SkillingIndia: How is education and skills development transforming lives and underpinning productivity gains for the Indian economy?
Shekhar Sanyal: The economic growth of a country is directly linked to the output of the workforce. In this regard, an unskilled workforce directly affects the growth prospects of the economy.
Skill development goes hand in hand with education because along with sound education, students and professionals will need to be equipped with the right skill-set to gain employability and form a more productive workforce.
Global corporations are now looking at India not only as a country for doing the backend work, but as a workforce, which can actually add value to the entire system. A study conducted by PwC ranks India as the fourth most favourable nation for overall growth prospects over the next one year, behind China, USA and Brazil. Many reports state that by the year 2020 the country is estimated to represent 17% of the global workforce. The government is also investing significantly in skill development and widening access to education by increasing the number of technical institutions. However, the question of whether this will result in a more ‘industry-ready’ workforce needs to be answered.
SkillingIndia: What are the opportunities and challenges in the engineering sector?
Shekhar Sanyal: The Indian engineering sector is in a transformational stage and that makes it one of the most exciting industries to work in today. Earlier, engineering firms in India were only engaged in testing and other back-end work for global corporations, but currently, there is cutting edge research, innovation and application taking place in India.
For a developing country like India, opportunities for engineers lie in core engineering fields such as power, infrastructure, manufacturing etc. However, engineering students prefer to move into IT. This leaves the core engineering sectors looking at a deficit as far as a talented workforce is concerned.
The key challenge staring at the engineering community in India is the alarming level of un-employability of engineering graduates. Numerous reports have been released on the widening industry-academia skill gap in India, with problems ranging from low employability to inability to comprehend English. If the situation remains this way or continues to worsen, India will fail to live up to the positive growth story that the world is talking about.
Another challenge we face is the actual level of innovation, which is emerging from India. Though India produces a large number of engineers, we cannot pledge to claim major innovations emerging from India in engineering. We need to correct the equation in terms of number of engineers that our country produces vis-à-vis the engineering marvels that we are contributing to.
SkillingIndia: How can employers in auto, manufacturing, etc. retain skilled engineering talent? Can skills training help? How?
Shekhar Sanyal: The manufacturing industry, which contributes nearly 15% of the country’s GDP, is the backbone of every nation’s economic progress. The automobile industry has a huge growth potential due to the increasing middle class population of the country. With growing income, the increasing consumption patterns are making way for more foreign players to enter the market. This sector also provides employment to over 13 million people across the country.
A common problem faced in both these sectors is that as the industry continues to expand, it faces the increased challenge of having a limited talent pool, which is not equipped with the right skill set for the job. There is a dire need for re-skilling the workforce to help create a more employable pool of talent. Skilled individuals contribute to a productive workforce, which helps employees as well as enterprises to perform better. Organisations must run programmes to constantly re-skill their employees to keep them up-to-date throughout their careers.
SkillingIndia: What should engineering students entering workforce focus on and expect from the industry today in terms of job roles and compensation?
Shekhar Sanyal: There are multiple reports which stress upon the widening industry-academia skill gap, as the output from educational institutions does not match the need of the industry. Here are a few pointers on how engineers can equip themselves to become industry ready:
- Additional qualifications: While the college degree is important, additional qualifications give individuals an added advantage over others as it establishes their competence as well as their commitment to global professional standards. Engineers must opt to get some additional qualifications apart from their engineering degree.
- All-round professional development: A problem that continues to plague engineers is that they do not possess skill sets beyond their core area of work/study. The industry requires engineers to focus on gaining critical skills beyond the technical domain like communication, people management and managerial skills. Employers are looking for individuals who exhibit a desire to constantly upgrade themselves professionally.
- Knowledge and networking: Engineering students and professionals must opt to join international professional organisations that will give them global exposure to learn a host of new skill sets while learning and networking with engineering professionals across the world. Such memberships help students and professionals gain access to cutting edge technical knowledge that will keep them updated and equipped to address the dynamic and evolving technology landscape.
- Demonstrating relevance: Finally, both students and young professionals should demonstrate a sharp focus on problem-solving in the most relevant areas of engineering that impacts people and society. Focussing on problem-solving, creativity and innovation that is relevant will help engineering students and professionals to contribute effectively to their organisations, as well as society at large.
If these are added to the educational curriculum it will open up a plethora of options for engineers in terms of job roles and compensation.
SkillingIndia: While skills training plays a crucial role, a learning culture engages the employee and employer working together to maximize opportunities? How?
Shekhar Sanyal: The focus to sustain a culture of learning should be very high in organisations. This is possible through a combination of conventional and creative measures like training; networking platforms; talks by subject matter experts; industry and academia meets; encouraging students and employees to participate in ‘Call for Papers’ and relevant competitions; reward, recognition and growth based on value demonstrated through new learnings.