The real reason why 95% of Indian engineers can’t code

A few years ago, a McKinsey report said just a quarter of engineersNSE -2.55 % in India were actually employable. Of late, some other studies put it at less than 20%. Recently, a survey by employability assessment firm Aspiring Minds said 95% of Indian engineers can’t code.

Though graduates from India’s premiere engineering colleges such as the IITs are still in demand, it is the thousands of other engineering colleges and ITIs that churn out millions of graduates every year whose employability is questionable.

There is a glut of engineers in the country and most of them are not employable. Old problems of low-quality education and outdated curricula have become more pronounced with automation and emerging technology reshaping businesses.

The problem that has been growing for the last nearly two decades is the over-capacity of colleges.

That’s why the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) wants to close down about 800 engineering colleges across India. There are no takers for their seats, and admissions are plunging in these institutions every year.

Nearly 150 colleges are closed down voluntarily every year due to stricter AICTE rules. According to a rule of the council, colleges that lack proper infrastructure and report less than 30% admissions for five consecutive years will have to be shut down. AICTE has approved the progressive closure of more than 410 colleges across India, from 2014-15 to 2017-18.

In 2003, the government formed a committee to find out how technical education was doing in the country. The UR Rao Committee flagged a future glut of graduates. It found technical education was expanding rapidly which could not be sustained in the long run as there wasn’t as much demand for as supply of engineering graduates.

Fifteen years later, the committee stands vindicated.

Nearly eight lakh BE/BTech students graduated last year, but only less than half of them got jobs through campus placement, according to data from All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The Rao committee had suggested a five-year moratorium on approvals for undergraduate technical institutions in states where the student intake exceeded the then national average of 150 seats per million population, according to an Indian Express a report.

However, Rao’s suggestion was never followed. In 2008-09, 30 per cent more students joined engineering colleges over the previous year, the highest jump since 2001, according to the AICTE data. More than over 700 new colleges were approved that year.

Half of the 15.5 lakh BE/BTech seats were vacant in 3,291 engineering colleges in India in 2016-17.

A glut of engineering colleges and resultant over-supply of graduates has led to quality going down.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project of ‘Make in India’ is hobbled by lack of employable graduates. The project aspires to increase manufacturing capacity in India and generate 100 million jobs by 2022. That’s too difficult with the kind of graduates our engineering colleges churn out.

India’s much-touted demographic dividend, which can help India compete with China in manufacturing in near future, will turn into a burden if employbility of graduates does not go up. The jobs sector is already in stress. If the quality of skilled labour does not improve, latest technology that requires updated learning would cause a huge unemployment crisis.

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