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Employability Skills Assessment Of Engineering Students

In today's scenario, placement is the buzz word. Parents and students prefer colleges and institutions which help their wards in placement opportunities by conducting campus placement or placement readiness training. Every college and institution tries to maximize their placement ratio. During the last decade the opportunities for graduates in various sectors have increased tremendously, especially for engineering students. Institutions organize on-campus and off-campus placement and job fair by pooling students from various institutions, companies to recruit students in large numbers. However, there are many graduates who are not able to get through the recruitment process and jobs. Current technological and economic changes have created a challenging context for students.

NASSCOM estimates that by 2017, 1.3 million Indians will be needed in the IT and ITES sector.

These changes have had a great influence on students at the entry-level. Industries expect that the recruits should be well versed in contemporary areas and have the ability to apply knowledge therein and possess technical and soft skills. The Requirements of the World of Work observes that, a number of competencies are expected from candidates. Globalization has increased the pressure on companies, for the need to effectively manage their manpower and also their clients. This demands focus on development of (a) generic skills; (b) application skills; and (c) soft skills or life skills apart from proficiency in their subjects. It involves oral and written communication skills, basic computer skills (MS Office, Internet, etc), and a good workplace attitude (commitment and teamwork). These skills are pre-requisites for employability.

Emerging Indian Scenario

India is growing in importance for centers of services outsourcing and a hub for manufacture of goods. Some indicative figures for expected job creation are given below:

India is home to 3,393 engineering colleges and has 14.85 lakhs seats available.

70% of Engineering Colleges are situated in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and UP.

Coimbatore the Manchester of south, is emerging as an education hub with three Universities affiliating more than 200 colleges. 50000 students graduate every year.

70% of graduates aspire for job. Only 12-15 % are able to get offers during their study through campus placement.

The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council in its recommendations has said that raising the rate of growth of manufacturing to 12 % would create 1.6 to 2.9 million direct jobs annually, and two to three times of that number indirectly.

NASSCOM estimates that by 2017, 1.3 million Indians will be needed in the IT and ITES sector. The demand for the people with the right skill sets is high, and far outstrips the supply. Most of the large Indian software companies are setting up BPOs, and of course many, multinationals have back offices on Indian shores.

Tamil Nadu ranks LAST in Employability (in IT) across key states in India, Employability percentage in TN for IT services is less than 10%.

Employment requirements and qualifications vary depending on the needs of the employers and their projects/ nature of work accomplished. On one hand the need for manpower in the industry is huge and on the other hand it is generally acclaimed that Indian software engineers, civil, electronic & telecommunication engineers, chemical engineers, doctors and managers are admired worldwide, but still the need for manpower is not met. It is reported that employers don't get the applicants with right skill set, mindset and tool set especially in the engineering and construction sectors. Currently, there is wide chasm between what the educational institutions are churning out and what the industry expects.

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Technical education plays a vital role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. Technical Education covers courses and programmes in engineering, technology, management, architecture, town planning, pharmacy and applied arts & crafts, hotel management and catering technology. The need for the companies is growing year after year. NASSCOM report reveals that the universities and colleges are not able to fulfill the need of manpower. Even though company requirement is huge they don't hire all the aspirants; they analyze the prospective candidates on certain skills and abilities.

What is Employability?

Industry looks for a different mix of skills, abilities, capabilities and competencies in potential hires depending on the business its in. Industry also looks for multi-skilled individuals. The unemployment is not because of lack of job opportunities but due to lack of skill available in the job aspirants.

These skills are termed as employability skills. Employability skills refer to specific skills essential for employment. These are the critical tools and traits required to perform tasks at workplace. These skills are much sought after these days by employers. The needs of employability skills differ from country to country and from sector to sector and from time to time. However, certain qualities such as communication skills, interpersonal skills, integrity, right attitude, problem solving, decision making and team building skills can be taken as a few common skills of employability skills. In simple terms, Employability skills are the "ready for work" skills vital to do the job!

Reasons for low level of employability skills among students

Academic quality

No educational institution can survive unless it can attract competent young teachers into its fold. All professional colleges face serious problems in this regard; they cannot compete with the outside market in terms of financial package. Non-availability of qualified faculty, forces the educationist to appoint fresh hands on teaching. Lack of exposure and experience makes the quality of input poor. The other reason is that some of the teachers use readymade notes which were prepared by them when they were students; it is not updated and is transferred to the students. Decades ago teaching was considered to be noble profession and competent people only took up teaching as career, but today, teaching is mostly preferred by those who are not able to get a job in the industry and is considered as a stopgap arrangement to continue their living until their goals are reached.

Non-relevant curriculum

The world being changing so fast, but the reforms have not been implemented at the same phase. Most of the curriculum followed by university and its affiliated colleges were prepared a decade ago and still been thought. These syllabus are not industry specific and dont meet the need of the industry which reduces the level of employability of the students.

Teaching learning process in mother tongue

Most of the professional colleges teach the subjects to the students in their mother tongue, the communication language in the campus is a language which is spoken widely in that region and not English. The reason that most of the faculty members give with regard to teaching in mother tongue is that it aides greater understanding among students, but when they are tested for their communication skill in the selection process they fail or get rejected.

Mushroom growth of institutions

Engineering colleges have been mushrooming. On one side two to five colleges are added very year across Tamil Nadu and on the other side, existing colleges are ballooning up their intake of seats. The way the quantity of graduates is increasing year by year has resulted in the decrease of quality talent pool. We are compromising with quality for the sake of quantity. Engineering education is about knowledge, know-how, and character.

Mushrooming of educational institutes in India couldn't keep up the quality of education

Gap between Academia and Industry

One of the main reasons for the lower employability skills among students and non-availability of talented aspirants to industry is the gap between academia and industry. The interaction and participation from both sides are lower. Industry has variety of needs according to the changing job nature but this is not communicated or accepted by the academia. They offer a tailor made course and curriculum which is not relevant to the industry need. Many institutions like ICATCT are trying to bridge the gap, but they have touched only the tip of the ice berg.

Conclusion

Employability skills and personal values are the critical tools and traits students need to succeed in the workplace -- and they are all elements that they have to learn, cultivate, develop, and maintain over your lifetime.

"If colleges want to improve the employability of their graduates, they have to focus on reducing these important skill gaps through improvements in curriculum and teaching methods", said Hiroshi Saeki, an analyst at the World Bank. He added, "Most important, graduates should be able to formulate, analyse, and solve real life problems using standard engineering techniques".

More academic abilities alone will not be adequate.

What is essential is something beyond academic domain such as communication skills, problem solving skills, communication skills which are known as employability skills. When applicants possess these skills then it becomes easier for employers to train them on other technical skills. To sum, both educational institutions and industry should work together for enhancing employability skills as it is rightly said that you need to clap with both hands to get the results.

It is high time to stop playing the blame game and start working with Industry and schools to enhance the employability issue.

About the Author

Dr.Chandrasekar Soundarajan is currently the Chief Executive Officer at E G S Pillay Engineering Collage, Nagapattinam. He was the Director-Placements, Sri Eshwar College of Engineering