Make in India (But Beware The Engineers)
After the buzz over India’s mission to Mars and the Prime Minister’s high-decibel Make-in-India, both meant to be showcases of the nation’s engineering talent, here is the latest, grim reminder of the quality of freshly minted engineers:
• While 97% want jobs either in software or core engineering, only 3% are good enough to be engineers in software/product roles, and only 7% can handle core engineering tasks.
• Only 11% find jobs in knowledge-intensive sectors because their English skills are poor (74%), as are their analytical or quantitative skills (58%).
• A student from a tier-3 college will get Rs 66,000 per annum less than a student of equal merit from a tier-1 college.
These are some of the key findings of a study by Aspiring Minds, a New Delhi-based employability solutions company, on skills, gender, locations and institutions. The report is based on a sample of more than 120,000 engineering students who graduated in 2013 from more than 520 engineering colleges across India.
India has 6,214 engineering and technology institutions with 2.9 million students enrolled, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Experts believe an economy with a large percentage of unemployable but qualified candidates is not only inefficient but a recipe for social instability. And the great mismatch in aspirations of graduating engineers and their job readiness is fertile ground for large-scale dissatisfaction and disillusionment.
The engineers analysed by Aspiring Minds are employed mainly in hardware and networking. While 90% of engineering graduates want mechanical, electronics/electrical and civil engineering jobs, only 7.49% are employable in such roles. In interviews conducted for the study, software was the preferred sector for 53% of engineers, while 44% preferred core engineering jobs.
Let us examine the skills these engineers bring to the software industry. Less than 20% of engineers are employable for software jobs. Of 600,000 engineers who graduate annually, only 18.43% are employable for software engineer-IT services role; no more than 3.95% can be deployed on projects.
So, most engineers are employed in hardware and networking. Their work mainly involves technical support and network management. Among non-IT roles, there is high employability as sales engineers who sell tech support to companies.
In non-tech roles, most engineers find employment in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector mainly in tele-calling and back-end processing. In the more lucrative sector of knowledge processing operations (KPO), an area of high revenues, only 11.5% of engineers even qualify for the role of business analysts. The main reasons for low employability is lack of English communication (73.63% did not qualify) and low analytical and quantitative skills (57.96%).
The key reason for such poor job prospects, according to the report, is “inadequate preparation in the domain area, the ability to apply basic principles of say, computer engineering or mechanical engineering, to real-world problems. As many as 91.8% of computer/IT engineers and 60% of engineers from other branches fall short of the domain knowledge required for such roles. These concepts and principles are there in college curriculum, however there is a gap in teaching and learning pedagogy being followed in majority of colleges.”
Location matters, for jobs and college quality. Employability varies tremendously across colleges. For instance, 18.26% of software engineers are job ready in tier-1 cities, such as Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, whereas 14.17% are employable from colleges in tier-2 cities, such as Pune, Nagpur and Surat. This variation is mirrored across states.
The message is that a large proportion of employable engineers are ending up without opportunity, a worrying trend for higher education.
Location matters so significantly that a candidate from a tier-3 college may be as qualified as a tier-1 student but her odds of finding a job are 24% lower; she will also earn Rs 66,000 less every year.
The source of the problem, the report said, could be current entry-level hiring practices: Companies visit only certain high-ranking colleges. There is evidence that in the typical resume short-listing process, the college name is a key signal and resumes from unknown colleges are not short-listed. It is understandable that corporations do this to make their recruitment process more efficient. However, this is leading to a lack of equality in the employment market. It is also preventing companies from accessing a large set of meritorious students.
“The IT services industry is not growing at the same pace as before and the growth of entry-level jobs is diminishing. Companies are now looking for hiring candidates who already have decent expertise in programming. Secondly, IT services companies today realise that within two years of the job, the candidate will have to communicate with international customers. As these trends catch up across industry, the employability for IT services sector, which is the largest hirer in engineering, will diminish further. To remain competitive in the job market, colleges and students need to have a fresh focus towards programming and English (both written and spoken).”
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