Monday, April 17, 2017

Engineer & Unemployed!




“More than ever, the world needs good engineers. However, the pool of talent is shrinking not growing”… Dean Kamen.

Dean L. Kamen is an American engineer, inventor, and businessman. He is best known for his invention of the Segway (a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle), as well as founding FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is an international youth organization) with Woodie Flowers, another engineering master. When I read the news saying nearly 65 % engineers passed out from various engineering colleges remain jobless, as an engineer the news not just shocked me but it saddened me & there I recalled this quote by great engineer philosopher. Yes still engineering remains safest bait for every young boy or girl as it’s the way to good life from eyes of Indian society. Now what is this good life, one will ask; simple complete your education, if you are lucky then go to abroad (read USA) for post grad & then get a good job, get married & live happily ever after!  And in above parameters, first two criteria’s in the law of life, engineering degree was a sure key for the third criteria i.e. live ever after happily! I was no exception as I too come from a middle class family & in late eighties engineering or medical was the only two choices given to us if we were supposed to do something good in life & I have chosen engineering. So when I read the news & that too confirmed by none other than our Hon. HRD Minister then I felt sad, not for just the students but for engineering as faculty!

And sure this hasn’t happened in one night as for many years like a silent killer disease which lives in body & slowly makes you weak, this unemployment factor was looming over the engineers & as usual we ignored it. I think the problem is not with students who still aspire to be an engineer the problem is with system which makes them engineer. As any student may it be of civil engg or computer engg, he or she will learn what has been taught to him & only in the way it’s been taught but high time to introspect what we teach them & how! I remember my engineering days when colleges were less but so were the numbers of students also & jobs also, today everything has multi-foldingly increased i.e. number of students aspiring for engineering, number of colleges as well the engineering jobs but one major link is missing & that is number of engineering teachers & when I say teachers I mean quality teachers.  By me this is the most “kamjor kadi” (weak link) in entire system. And I am making this statement with due respect to many of my batch-mates as well friends who are good engineering teachers by themselves & doing their job sincerely yet their number is very less is a bitter fact.

To elaborate my stand, let’s see what’s scenario in engineering academics. I am fortunate of having exposure to many institutes as well students so analyzing what I have seen. To start with, most of the syllabus of engineering basic degrees like civil or mechanical as well for diploma is same since my passing out days & even before that. Also when compared with top class institutes like IITs’ or even COEP i.e. Govt Engg College Pune, right from subjects to pattern of questions everything is same in all colleges, the only difference is in caliber of students as well the way subjects are taught i.e. teaching!  Again one aspect about the IITs & COEP like institutes is they get cream of students i.e. all the toppers from board exams or JEE i.e. the entrance for engg so their passed out engineers are better but I disagree here too. Let’s understand, engineering is not just making the students memorize the formulas, engineering is teaching the students logic behind those formulas & making them able to use that logic to solve the problems in field. Here is where most of the engg schools are failing miserably as they just make the students learn the formulas & recite the same in exams & gets the degree. Well, by this way we are not producing engineers but just engineer named human books who has information but doesn’t know where & how to use it.  Here I will share a famous joke, “A man travelling in balloon lost his way & the balloon was flying over an open field, somehow the man got it at low altitude & saw a youngster on the land. The man by shouting caught attention of the young man & asked where I am, can you help me? The youngster did some calculation on his pocket calculator & told him you are at X altitude & Y longitude & you are in a balloon! On this the man in balloon said thank, you seem to be an engineer. The youngster asked surprisingly, how come you guessed right? Over this the man in balloon said you gave me all the technical information except solving my problem to reach to my destination!

