New Delhi: A group of manufacturing and capital goods companies have come together to hand-hold engineering colleges and universities in small cities and towns, seeking to improve the quality of their graduates and their employment prospects.
Industry experts will be sent to the institutions to help upgrade facilities and teach students, who will also get to work on live corporate projects, as part of the initiative being overseen by K. Venkataramanan, president (operations), Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), India’s biggest construction and engineering firm.
Venkataramanan says the quality of many graduates being turned out by Indian universities tends to be sub-standard because of the lack of sufficient interaction between industry and academic institutions. That means many engineering students graduate without possessing the skills needed by industry, hurting their own job prospects while depriving employers of a sufficiently large talent pool.
Students working on laptops. File photo
“Industries as a group and academic institutes as another group should work together to improve the employability situation,” Venkataramanan says. “It will be mutually beneficial.”
With manufacturing gaining traction again, and the Centre approving a National Manufacturing Policy, these companies say industry needs to contribute its bit to help create an employable workforce with the requisite job skills. The policy approved on 25 October seeks to set up large industrial zones, create 100 million jobs, and expand the share of manufacturing from 16% of gross domestic product at present to 25% by 2025.
Companies taking part in the initiative include steel parts maker Bharat Forge Ltd, power equipment manufacturer Thermax Ltd, Hindustan Dorr Oliver Ltd, a unit of the infrastructure firm IVRCL Ltd, and GW Precision Tools India Pvt. Ltd, according to Venkataramanan.
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Engineering students are increasingly trying to get on-the-job style training while still in college, and a new initiative could make that a lot easier.
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu; Narsee Monjee Institute in Sirpur, Maharashtra; Chitkara University in Barotiwala, Himachal Pradesh; and Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka are some of the institutes involved in the project.
Industry linkage with colleges will bridge the education-employability gap, a source of concern for both the government and corporate entities. It will also take the corporate recruitment process, which is largely tilted towards institutes in big cities, to smaller cities and towns.
According to education services firm Aspire Human Capital Management Pvt. Ltd, India has some 320 million students enrolled in schools and colleges, but less than 25% are employable. India produces around 700,000 engineers every year.
“If industries get involved in improving the employability, then it will boost the human resource supply chain,” says Amit Bhatia, chief executive of Aspire Human Capital. “The quality of education and human resources has one goal, hence, embedded employable education and its understanding will be good for their business.”
M. Anandakrishnan, chairman of the board of governors at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, who will be coordinating the implementation of the initiative on behalf of the institutes, said the industry-academia tie-up will empower colleges and help them address several areas of concern.
“But we will make sure that these colleges and universities don’t take this as a plea to increase course fees,” said Anandakrishnan, who is also the head of the higher education committee at industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The initiative will serve as a pilot programme that, depending on its success, will pull in more companies to improve their interaction with educational institutes. “The upgrade of curricula and industry experience will be directly taken care of by such a move,” he says.
Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor of Narsee Monjee University in Mumbai, said that while academics will benefit from having access to industry expertise, industry will be able to tap quality graduates at a much lower salary than they would have to pay someone from a big city institute. He said the initiative is a voluntary effort by colleges and companies.
“When you hire from big cities, the salary structure is big. The manufacturing sector, unlike services sector, does not have the liberty to spend more on human resources,” says Saxena, a former director of the Indian Institute of Management, Indore.
“Industries also understand that by improving the standard of colleges in small towns, they can hire the same quality with relatively lower salary. Here they will stay with them for a longer time than, say, an IIT graduate,” Saxena adds.
Narsee Monjee University, which runs the Narsee Monjee Institute in Sirpur, will coordinate with colleges in smaller cities of the state.
Saxena says new industrial processes, design and latest technology often elude students, and “learning from the shop floor” in industries will help their cause.
Most engineering colleges in small cities lack good laboratories, which may cost crores of rupees to set up or upgrade. The upshot is that students lack access to the technology that makes them job-ready.
“Our students in Sirpur can go to an apparel manufacturer or an engineering company to learn what the new technologies used in producing technical textiles or building a quick road project with prefabricated structures are,” Saxena says.
Anandakrishnan says that what industry is looking for is an understanding on the part of students of the design concept, the use of new technology, machinery and management of the factory floor. They need to understand what is an assembly line, for example, and how things are put together.
Venkataramanan says industries, apart from upgrading coursework in line with the needs of colleges, will also gift them machines and equipment that will enable a better learning environment. In return, the companies will expect colleges to help them file patents.
Vijay Pahwa, director, industry relations, Dehradun-based University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, said leading capital goods companies have started looking beyond big cities for hiring personnel, and this initiative will strengthen the trend.
“Smaller town institutes need industry exposure, and we see the benefit here,” says S.K. Mohapatra, dean, academics, Thapar University in Patiala, Punjab. “It will also promote research and innovation among companies and share academic best practices and collaborative industry research among each other.”