The India Skills Report 2021 highlights that there has been a general degradation of employable talent since 2018.
Many universities have entered into collaborations with industry to set-up learning and skill centres for students, but the IITs will be taking this a step further if they create positions for industry professionals as ‘professors of practice’, as recommended by an internal committee of the IIT Council.
India produces 1.5 million engineering graduates, not all employable. From the quality of instruction and learning in most engineering schools to wide gaps between what engineering courses equip graduates for and what the industry needs, the factor behind poor employability are many. How big a problem this is, is highlighted by the National Employability Report for Engineers 2019, brought out by Aspiring Minds; it found nearly 80% of engineering graduates lack the requisite skills to be considered employable; while software and digital start-ups have boomed, only 3.84% of the engineering graduates analysed could be considered employable for jobs in these; only 3% possess skills that are needed for jobs in emerging tech such as AI, machine learning, etc. Also, just two-thirds of graduates tested for code-writing could do this error-free versus 90% in China. Against such a backdrop, the IITs mulling over deeper industry-academia association is the right step forward—while the quality of instruction or learning at the premier engineering education institutes shouldn’t be suspect, there can be no doubt such an association will only enhance the value of IIT-graduates as potential employees.
Many universities have entered into collaborations with industry to set-up learning and skill centres for students, but the IITs will be taking this a step further if they create positions for industry professionals as ‘professors of practice’, as recommended by an internal committee of the IIT Council. The committee has recommended engaging senior industry professionals in teaching and research; PhD would not be a requirement, and such teachers can comprise even 5-10% of faculty positions. The old mould hasn’t been shed completely—while the initial term of employment would be of three years, to be absorbed as a permanent faculty member, the corporate expert will need to have a PhD. Nevertheless, this promises to be a fruitful engagement.
IIT salaries, at present, may not be lucrative enough to retain industry top-guns in teaching positions. So, the institutes will need to find the funds to offer fair compensation, if not match their corporate salaries. This would require the decontrol of fees or even opting for innovative financing—bear in mind, several universities abroad have set up corpuses from various funding sources, including alumni contributions, and have invested chunks of these to grow their funds. For this, and many other reforms that could enthuse top professionals to participate, the government needs to get proactive on freeing up higher education. For perspective, while ‘professors of practice’ can juggle corporate jobs and teaching via the online mode, the government has moved at a snail’s pace on allowing online education to take off.
That said, the idea shouldn’t be kept limited to IITs, though how well other universities and higher education institutions strike such partnerships, and maintain these, remains to be seen. The India Skills Report 2021 highlights that there has been a general degradation of employable talent since 2018. In BSc courses, for instance, it has declined from 38.41% to 30.34%. Unless India wants to squander away whatever remains of its much-hyped demographic dividend, it has to move on creating youth who can inspire confidence among employers that they can execute a job as desired.