And there is one more joke, a decent guy’s posh car got break down on free way & fortunately he comes to halt near a garage. The garage keeper comes out & asks whether the man in car needs any help? On this the car driver asks, can you repair this car, the engine isn’t responding! The garage guy smiles & says he is qualified automobile engineer & will sure give a try. The car owner says go ahead, have a look; the garage man opens the bonnet, checks some wiring, produces a small hammer & give a punch on the engine & asks the car owner to start ignition. On doing so the engine come to life at once, so the relived car owner asks for the charges. The garage guy says its 50 USD; the car owner exclaims, man fifty bucks, that’s too much for one stroke of hammer! The garage man who is automobile engineer too, smiling replies, “Boss, its 1 USD for the efforts to stroke of hammer & 49 USD to know where to hit that that hammer!”
This is what industries looks for when they hire any engineer, they need a guy who knows where to hit, that they call good engineer! Actually when we classify good engineer & bad engineer, both have knowledge of engineering the only difference is a good engineer knows where & how to use that knowledge!

By me, increased number of so called engineering institutes isn’t the problem but scarcity of good engineering teachers with proper infrastructure along with a syllabus which will understand need of today’s industries is the problem.  And for that like we have courses B. Ed or M. Ed i.e. bachelor or master of education which teaches the teachers how to teach other branches subjects like arts, science; same way high time to start B. Ed or M. Ed engineering courses. Teacher or coach, they plays most important role making a champion by getting out best from the students & latest example is our badminton coach Gopichand, under guidance of which the game has taken our country’s name at new levels with players like Sindhu, Shrikant & Saipranit! We need teachers who will teach engineering logic to the students & not just formulas. Teachers which can interact with respective industries & understand their definition of good engineers & come back to the institutes to make their students able to stand for the challenges industries are facing. Here role of HRD ministry is very important as this will need an effort to make the teaching especially engineering teaching a respected career first. Present scene is except the govt institutes in most other engineering institutes salary structure is just on paper; as most engineering college’s management itself is non technical, so even the senior most teachers are ill treated, a bitter truth which no one related to such institutes will acknowledge openly! And the management which won’t pay enough to its teachers or doesn’t pay respect to them, what we can expect from such management on the front of providing proper infrastructure essential for making engineering students! To add in it a system is missing (or if it’s present yet appears to be missing) which will keep control on all the engineering institutes & assure quality control over the same for having proper infrastructure in all the engineering institutes.
Another important aspect is you can’t make a good engineer in just four years of the degree course; it has to be cultivated right from the first standard. Here again all what the students in school has been taught is don’t go beyond the syllabus, just write what your teachers has told you & what your text books says. Don’t apply your knowledge; just write whatever your textbook says or else you won’t get ten out of ten is what hammered on the young minds in school! And when such students’ joins engineering, already their logical application skills have been destroyed fully & then they either fail in engineering subjects or with great memorizing efforts get the engineering degree without understanding a word of it! Also we need to make the student realize that engineering degree is not just to get assured job of good salary but to learn something which will make them able to create  whole new world for the society, in a way its service to not just nation but entire mankind! And every student should look at the engineering course from this vision. So if we want good engineers then our HRD ministry people should understand the process of making good engineers starts way before the student actually enters in engineering college & so does we should change the teaching as well study pattern right from the school days!

Lastly in any profession along with money self respect is highly essential or else there is no heart in whatever you are doing. This is main reason why barring a few good engineers majority lot keeps away from joining teaching fraternity as their career after engineering. As they feel their knowledge’s true respect is only in working with engineering industries instead obeying to whims of some political big wig in an engineering college with the tag of senior faculty!  The present headlines in media about engineers being jobless are not true; it’s the engineers with just degree & not skill, are the ones which are jobless. One important aspect is while making new good engineers we shouldn’t neglect the existing engineering degree holders & we have to work out courses for them which will create them good engineers out of what they have or else its big waste of man power which we can’t afford!  And we have to do it fast as once the frustration of nobody values our degree creeps in then it’s impossible to retrieve the confidence of these millions of youngsters! If we want to progress as a nation as per our Hon PM constantly claims as his agenda then we need engineers & we need them in large numbers! Every developed country has reached where it is today only on the shoulders of technology & technology doesn’t necessarily means high tech machinery or super computers; technology is minds which delivers in the form of solutions & we have these minds in ample, only need is make them able to understand their own strength! And its duty of every so called good engineer to join hands for this cause or else leave apart being proud to be a good engineer we don’t have any right to call ourselves even an engineer!

Sanjay Deshpande 

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