Why 80% of India's engineers remain unemployable in the software sector

It's common knowledge that India has a lot of educated people. That’s wonderful. But the lacuna casts a pall over the mood.

Reality bites, rarely pleasant…You might agree with me if you read the National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds, an employability evaluation and certification company, released earlier this year. The New-Delhi based company’s research study tracks more than 150,000 engineers who graduated in 2015 from over 650 colleges in India.

Did you know?

  •        Only 18.43% of the engineers are employable in the software sector
  •        Only 3.84% engineers suited to tech roles in startups
  •        Nearly 27% of engineers failed to even snag an interview

Most numbers in the report are grim, from an employability percentage of 3.67% of Software Engineers for IT product companies to 17.91% of Software Engineers for IT service companies. Design engineers are not too lucky either with electronic engineers being the most employable at 7.07%.

Finding these abysmal statistics thought-provoking, we had a rather animated discussion at work about the “whys” and the “hows” and have come up with a few key observations:

Outdated learning and exam culture:

outdated classroom teaching

Whatever the reasons might be for the poor show, I believe it is sad that India's best universities are nowhere in the Top 100 in the world. The best India could do as of now: The Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bengaluru is at 152 and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi is at 185 in the QS World University Rankings.

Indian curriculum is behind times as far programming languages are concerned. They stick with BASIC, FORTRAN, and some “marked for death” like PERL, Flash, Algol, and Object Pascal; how are these students expected to make headway into a world of Java, C, C++, Python, Ruby on Rails, etc.? (Those fortunate enough to go to some Tier I institutions do reap benefits of excellent professors and course design.)

The situation is worse in the case of core engineering such as mechanical or civil profiles. Like Aspiring Minds CTO, Varun Aggarwal, said, "The science of manufacturing has moved way ahead but we continue to teach outdated concepts to students. For India to become the world's manufacturing hub, we need to lead from the front in our understanding of cutting edge methods, knowledge- driven management and implementation capability."

Exams still force the students to memorize by rote ancient textbooks, with no comprehension of the basic concepts. It is no surprise then if they don’t bring the Nobel home, right? Most Indian children are expected to spend hours in “coaching” classes to get into engineering or medical colleges. Somehow many manage to, merit, money, no one really cares. With no passion to learn, to apply, to create, these engineers are only interested in finishing their 4-or 5-year degrees.  What happens after is something else altogether.

Theory vs. Practice

theory vs practice

“It’s the learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.” This what Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, Inc. told the New York Times in an interview in 2015.  The tech giant apparently doesn’t care much about GPAs. Analytical and logical skills, please.

Most Indian engineering graduates, be it IT or Electronics engineers, fail when they are expected to apply basic principles to solve real-world problems. With neither the requisite analytical skills nor a commendable command of the domain, they flounder. They need “specific” training. That’s an expense that not everyone in the industry wants to incur. Universities need to bridge this gap and soon. For instance, they can encourage participation in coding challenges that companies like HackerEarth, SPOJ, and CodeChef conduct and introduce IT engineering students to competitive programming or hackathons.

Even companies like Wipro, TCS, and Infosys are committed to re-skilling or up-skilling their people—they promise to pay you more if you learn newer technologies. For example, with applications being moved to cloud computing, the engineers would need to know Go. For self-learners, the options are aplenty with premier e-learning providers like Udacity and Simplilearn offering you what the market demands. All of this sounds easy, but it is not—quite capital and labor-intensive.

Poor language skills

poor communication skills

And by language, I mean English. Effective communication is key to succeeding in the corporate world. This is not to put down our Indian language mosaic any way. We have come a long from the popular BBC sitcom Mind your English in the 70s, but going by this video, I’d say we have miles to go.

According to the Aspiring Minds’ National Spoken English Skills Report (SES), 52% of Indian engineers can’t get jobs because their spoken English skills are nothing to write home about. Fluency, sentence construction, pronunciation, and basic grammar would seem to be alien skills to some. Obviously, watching reruns of “Friends” and listening to Taylor Swift don’t seem to be working.

In the software sector, especially, engineers interact with an English-speaking workforce spread across the world. Cross-cultural team communication and client-handling skills are not taught in our colleges, unfortunately. Although an engineer could be brilliant, the inability to put forward his views effectively could well cost him his chance. There is much to be said in favor of behavioral, personality development, and people management skills helping engineers land their dream jobs. We need to reinforce these additional competencies as key elements of continuous learning.

I am sure you can think of so many more reasons why our engineering graduates are feeling the pinch of rising unemployment more than ever. These problems have been around for a while now and if they still haven’t changed, I don’t expect them to change either. Well, not to be predicting doom, but they won’t change fast. People need to think beyond just getting a job. While learning for learning’s sake and doing the job that you love to do is utopia; the first step toward it would be to find a middle ground between the ideal and reality. Keep jobs as a priority, but make people attain different goals to achieve it. Put out industry relevant problems and a job opportunity for everyone who can solve the problem within constraints. Not only is this industry relevant, it also lays emphasis on the importance of learning the basics, as the stronger your foundations, the quicker and better you can solve these programs. Apart from redesigning curricula and getting competent tutors, students need awareness and exposure via industry interaction.

Like they say, it is insanity to keep doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Understanding is the first step, resolving the next.

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.
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