Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow-Anthony J. D’Angelo
Learning never stops, but the seeds of learnings were sowed at a very young age, and that’s what we call education that in turn becomes a lifelong learning experience. To aptly quote what Issac Newton said: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
It is that discovery of new things powers knowledge, driven by education, delivered by our educational institutions. The 2018 edition of the Dataquest-CMR Best Tech School Survey is all about taking a deep dive into the state of ICT engineering education in the country. As usual, the survey has its share of ups and downs in terms of surveyed institutions rank, their standing across various key parameters like : Academic Environment, Infrastructure, Industry Interface, and Placement.
FOCUS ON INDUSTRY INTERFACE & PLACEMENTS
In India, the skills debate is raging for a while. It has become more pronounced when a rapidly changing industry like ICT going through severe headwinds in the form of a structural recession- changing job roles, obsolete skills sets, contraction of market and business volume leading to cyclical unemployment waves.
As we take a granular look at the ICT industry over the last 2 years, many of these structural recessionary deliverables have impacted the very soul of the industry. Moreover the industry also need to combat the impact of globally disruptive protectionist events in the recent past like BREXIT , and the anti-outsourcing and anti-immigration narrative advanced by the new Republican government voted to office in the United States.
To cut the long story short, the socio-political-economic events have upset both the supply and demand side of the ICT market. It is in this backdrop we need to look at the T-School Survey findings for this year and ponder over the key question are our universities producing relevant and highly skilled readily employable talent.
When we asked this question to some of the leading CEOs, they do agree that there is a challenge at hand. Says Francisco D’Souza, CEO, Cognizant, “ We need to create a ‘future ready workforce’ and at Cognizant, we are committed to a culture of continuous learning. In a business and technology environment where rapid change is the only certainty, our priority is not just to recruit top talent with the latest in-demand skills, but to recruit lifelong learners. We seek people who are energized at the prospect of learning and applying new skills throughout their careers and committed to leveraging our world-class re-skilling opportunities for the benefit of our clients. Cognizant is not just an employer where one goes to apply what she or he knows, it’s a place where one comes to build a career that will constantly keep associates on the cutting-edge of technology and business.”
“We seek to partner with universities and skilling institutions in communities all over the world to train and recruit talented associates. In today’s workplace, digital skills are necessary but not sufficient. We also want candidates to have the skills needed to thrive in the global workforce. This means that teamwork, communication, presentation, and cross-cultural competencies are essential. When these traits are combined with a commitment to lifelong learning, we are able to do great things for our clients,” adds Francisco D’Souza.
Agrees Srinivas Kandula, Country Head, Capgemini, “To stay ahead of the curve and co-innovate with our clients, we need to enhance our skills and keep ourselves abreast of new age digital technologies. Capgemini has adopted ‘Digital Age Learning’ through well-defined upskilling and re-skilling programs. Our key focus is to encourage all our employees to access these training programs and be part of this digital journey. The education system in India needs to align with the changing needs of the professional world to impart education that goes beyond theoretical knowledge and focuses on employability. This means greater industry-academia linkage.”
According to Dr. Pradip Dutta, Corporate Vice President of Synopsys. Inc. and Managing Director, Synopsys India, he says, “ One of the fundamental tenets that we follow within our leadership team in Synopsys South Asia is an uncompromising attitude towards who we bring on as our colleagues in the company. The simple motto is to hire the best. Our unwavering aim is to have a stellar talent base in Synopsys. We deal with deep tech in electronic design automation, semiconductor IPs and enterprise level software integrity. The skills required are rather complex. For example ideally we would like to have a mix of data structures and algorithms, coupled with an understanding of electronic circuitry, proficiency in math and finally efficient programming skills. Such a combination is esoteric by nature and not too many institutes at the undergraduate level can satisfy this kind of a requirement. We, therefore, look for engineers who have a good base and eager to learn. As we like to say, hire for attitude and train the skills.”
Clearly what emerges out of conversations from these CEO’s who are veterans in the ICT industry is that institutions today need to forge closer ties with the industry for a wide-ranging of activities and recalibrate their curriculam and course delivery. They need strategic Centers Of Excellence(CoE) to attract the best of companies for campus recruitment drives. The survey hence takes into consideration industry interface and placements as two critical parameters.
INNOVATE TO BE COMPETITIVE
The T-School Survey in its ambit covers both the Private and Government institutions. As we compare and contrast Government and Private institutions each has its high points in terms of various survey parameters, the Government Tech Schools like Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur are clear leaders in many counts. However if one looks at the overall 100 rankings ( Private and Government combined), 8 are from the Government category and just 2 private institutions managed to be on the Top 10. So this in a way indicates the private institutions need to up the ante to be more at par if they want to benchmark themselves with some of the leading Government tech schools in the country.
That said, the private universities we surveyed are no means lagging behind, many had ramped up their infrastructures the last few years and attracted some highly qualified faculty and produced great alumni, but many need to up the ante in parameters like industry interface and placements to further gain a competitive edge.
So at the end of the day, if one were to introspect on this year’s findings, we need to see through the prism of digital disruption and how it has impacted the jobs in the ICT landscape. Traditional job roles are changing and automation and AI are taking on and outdating repetitive tasks.
As Dr. Pradip Dutta, of Synopsys aptly sums it up, “My personal recommendation to the institutes is to provide a solid base and then introduce the students to a lot of electives that are suited to the industry. They should also tailor their program where students can do an extended, roughly six months of internship, with the industry to orient their thinking to what would be expected of them in the future.”
So one of the biggest takeaways is the key question every tech school needs to ask: Are we creating enough employable new age tech skills for the new digital age? We leave you with this thought and the survey results and the HR leadership interviews, talent management insights out of the T-School survey might provide some key pointers.