With a steep decline in the number of employable engineering graduates, the IT industry is bound to face shortage of talent in many domains. Efforts being made to correct the imbalance between the demand and supply of quality talent needs a strong industry-academia collaboration. This Skill Talk by S. Ramanathan, Mentor and Consultant with MNCs in IT industry, re-emphasizes the need for a sustained college-corporate connection that can expose the students to the industry needs and unlock their potential. As an Executive Committee Member of Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA) for over 10 years, S. Ramanathan has been working closely with the leadership teams of various IT organizations to build synergy and efficiency and create a culture of ownership, initiative and innovation.
Need for industry – academia connect in IT sector
The fact that graduates passing out of various colleges are not suitable for employment in IT industry is emerging more and more as a critical problem. One of the ways to address this issue is to have more industry-experienced professors actively participating in the teaching-learning process. The level of industry exposure of most of the teaching staff is rather poor and it affects the students’ potential. Their worldview is also very limited in what they know; they have a theoretical understanding but no practical view of things. To correct this, there has to be more industry practitioners to teach students.
Do you really need a Ph.D degree to teach in colleges? Let’s think again about how much industry exposure the researchers have. There could be others who don’t have a Ph.D degree but have lot of practical experience who can teach in colleges. We need more industry-experienced people who can get us out of this circle.
Measures to ensure employability
In the present system, we focus on employability of students when they are almost done with their studies and they are about to get placed in a job. Giving them a crash course in employability skills or a short training doesn’t help. And not all students can afford to pay for such courses; some students need a job immediately after college and cannot wait for another six months to complete the training. And, in a short training program, there are limitations about how much we can teach; to make a fundamental change you need industry knowledge.
At a very basic level, colleges can reach out to industry and work out some sort of guest lecture program to cover emerging topics. Colleges could then appoint part time professors or people who are experts in certain areas and interested in teaching. A curriculum needs to be worked out for this purpose.
Colleges/Universities can then tap into those industry professionals who have a passion for teaching and offer them a second career to tap into their vast experience and network. If you get industry-experienced faculty, then the connection with industry increases, they are always able to contact their industry counterparts for curriculum development, research, project work, internships and placement. This helps in establishing long term and meaningful linkages between the specific needs of the industry and students . Students passing out will be industry ready cutting down on precious time and cost on both sides.
Most of the professionals in this industry work in geographically distributed multicultural environment. We emphasize a lot on soft skills. These skills are more about being open and willing to communicate rather than being right with English grammar and pronunciation. People should be willing to talk and express themselves and this aspect comes from your basic schooling and we should encourage people to share, discuss and debate their ideas so that the core principle of willing to communicate will be imbibed in them. And maybe the language, grammar may not be perfect for all but that doesn’t matter because people all over the world are ready to make those adjustments. This will enable many students to not only seek jobs in MNCs but also do well in their career.When the students come out of college, the industry already knows his or her fitment in a job role. The quality of research also will go up, and you can say these are the outputs of having industry-experienced teachers.
Emphasis on communication and life skills
Today, we get youngsters who are very regimented and who come out with a feeling that asking questions is wrong and some of this also overlaps with cultural aspects of subservience to hierarchy and seniority . These are some things we need to change and encourage the quality to be curious and ask questions. The critical age is between 8 to 15 years where we can impact the communication skills and cultivate the curious attitude of a child. During this time if we are controlling them and not letting them speak, then all these skills are not developed. This attitude then sets in and limits their ability to communicate and also their employment opportunities.
Aligning work with passion and respect of all roles
It is important to know your personality traits. If you are able to understand yourself properly and identify your strengths, you can align your career in that direction. The common perception about career growth in India is to become a manager and then a vice president. If you are passionate and competent about something, try to mould your career in that area. Keep upgrading yourself, focus on continuous learning, if you are interested you will automatically start learning new things. The key word is passion, discover your passion and align your career in that way. It can be a killer combination!
Society has an important role to play here. Whether you are a software developer or a senior manager, every professional should be respected in the same way. The society needs to understand, respect the achievements of people who are focused on their areas of passion and interest, and that change is yet to happen. Sadly we still go by designations as a sign of achievement, success and social status. Companies can also contribute to social awareness by counselling employees and preparing them, by giving them the right kind of information and make them feel respected adequately.
This will also help in coming with lot more innovation. We are starting to see a lot of startups but we need to really keep innovating and coming up with path-breaking solutions. For the size of talent that we have, we need to see more innovation coming out of India. This can happen only when we get everything right in our academic system and research through passion and commitment. And of course, the fast evolving IT industry has to embrace young talent and groom them early on.