Is the IT industry as big a draw as it was yesterday, or is the lure waning? Caroline Diana analyses the emerging trends.
Sandhya Radhakrishnan was elated when she got her entrance exam results. Her scores were impressive, and her dream of becoming an engineer was soon to be realised. She was keen on specialising in Information Technology (IT). For, at the time, an engineering degree in IT promised a greater job potential.
Fast forward eight years. Sandhya is now working for a reputed MNC and is part of the top management. Strangely, none of her team members is an IT specialist. "I have been in this organisation for almost four years. We have been hiring professionals holding an engineering degree in computer science, mechanical, electrical and electronics, or civil. Very rarely do I come across someone who has majored in IT," she says.
IT was a fad few years ago, and today it`s a goner, opine experts. The demand for IT then was high merely because the IT and ITES companies were hiring engineers with basic programming skills, points out Daipyan Bannerjee, head, talent acquisition, Ace Creative Learning. "Projects that were outsourced to India involved simple, vanilla programming, which did not require high-end technical skills,” he says.
Today, the scenario has become more complex. Companies demand better skilled people. Employability of our IT graduates has become an issue. Sometime back, the NASSCOM published a study saying that only 25% of our IT graduates were employable.
In another study, Aspiring Minds, a Gurgaon-based employability assessment firm, said only 2.68% of the 500,000 engineers that India produced annually, met the skill requirements of the IT products sector.
Naveen K, head, Orchard and Campus Talent Acquisition, Mindtree agrees with this. "This means that only 30% of these graduates come with relevant domain skills. Remainder find employment in other IT enabled jobs like Infrastructure Management and Support, or BPO,” he says.
Abdul Khadder, project manager, Hewlett Packard, says that the quality of recruits is going down every year. "Most of these candidates do not have the primary skills of problem solving or logical reasoning which is what engineering is all about,” he says.
The ‘Aspiring Minds’ report corroborates Khadder’s statement. Only a small percentage of engineers have the competence to apply engineering mathematics to solve problems, it notes.
It further states that “building India`s prowess in IT products would require significant focus and investment in training and evaluating students in core technology”.
Many times, Khadder says, recruits flaunt the newer technologies. But what projects require is fundamental programming ability and basic communication skills. “Sadly, the institutes have failed to offer what the industry needs," he says
Experts attribute this to dearth of skilled faculty. Prof S Sadagopan, director (president), International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), says, "Companies find an industry-academia gap because not every college can afford expert faculty,” he says.
While it`s true that IT companies hire all kinds of engineers, techies advice students not to discount IT specialisation.
PB Kotur, general manager and head, Mission10X, Wipro, says that students with IT course do have an advantage. However, they need to take efforts to upgrade themselves to be in line with industry expectations.
"Right skills for the right job at the right time are the business demands today. Ability to learn is an important possession, each IT aspirant should have. Survival of the fittest and survival of the fastest rule the IT skills space," he shares.
Restructuring IT curriculum is the need of the hour, but its implementation is a must, experts opine. Kotur says, "As a first step, the engineering institutes should impart good engineering education with the right kind of faculty, right curriculum and in a proactive learning environment.”
Professor S Raghunath, corporate strategy & policy, and dean (admin) IIM-B, says that IT curriculum design should be revisited every two years to ensure that it stays relevant. "Many programming languages are undergoing change. Else, industry will not find relevance in the course context being taught in these programmes," he signs off.
How to set IT right?
Experts are busy exchanging ideas about how to add value to IT education to produce quality professionals. Setting up research centres to look at business and policy problems surrounding the IT industry seems a popular solution.
Active industry collaboration helps in enhancing relevance of education. This could be achieved in the IT sector through programs that extend beyond department boundaries in colleges.
Globally, institutes like MIT have constantly worked with industry to collaborate in research and education to address significant new trends. Therefore, corporate houses could collaborate in creating IT institutes of excellence, they say.
"Academic researchers may be asked to tackle complex problems which the industry faces. This may require multifunctional perspective rather than an approach from a single academic discipline," says Prof Raghunath.
K Naveen however, says that setting up research centres would involve huge costs. “How many have the necessary financial backing to achieve this? Moreover, do we have enough research fellows? Existing teaching staff must get themselves upgraded and produce quality output from the existing infrastructure. "This would attract industry to participate,” he says.
Kotur says that the industry thinking about academia and academia thinking about business world should happen as a culture. “For a better society and a better country, both these worlds should work in unity.”
Prof. S. Krishna, founder and chairperson, Global Strategy and Management Academy, says that the IT domain will grow and change continually for several more decades. But the industry needs interested, dedicated and well trained people.