Dialogue on Transforming the Indian Higher Education Landscape with Shekhar Sanyal, Director, The IET

Dialogue on Indian Higher Education Landscape with Shekar Sanyal, Director, The IET

India churns out close to 650,000 engineers every year, but they battle the issue of unemployability which in turn reduces their competitiveness in a global market. They lack right understanding, attitude and job-ready skills that also hinder their overall growth.

With this trend, Indian engineering talent has been facing a tough time at the global level. Why is it so? What are the challenges faced by Indian engineers? What are the key skills of a 21st century workforce? What can be done for engagement and partnerships between K-12 and HigherEd?

Let's discover the answers to these questions in our interview with Shekhar Sanyal, Director & Country Head, The IET.

What reasons according to you are driving the need to change education globally?

Technology is changing rapidly. Customer behavior, buying patterns and demands are transforming. The advent of the Internet has forever altered acquisition of information and knowledge.

The latest phenomenon – ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ or MOOC has millions of people signing up for online virtual courses that led to Forbes to deem it as “opening of the Ivy League to the masses”.   Everything is just a finger-tip or swipe away and the realm of what one can do with the help of innumerable free apps is expanding every few months.

There are both positive and negative fall outs of this which are both quite obvious and will drive the need for education to evolve to keep pace with the ever-changing scenario.

What are the major challenges faced by Indian engineers?

In a global world, few things can remain exclusive either as a challenge or as an advantage to a particular region. Having said that, some challenges like the absence of a culture of innovation, overwhelming focus on IT and weak approach to research can become roadblocks to engineers in India in pursuit of developing engineering marvels.

What do employers believe are the key skills of a 21st century workforce?

Skills are no longer restricted to technical know-how. Engineering for a greater extent is criticized for producing students with a stronghold in their theoretical knowledge but questionable soft skills.  In addition to deep technical skills, employers are clearly looking for:
Effective communication skills

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Team work and organizational skills

Considering the criticism about the higher education landscape in India, how do you propose India can create globally competent engineers?

Focus on research, a planned approach to industry connect, a curriculum that focuses on practical and hands-on learning and most importantly, developing and igniting curiosity and desire to think out of the box are key.  In addition, internationally recognised professional qualifications like Chartered Engineer give engineers a clear advantage to compete on the global scale.

According to you, what are the measures to be taken by any higher education institution to battle the issue of unemployability?

Institutions for higher education can actively collaborate with industry and government to develop a charter to address challenges of unemployability, especially those arising out of the knowledge-skill gap. A renewed thrust on vocational training will create a balance at all levels and take away the pressure with everyone aiming for the top job. A big opportunity lies in apprenticeships.

What is being and what can be done for Industry-Academia engagement and partnerships between K-12 and HigherEd?

India has very clearly identified the need for its Education System to be much more job-relevant through skills training within the schools. In the core of its revamped education policy is the view that all stages of education need to be seen in an integrated manner, through the perspective of lifelong learning and education. This is manifested by its focus on quality education linked to employability. 

Aside from revamping the primary and secondary education, India has also recognised the demand for employment-oriented vocational education programmes with provision for hands-on training. To this effect India is now focusing on apprenticeship as one of the key components of the 12th plan.

Some technology companies have opened their research centres at academic institutions to provide hands-on experience to engineering students. However, a lot needs to be done for both these partnerships.  The industry-academia collaboration should result in an organised cycle of input, develop and output.

K-12 is foundation and source where curiosity, innovation, questioning and a scientific temper are nurtured.  There are 124,500 secondary schools and these can be the biggest source of nurturing talent in STEM subjects.

How is the IET working towards strengthening the higher education system in India?

Professional institutions such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology are uniquely positioned to play a significant role in addressing the dearth of skilled talent globally. They aim to support engineers / professionals by helping them stay relevant throughout their career.

  • The IET provides Accreditation for educational institutions in India for their undergraduate B.Tech programmes
  • For students and professionals, the IET offers unrivalled access to study resources that help them to stay abreast with engineering and technology trends and address the dynamic and evolving technology landscape
  • The IET helps to strengthen this partnership and creates platforms for the academia and the industry to engage, to conduct joint workshops, lectures and internships
  • The IET arranges mock interviews for students to help them secure entry into foreign universities. The interviews are intended to prepare students to gain admission into engineering courses at institutions in the UK and USA
  • Present around the World (PATW), the IET’s presentation competition for young engineers and technicians is designed to provide the holistic development of engineers to prepare them take on the challenges of building a successful future.
  • The IET offers opportunities to students and professionals to network with peers on national and global platform and thus exchange ideas, insights and knowledge.

Tell us more about the IET’s offerings like Scholarship Award, Job Fair, CITP

With an aim to streamline the industry pipeline for engineering graduates and to build a strong engineering ecosystem in India, the IET has charted certain initiatives like Scholarship Award, and Advantage Job Fair.

IET Scholarship award aims to underline the organisation’s commitment to India’s engineering community and incentivise young people entering the engineering and technology profession.

The IET Advantage Job Fair is a landmark initiative taken by the IET. The IET realized the need to provide a two-way platform to prospective employees and employers to meet each other. This initiatives help ensure that only highly competent and skilled candidates meet the employers.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has licensed the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), to award Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status to its members who meet the established criteria. IET members will join those from BCS and other bodies on the Register of Chartered IT professionals. Information Technology (IT) continues to be a sought-after career option for engineering graduates in India. With the IT employee workforce running to thousands per organisation, an established standard to judge competencies of these engineers becomes very important. With IT professionals at the heart of business there is a growing demand for independent certification of their knowledge and experience. CITP status, and the Certificates of Current Competence awarded to those gaining the status, has been developed to demonstrate that these registration holders have a breadth of knowledge across the whole of IT, with competence in their specialism and an enhanced understanding of the business in which they operate.


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