Industry-Academia Partnership Is Key To Creating Job-Ready Graduates

In a career spanning over three decades, Dr. Prabhu has held various positions in the academia & industry.

While the Indian higher education system has produced many stalwarts and industry leaders, there is a growing concern that the curriculum is not keeping pace with market demands. Consequently, leading to a widening skill gap in the talent entering the job market. Though India is the largest producer of STEM graduates, next only to China; only 47 percent of the available talent is employable according to the India Skills Report 2019. According to Deloitte Deans Survey 2019, only 28 percent of the deans believe that their students are industry-ready.

There is little doubt that the education landscape in India has changed significantly over the past couple of years. What started out as a development model for the economy turned into a holistic approach in learning for future generations. We, as educationists, realized the power of practical education, incorporating industry-aligned methods to provide an environment to students where they could not only put their practical knowledge to test, but gain hands-on experience.

It is important to understand that industry-academia collaboration is key to creating a model of higher education that will ensure job-ready talent, a win-win scenario for students as well industry. Aligning education to industry helps students in responding to the real-time job market and ensuring sustained employment for themselves. Often, it means providing students with rigorous high-quality education along with effective hands-on -training.

Industry-aligned education plays a significant role in identifying new courses, designing curricula, facilitating hands-on training for students, as well as sponsoring research. Though we have a long way to go, practical education is gaining interest among the current generation owing to its adaptability and flexibility over static, theory- focused curricula. The idea is simple: Study hard but Work harder.

It is important for faculty from colleges and universities to stay connected with the best organisations in India and abroad to enhance their education, careers and lives and make lifelong contributions to society. This provides learners with an environment of ideation, innovation and entrepreneurship. Inviting industry leaders and corporate stalwarts as guest faculty also helps bridge the gap between industry and academia.

The much-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a right move in that direction. NEP advocates a multi-disciplinary approach that helps in building a better learning process for students. They will have the freedom and flexibility to choose how and what they want to learn vis-à-vis inclusion of vocational training, virtual labs and skill development courses. All these lead to the core principles behind NEP, and how the government wants to encourage industry-aligned education to help improve the employability of graduating students across the country.

The advantages of an industry-aligned higher education model are many:

•Exposure to industry knowledge: This helps students learn about the latest technologies and financial resources or even figure out operating processes to which they might earlier have no idea about.

•Inculcation of practical skills: The most important aspect of industry aligned education is the flexibility it allows students to develop technical skills in addition to theoretical knowledge. It gives them working knowledge and instills a feeling of confidence later in life.

•Freedom to choose: Industry aligned education focuses both on theory as well as practice. Instead of merely focusing on theory, it helps learners to apply their knowledge to accomplish a task in the most efficient way possible. Strong linkages with industry expose learners to the entrepreneurial world through internships, as well as visiting teachers who are from successful start-ups and other organizations. Students can thus opt for a job or become a job creator by starting their own venture.

•Development of Customized Job-roles: By studying different types of industry aligned courses in engineering and management, students can customize their job roles. Getting a liberal arts degree adds flexibility, not only for a specific job, but helps in picking up versatile jobs and opting for different career roles. Since students need to go through various discussions and practical responsibilities while working in an industry-aligned program, it prepares them better for diverse job roles

•Creation of Job-ready students: When students are exposed to various industry-led projects, it puts them directly in the shoes of say an engineer, banker, researcher or a supply chain manager. They get hands-on experience and are future-ready as it prepares them for what it will be like in the world of work.

It is important for faculty from colleges and universities to stay connected with the best organisations in India and abroad to enhance their education, careers and lives and make lifelong contributions to society

An industry-aligned model of higher education, incorporating industry traits and technology in an ever-changing education system, is crucial for success in the emerging era of Industry Revolution 4.0. For universities to produce high-caliber graduates with a certain degree of practical knowledge, only conducting theoretical classes and tests is not enough. With the business paradigm evolving to become more skill-focused, it is now more important than ever to train students for roles and responsibilities more suited to advancing vocational practices.