The employability quotient of graduates in today’s day and age is equally proportionate to a curriculum that is dynamic and relevant. The curriculum designed and delivered in the higher education sector must be aimed at preparing students for careers that would emerge in the future and to face the challenges they would encounter in their profession.
A curriculum with a focus on outcomes that incorporates regular revisions by taking inputs from the stakeholders and exhibits swiftness in adaptation to the ever-changing requirements will certainly help graduates to be employable.
What are employability skills and why are they essential?
While the bulk quality of university graduates in the country is appalling, many of them remain to have very rudimentary knowledge without proper communication skills or problem-solving capacity, which has resulted in the rise in educated unemployment.
University degrees are no longer the priority criteria; instead, employers are seeking specific soft skills that contribute to an effective working environment, which are professionally called “employability skills”.
Employability skills are defined as a range of competencies or abilities that are necessary for graduates to gain success in the labor market at all employment levels which benefits themselves, the community and the economy.
Individuals might develop these skills through education, workforce development system, interests, and extra-curricular activities under three major categories:
- Effective relationships: the personal qualities and interpersonal skills to foster human interactions in relationships (collaboration, self-discipline)
- Workplace skills: the analytical and organizational skills to boost productivity and performance at the workplace (technology skill, communication, resource management)
- Applied knowledge: The practice and utilization of knowledge into the pragmatic environment (critical thinking, application skill)
Steps needed to be taken to improve employability in engineering students:
1. AICTE (All India council of Technical education) leadership is taking a lot of efforts and recommends model curriculum for engineering programs with emphasis on enhancing employability. Some of the courses in the emerging areas like AI, IoT, Robotics, Block chain, Machine learning, Data Science and Cyber security are recommended by AICTE to be included in the model curriculum so that the future engineers will be industry ready.
Most of the above courses are interdisciplinary in nature and requires the knowledge of multiple domains; they need to be included in the curriculum of multiple disciplines.
2. In this era of increasing automation, creative and innovative mindset with an orientation for problem solving is essential for engineers to be employable. Various engineering colleges need to introduce courses on creativity and innovation to stimulate problem-solving skills in future engineers.
3. The student must also be introduced to the industry-initiated courses by entering into MoUs with relevant industries. Industry partners offering courses, both theory and lab jointly with the faculty members will not only improve the industry academia interaction but will also enhance the employability of the graduates.
4. Compulsory industry internships will be helpful to the students to get to know the industry work culture and help them to prepare themselves in that direction. The final year project work, which has a provision for the students to undertake projects offered by the industries, can be a great employability booster.
5. Not only the content part of the curriculum, but also the effective assessment methodology is equally important to make the overall curriculum effective and meet the objectives. In this direction, the Examination Reforms initiated by AICTE is highly relevant and need of the hour. The focus should be on continuous assessment, verity in the methods so that students are up to date with their learning.
6. Teachers should emphasise on application-based learning and discourage rote learning. This will help in developing critical thinking and promoting deep learning.
7. Encourage students to participate in national and international technical competitions. In addition to the accolades they win, it will help students to demonstrate the leadership skills, communication skills and ability to work as a team, which takes them to greater heights.
If the above measures are followed by technical institutes, it will certainly help improve employability of engineering students. The times are tough due to the Covid-19 pandemic; people are losing jobs every day, the future looks uncertain. If students are equipped with the necessary industry related skills, the process of getting a job will become that much easier in these tough times.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) once made a statement on how skill development is a critical breakthrough point in enhancing sustainable development process and facilitating the transition from an informal to the formal economy, it is of utmost importance for every higher education institution including engineering colleges to emphasize the employability curriculum and continuously curate it.
Authored by Dr D Srikanth Rao, Director, Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE)