For India to move towards the goal of innovation and excellence, industry-academia collaborations play a significant role. Academia and industry are the two most important stakeholders when it comes to developing economy, enabling innovation, improving skilling and education system and thereby churning out highly skilled workforce.
To talk about industry-academia collaborations in India, the positive impact they are creating, how these collaborations are also creating an environment of entrepreneurship, innovation and transformation, NSN has started an interview series in partnership with Fronius India. As part of this, we conversed with Professor Som Ashutosh, Ajay Kumar Garg Engineering College (AKGEC), Ghaziabad. AKGEC has been in association with Fronius India and setup a Centre of Excellence, and also have been conducting workshops, seminars and training programs in welding domain. Let’s read on…
Q: Please tell us about your association with Fronius India?
A: We’ve been associated with Fronius India since 2014. When we decided to start a centre in the domain of fabrication and welding, we were looking for an industry partner. That is when we met the team Fronius, who helped us in establishing a Centre of Excellence in welding at Ajay Kumar Garg Engineering College, Ghaziabad campus. This was the first Centre of Excellence that was being set-up in association with Fronius India. Soon, an MoU was signed with Fronius International GmbH to establish the centre and conduct joint training, research and consultancy in welding. The centre has since then not only been conducting skilling and competency development programs for X/XII pass, ITI, Diploma, B. Tech / M. tech candidates and corporate professionals but also has been offering various Industrial Services to MSME’s in the region.
Q: How Fronius India helped your institution in building the industry-academia connect?
A: Fronius India had always had a vision for impacting skilling and education in India. That is the reason we could approach them. Fronius India has helped us in each and every way. From the point of establishing the centre, training of our people, development of training modules to conducting several joint workshops, seminars and training programs.
Along with Fronius India, we have jointly organized a successful seminar on “Advances in Arc Welding” in 2019, where Fronius India mobilized more than 60 delegates from various Industries in Gurgaon and Faridabad region. Subsequently, we have conducted many other joint training programs, seminars, workshops for their client / partner industries. We have jointly conducted the training of welders and supervisors from Jindal Stainless Ltd. recently. They have also organized several visits of their clients and customers at our premises, and this has helped us immensely to reach out to the industry and demonstrating our strengths in welding domain. Fronius India also got us connected to the Indian Railways and have also organized joint training program for supervisors and engineers of three workshops of Indian Railways.
Q: With sudden disruption in the skills delivery across the nation, how do you perceive training on simulators and virtual training for your students from Engineering and Technology streams?
A: When we see how things have unfolded last year, it has pushed everyone to think of ways and means to adopt blended learning platforms and to deliver the skilling programs. But let me share that we have achieved this very successfully for some of our trainees. To a major extent, we were able to meet the expectations of trainees. We were able to train them on modern day tools like simulators, various online softwares and tools which could help students learn and practice on their own. The practicals were conducted through online demonstration and intelligent solutions that are available made this possible. For example, Fronius India has Industry 4.0 ready WeldCube technology, which can further be used in creating such demonstrations online very effectively.
Q: How important is industry-academia collaborations in staying relevant during the changing times?
A: Industry-academia collaboration and interaction has always been and will always be relevant. Without these collaborations and dialogue between industry and academia, both these entities will suffer. Because industry will not be able to get what they expect and academia will also not be able to offer courses that are the relevant and what industry is looking for. In absence of this connect, we have seen how higher technical education has suffered in the past few decades.
I believe you would agree with me that the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education programs has been going down gradually. This has been a reason of concern. And I strongly feel that along with various reasons, lack of true industry-academia connect has been one of the major factors leading to this deterioration. In order to bring this back to the level we expect, industry and academia will have to work very closely with each other. This will help us in bringing back the past glory for the engineering education in the country.
Also read: Fronius India prepares youth for Industry 4.0 in welding – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/webinar-on-robotic-welding-systems-and-industry-4-0/
Q: Please share some insights on the role of industry in preparing industry-ready curriculum, workplace exposure through internships and apprenticeships.
A: When I am talking about industry-academia connect, I am primarily talking about designing of the courses and curriculum as per the requirement of the industry. Also giving the trainees and students of these academic institutions the industry exposure in terms of internships and apprenticeship programs. This is necessary because only dialogues on certain platforms is not going to work.
The real essence of industry academia connect can only be achieved when the industry gets involved with the academia in designing the curriculum, and when students are given the necessary exposure through these apprenticeship programs.
Fronius India has been doing a wonderful job in this aspect. All the training programs at our institution have been jointly designed, have been vetted by the industry, and also Fronius India has always been helpful in providing internships and apprenticeships to our students either at their facility in Pune or at their client locations across the country.
Q: Are there any other points you wish to share?
A: I would like to thank National Skills Network- NSN, for this wonderful initiative that you have started, and I am sure this sort of a dialogue between the academic institutions and the industry has to be there always. In that way NSN is doing a great job, and is bringing the collaboration to the extent and the level at which it should be.