Not so long ago -- just around five years ago -- the craze for Engineering as a career option in two of the Indian States with the largest number of engineering colleges in the country, that is, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh/Telengana  sent shock waves among every thinking educationist, big or small.  Since then, there have been several debates and a huge number of discussions at various levels as to how to reverse the trend.

Possibly, the revolution that aimed to bring the backward classes, and the most backward classes into the educational arena has been a tremendous success in three two States, and now in the past one year, in the three States, but the ill effects of whatever has happened is there for all to see: not more than just twenty percent or even less number of engineers have it in them, to survive in the Corporate rat race.

In fact, a whole lot of IT companies seem to be spending huge amounts of money on making the engineers more employable, but the issue is back to scare one :  the craze for engineering education is down, and over one lakh seats in various engineering colleges are expected to be vacant in Tamil Nadu alone.

Yes, the colleges have not invested in faculty or in knowledge building and are now suffering.  But, that is only part of the story.  

A few institutes specializing in Hotel Management, in Chennai, for example, are able to achieve one hundred per cent placement, year after year.  Why does this happen, or how does this happen/

This has happened because the institutes have understood the actual skill levels needed by the industry, have offered meaningful internship to their students, and have succeeded in making the graduates employable. 

Similarly, the hugely popular Bachelor's Degree in Visual Communication, also called VISCOM, that was first started by the world-famous Loyola College, Chennai, is now offered by at least thirty more colleges in Chennai, and there has been a huge demand for the graduates from the likes of SUN TV, ZEE TV, NDTV and so on.  

In fact, many of the graduates are firmly entrenched in the Tamil Film industry and even in the Hindi Film industry.  The syllabus is always updated, and the likes of Kamal Hasan, the famous actor of Indian movies, is now a visiting Faculty Member in the Loyola College.  So much for the job orientation.

Courses in fashion designing, Animation and Graphics, Photography, Jewelry Design, Interior Decoration and the like, offered by even private institutes, are so popular, and the graduates are industry-ready at any point in time. 

In fact, these are the days when the MBA degree is showing signs of slowing down.  The huge number of MBAs in the market has made the MBA a very ordinary qualification. 

Utilizing this drop in demand, a huge number of institutes have started courses in telecom management, capital markets management and even Quality Management.  Many of these B schools are stand-alone B schools.  They are autonomous and are directly controlled by the AICTE.  Since they are not not bound by University rules, it is very common to find syllabuses that are updated almost every month.

In particular, the courses on Supply Chain Management and Import Export Management are hugely popular.  In fact, the graduates who specialize in these courses, find jobs just like that, and have huge career options, both in India and abroad.

So, what can be done about such courses?  It is high time that the concerned industry experts, the University professors, the researchers and such other experts get together and frame appropriate syllabuses.  Once this is done, the task of making such courses more wide-ranging in terms of reach can be explored, so that the manpower problem that is acute in many of these sectors can be easily managed.

Furthermore, what needs to be done is to have an eagle eye on the changes that need to the done to the syllabus in line with every single development in the real world.  For example, the whole world is moving to the SAP platform, for software solutions.  Yet, the Bachelor's Degree course in Computer Science or even the Master's Degree in Computer Applications (MCA) does not have any major syllabus or practical application.  This is a big shock to the industry people, who are least bothered about where the employee comes from.  They are bothered about the skills and the industry-level preparedness of the individuals concerned.  

This is a very serious pitfall that should be addressed on a very urgent basis.  SAP is just one example.  There are several other examples.  The teachers in the Government colleges draw huge salaries but do not care to update their syllabuses or knowledge.  In fact, they are very happy if the concerned University does not upgrade the syllabus, as they will have less work!  This is a huge problem, and we need to tackle this issue of lack of motivation of a huge number of teachers, who simply produce graduates who are unemployable. 

Another serious issue is the industry=academic interface, which, for all practical purposes, is almost dead.  There is not serious attempt to engage the real world of industry on an urgent basis.  No one bothers to even care to involve experts, except for some guest lectures on a piece meal basis.  The industry people look for talent, but are not able to find them.

One University that is serious about the admission process and the job orientation is the Symbiosis University, Pune.  This University has not only introduced hugely job oriented courses, but has also gone to great lengths to make their placement program a grand success.  In fact, their academic standards are so good, that they have now got a huge number of Corporate organizations that want to engage with them on real time basis. 

There will soon be a situation where only job-oriented courses will survive.  It is high time that we wake up, and make all such courses the best option for making a huge number of people, employable.  The current mismatch between the skills available and that needed by the industry, needs to be urgently plugged.  The sooner we do this, the better.

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