therefore, it is imperative for us to rapidly up-skill the youth entering the workforce. This problem can be addressed by-

1. Helping students identify what career they want to pursue

2. Helping students acquire soft & hard skills necessary for this

An internship allows students to test drive different career options before choosing the right one

Internships offer an elegant solution to make these happen. Internships are short term employment, typically of 2-6 months, provided by companies to students. They are exploratory in nature and generally don't require prior work experience. Internships come in all shapes and sizes, belonging to different profiles in different locations with options to work from home and/or part time. This flexibility is extremely useful for candidates as it allows them to maximize the use of their free time.

An internship allows students to test drive different career options before choosing the right one. Given the flexible nature of internships, it is not hard for students to pursue multiple internships while they are still studying. Internships give students a clear picture into what hard and soft skills are required for a particular profile. They beef up students' resumes in absence of work experience and students with internships have a significantly higher chance of getting selected for a job. Moreover, students are not required to pay for an internship and in most cases; they also get paid a stipend by the company.

Over the last year, there have been several policy changes aiming to push the number of students pursuing internships. For example, AICTE has made internships mandatory for students of all engineering colleges in its purview. Considering such policy changes and the gradual increase in popularity of internships among both students and companies, it would not be ambitious to believe that, in the near future, we would be able to create about 2-3 lakh extra fresher jobs every year through internships alone. Given that only 2-3 lakh engineering students manage to bag decent jobs every year, internships have the potential to nearly double this number. And the number would only keep growing!

It's time we start viewing internships as a serious solution to bridge the industry-academia skill gap. They offer means to a huge number of individuals to lead more satisfying and rewarding careers and help them realize their potential.