Job Crisis At IITs: Misleading Data or Real Concern? An Expert's Perspective

Job Crisis At IITs: Misleading Data or Real Concern? An Expert's Perspective

Dr. Sudhir Mehta, a board member of VJTI, Mumbai, offers a different perspective on the prevailing issue.

Megha ChowdhuryUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2024, 06:51 PM IST
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IIT Delhi | IIT Delhi

Recent reports about a job crisis at IITs, with 38% of the 2024 batch yet to be placed, have raised concerns. However, Dr. Sudhir Mehta, a board member of VJTI, Mumbai, offers a different perspective.

"Send me an unemployed but proficient engineer from IIT, and I'll hire them," shared Dr. Mehta on his social media post claiming that the news about the job crisis at IIT's is misleading and the data is skewed.

The Free Press Journal reached out to Dr. Mehta to understand why he believes the job crisis narrative is misleading and how the situation can improve.

Why do you believe the news about 'Job crisis at IITs as 38% of the 2024 batch yet to be placed' is misleading?

The term "placed" can vary in meaning. What do these reports consider a student as "placed"? Students may have received a job offer but may have not accepted it. Do the students have to accept the offer for it to count? However, many students might receive offers but choose not to accept them, opting for better opportunities or alternative career paths like higher education or entrepreneurship. The reported placement figures do not necessarily indicate a job crisis but rather a shift in career preferences and opportunities.

Many IIT graduates explore diverse career options such as government services, higher studies, international recruitment, family businesses, or startups, which are not reflected in placement statistics. So, the number of unplaced students across IIT campuses can be attributed to several factors.

But in reality, the shortage of skilled talent, particularly in fields such as engineering, is a significant challenge faced by many industries. Various companies in Pune alone need over 100,000 engineers, yet we struggle to find qualified candidates.

Why do many IIT students join traditional businesses, or find jobs outside campus placements?

Students are now looking for alternative career paths rather than immediate placement in traditional jobs. Like, for example - government jobs.

Why? Well, because government jobs often provide greater job stability and financial security compared to private sector roles these roles are also seen as a symbol of prestige and status in society.

Some students also want jobs beyond traditional engineering roles and would rather not take on work that requires hands-on technical roles like civil engineering at construction sites. They prefer roles that involve more strategic or policy-oriented work.

A lot of them also choose to pursue higher studies like a master's or doctoral degree in various fields, including management, science, and technology. There also seems to be a mismatch between students' expectations and the actual job market dynamics. So they end up exploring job opportunities abroad, attracted by the global exposure, diverse work environments, and potentially higher remuneration packages.

Some IIT graduates choose to join family businesses or startups, milking their technical expertise to contribute to established enterprises and build upon family legacies.

What factors contribute to the higher placement and higher education rates at VJTI compared to IITs?

Pursuing a career in engineering should be about more than just securing a job. A lot of students are pressured into studying engineering by their families and society in general. They’ve been told - “Get into engineering and your life will be set.”

But is life really ‘set’ once you get into an engineering college? Simply choosing a career path based on external pressures or expectations may lead to dissatisfaction in the long run, leading to students declining job placements from colleges.

The job offers facilitated by the VJTI placement cell are more likely aligned with the student’s academic background, career interests, and industry preferences and it has achieved a placement rate of 77% for its B.Tech. students in the ongoing campus recruitment drive for the 2023-24 batch.

Out of 623 registered students from nine engineering branches, 478 have already secured placements. A total of 533 offers were extended by 255 recruiters, including 14 international companies participating in this year’s recruitment.

What skills or competencies are often lacking in engineering graduates?

There is often a gap between the skills imparted by educational institutions and those required by industries. Our students are not adequately prepared for the rapidly evolving needs of the job market, leading to a shortage of candidates with relevant, up-to-date skills.

Many engineering graduates lack hands-on experience with real-world projects and applications. Employers often struggle to find candidates who possess both technical expertise and practical experience relevant to their specific industry or domain.

What soft skills are crucial for engineering graduates, and how can educational institutions nurture these qualities?

University of Pune, is known as the `Oxford of the East’ for its quality education but does our teaching go beyond textbooks?

Have we ever considered the outdated nature of India’s engineering education programs? Is the syllabus being updated constantly and held to international standards?

Our educational resources and libraries are flooded with obsolete books. In turn engineering professors are also limited to just reading out old notes or following sub-standard textbooks.

The real question we need to ask is - are our engineers, really engineers?

There is also often an overemphasis on marks or grades rather than on actual knowledge, skills, or personal development. To address these challenges, there is a need for systemic reforms in engineering education.

This includes updating the curriculum to current industry needs, providing faculty development programs, Internships, co-op programs, and project-based learning opportunities can help students gain valuable experience and provide practical experience to job seekers.

How will AI impact the demand for engineering talent, and what are the implications for educational institutions?

Automation and AI are reshaping the nature of work across industries, leading to a growing demand for engineers with expertise in many more verticals.

For example, let’s look at the electric mobility industry which is experiencing rapid growth and innovation globally. But are we actively promoting career opportunities in the electric mobility industry among students?

Let’s not forget to invest in facilities to support hands-on learning and real-world projects related to electric mobility. Colleges can leverage different marketing channels to reach students interested in building careers in the electric mobility industry or other emerging sectors.

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