Online methodologies have the advantage if they create technology-enabled, highly visually appealing learning materials, to greatly engage and enhance the learning experience, feels Dr. Rashmi Sharma, Head, Webel Fujisoft Vara Centre of Excellence 4.0.
When it comes to remote learning, do you think engineering can be taught effectively online?
Engineering education has been traditionally taught in a classroom, with the focus on hands-on learning. In terms of pedagogy, project-based learning, flipped classrooms and experiential learning have proven to be particularly effective in building the types of skillsets, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities that the engineering field requires. In the last few years some engineering subfields such as computer science, information technology and computer technology have had some success in transitioning to an online modality.
Covid-19 created an unprecedented situation where educational institutions worldwide were compelled face-to-face classes to be replaced by online teaching.
There is no doubt that technology has the power to disrupt educational methodologies—AR/VR in particular can transform the learner experience. Online methodologies have the advantage, if they create technology enabled, highly visually appealing learning materials, to greatly engage and enhance the learning experience.
However, there are challenges to online learning. Most students prefer to be taught difficult concepts face-to-face. Peer learning and discussion is a very important component of learning. This is not possible effectively in an online format. Moreover, it is difficult to sustain attention for any significant period of time in online modalities and unfortunately, online materials have not sufficiently evolved as yet to allow for true engagement and effective learning. Most importantly, hands-on learning using instruments in a laboratory setting, which is controlled, is not possible online. This is an essential part of training as an engineer.
Engineering is all about the application of science and technology. In the future, online materials, infrastructure and platforms may evolve to allow for a truly immersive learning experience, that can equal, if not surpass face-to-face teaching methodologies. Till this happens, classroom-based training remains the preferred and more effective method for teaching engineering.
With the job market being hit severely, do you think the courses students choose will also change?
Technology is undergoing rapid development across industries. Emerging technologies are rapidly disrupting the way business is done. With the changing requirements and expectations from industry the job scenario has also changed with high demand for skills in emerging technologies. Therefore, in order to be future ready, students need to select those subjects and technologies that industry requires.
How are you providing skills in new areas such as Deep Tech, AI, ML, robotics and IoT?
The Webel Fujisoft Vara Centre of Excellence: Industry 4.0 is a unique platform. It serves as a bridge between industry and academia. All courses in the CoE are designed as per the requirements of the industry and are based on the requirements of the job market. We have a state-of-the-art facility and infrastructure, with cutting edge hardware and software powering our labs. Our courses are based on 70% hands on learning. Students are taught using experiential learning so they are truly workplace ready. We have technology and knowledge partners like Fujisoft Inc, Japan, Intel, Nvidia, IMI Israel, Think Cyber Israel, Stratasys, Dassault Systèmes, Trend Micro, Fortinet, Boston Training Academy and many more. We ensure that the students from the CoE are trained on the latest advancements in technology.
With a rapidly changing tech scenario and a continuous upgradation of skills, how is the industry able to cope up with the issue of employability of new engineering graduates?
There is always one thing is constant in the industry and that is “change”. Technology undergoes rapid changes which makes it a challenge for organizations to get right and fit talent when they require it. Therefore, it is critical that students understand the requirement of industry and skill up accordingly.
The Webel Fujisoft Vara CoE provide industry with training with the new technologies and is there to serve as their knowledge partner for training of their employees. The CoE conducts awareness sessions, boot-camps, workshops and training sessions for companies so that their employees are skilled in the required technologies. It also has a pool of workplace-ready talent trained in emerging technologies that companies can hire. The CoE offers companies a “hire-train-deploy” model to ensure that when employees join the workplace, they are ready to hit the ground running.
The CoE is an interface between academia and industry. It ensures engineering graduates gain both a specialization as well as the desired set of competencies that make them workplace ready. It is important for industry to work with organizations like the CoE as they can help to solve the challenge of hiring talent with the skill-set that companies require.
While industries are focusing on hiring in new technology areas like AI, IoT, and space technology, what are the other key areas for hiring?
Companies are looking for expertise in Machine learning, Computer Vision, analytics, cybersecurity, IT audit, cloud computing, blockchain, 3D printing, mechanical and industrial designing, security testing, security developer, Tech content developer, Web developer among others. There are many job roles in emerging technologies and the demand is high for skilled professionals.
cybersecurity is required across every sector, be it financial services, critical infrastructure, or hospitals—every industry and organization requires cybersecurity professionals.
How employable are talents from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in terms of meeting the new-age technology requirements?
Having the right skill-set, knowledge and competencies is the critical factor, regardless of where one comes from. There are many students undergoing training in emerging technologies in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Thanks to online learning, the opportunities are limitless and geography is no longer a factor when it comes to accessing courses and learning. In the Webel Fujisoft Vara Centre of Excellence, we get many students from Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities who have tremendous potential and they go on to do really well and get well-paying jobs in highly regarded organizations.
How vital are soft skills today?
Interpersonal skills and workplace competencies are a very important aspect of selection and employment in addition to technical knowledge and skills. Many applicants who are strong in terms of technical skills do not get the roles they desire due to poor communication, interpersonal or presentation skills. The CoE teaches every student a range of skills and competencies including effective communication negotiation skills, decision making, critical thinking and problem skills, an understanding of finance and other competencies, in addition to technical expertise.
How are you developing qualified professionals to fill roles of data scientists, analysts, AI experts, etc?
The Webel Fujisoft Vara CoE works with leading IT companies and industry to understand their requirement and tailors the courses on Data Science accordingly. Their Data Science program covers all major aspects of data science from basic programming and statistics to advanced areas and topics. The programme starts from the very basics and take students to the most advanced levels of statistical modelling and analytics through R and Python, Machine learning, Big Data, Data visualisation techniques using applications preferred by industry. The CoE teaches very advanced levels of machine learning techniques and deep learning with AI. The curriculum covers different areas of analytics so students are well equipped as per the requirements of analytics applications in industry. The CoE offers complete hands-on training using all required applications. All students get placement assistance and a platform to interact with the industry stalwarts during their training at the CoE.
Which are the sectors hiring the most, and the least, and why?
In today’s world, data science and analytics are required by every industry. IT sector, FMCG, Financial, Media, Analytics, Consultancy, FinTech, FMCD, pharma, heavy industry, automobile, medical, tech startups are the major recruiters for data science or analytics presently—however every industry sector is looking for some form of analytics to grow their business further.
Likewise, cybersecurity is required across every sector, be it financial services, critical infrastructure, hospitals—every industry and organization requires cybersecurity professionals. Additive Manufacturing is also being used across sectors—aerospace, healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, FMCG, consumer electronics etc. IoT and embedded systems professionals are also in high demand.
Today all areas of emerging technologies show high demand for trained professionals across industry sectors. In the current scenario, the demand is much higher than the supply. Hence it is an opportune time for engineering students to develop specializations in emerging technologies as this will guarantee well-paying jobs and a fast-growing career.
Dr. Rashmi Sharma
Head, Webel Fujisoft Vara Centre of Excellence 4.0