Jnaapti – The Problems We’re After

Check out this statement from a report on National Employability by Aspiring Minds [pdf]:

Even though India produces more than five lakh engineers annually, only 17.45% of them are employable for the IT services sector, while a dismal 3.51% are appropriately trained to be directly deployed on projects. Further, only 2.68% are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of computer science and algorithms. – National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds

While on one side, there is an ever increasing demand for skilled employees in organizations, the unemployment situation is getting out of control.

Concentrating on increasing quantity of engineers has impacted quality drastically. – National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds

Here, we list the most important reasons that we believe, are causing this (a lot of this is after interviews I conducted with a series of students from various colleges in India):

  • Mis-guidance/Lack of guidance: Ask a student of a Tier-2 college, why he joined Engineering and how he chose his branch or college and the answer is mostly along these lines:
    • Because my parents/friends told me to
    • Because my uncle said Computer Science is outdated, Mechanical Engineering is ever-green
    • Computer Science is in “scope” now (another way of putting this is, I have better chances of getting a job)
    • I like Computers since childhood, so my friend’s dad told me I should go for Computer Science
    • This college is closest to my house
    • I really don’t care about where I get a degree or in which branch, all I care about is that I am an “Engineer”

    Hmm, something seems terribly wrong. The lack of counseling is apparent in the way students answer this question. Students don’t know what they are getting into when they join engineering. While many are misguided, some are even pressurized to join the branch of their parent’s choice. Most students don’t have a clue of what their career options are post engineering. While on one side there is a clear upsurge in the requirement for skilled IT force, the comparative dearth of good jobs in other fields is pushing people into IT (or related fields).

  • Lack of motivation: I guess this follows the previous point. If you are not interested to do something in the first place, you cannot expect a lot of motivation or focus now, can you? Students mostly wade through the semesters and find themselves having a degree but no skills to back it. This results in a clear skill-set deficiency, but for the most parts, the industry doesn’t seem to care as they have gotten used to this (in other words the expectations are low).
  • The lack of industry-institute interaction: While “Engineering” is a lot to do with “application”, students are not given the necessary context and guidance to apply what they know. It’s quite possible that students complete a course and have no idea how they are going to use this course once they are employed. While students these days have a good understanding of good apps in Facebook and Android, most have no clue what it takes to build these systems.
  • Faculty quality issues: Most professors/lecturers in Tier2 colleges in India teach not because they like it, but because they have to. The low pay-scales of an engineering faculty (this is a lot better now, but not good enough) compared to an entry-level engineer makes this an unattractive proposition for many who may be interested to teach but also need to think of their cost of living. The dearth of motivated and trained faculty in engineering colleges has further aggravated the problem of student quality.
  • Outdated learning/teaching models: In this day and age, with the advent of technology, the classroom teaching model seems too outdated to be relevant. Sal Khan has outlined it well in this video about Education Predictions for Year 2060. Here are some of Sal’s predictions:
    1. Classroom model fundamentally changes
    2. Instead of our credentials being seat time based and the variable being how well you actually understood the materials, the time is fixed and the variable is your level of achievement.
    3. Role of the teacher rather than being a lecturer, and often giving similar lecture year on year and at the same pace, the teacher will now be a coach or a mentor.
    4. We are going to get to a 99% global literacy rate.

    These are “predictions” and is not the case right now. But we can clearly see a trend in the direction of these predictions.

  • Lack of a fool-proof globally recognized metric for assessment that evaluates a person independent of the way he acquired his knowledge:

    The long tail of employable engineers is getting missed out by corporations. The report found that the top 100 colleges have higher employability as compared to the rest of the colleges (as much as two to four times). Despite this, more than 70% of employable candidates for any sector are in campuses other than the top 100. It was found that 50% of employable candidates for IT services companies and 28% of employable candidates for IT product companies are not even in the top 750 colleges, and thus form invisible pool to most employers. This signals that a large proportion of employable engineers are ending up without any opportunity, which is a dangerous trend for higher education. – National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds

    Organizations lack a good metric system to compare and evaluate students from different universities, so they end up relying on other signals: the marks, the degree and the college name. They then conduct their own entrance tests and interviews. Is it not possible to find a gem in a Tier2+ college? Most organizations do believe that there are gems out there, but they don’t have a process to approach them. The low conversion rate makes this a no-go. We at Jnaapti have already proven the issues with this and have successfully connected students with companies that are more aligned with their interests. Over time, we will be building an alternate metric system that is more fool-proof and reliable and there are a few companies that are solving this problem alone some with a global focus.

It is these problems that we have set out to solve…