Friday, June 28, 2013

Engineering Career in India : Some Aspects that are Often Overlooked !

One of the noticeable changes that occurred in India after it partially adopted the free market economic policies of the Nineteen Nineties, is the mushrooming of engineering colleges in every nook and corner of the country.
Yes, the Government of India has been giving fantastic sops to entrepreneurs to set up engineering colleges in the last few years by setting up the All India Council for Technical Education with statutory powers as delegated and implemented through the provisions of the AICTE Act of 1987 .

As per the published statistics of AICTE, the approved intake capacity of technical institutions to train youngsters in diploma, degree and post graduate degree courses in technical and management fields is going to be nearly 3.5 million in 2012-13 as compared to nearly 1.7 million that existed during 2008-09. A neat 100 % growth in four years ! [See the statistics of AICTE here !]

While this kind of a growth is justifiable on the basis of the number of engineers per thousand population in the developed nations like the USA, South Korea, Japan, etc there are very disturbing realities that cannot be overlooked whether or not the policy planners are willing to recognize it.

Setting up and engineering college or a management institution or any such technical institute is prima facie does not come under the purview of a business activity, though in reality it stands out as a profitable business at least for those who grabbed the opportunities in the very beginning.

Let us examine the process of setting up an engineering college and the likely incomes that are generated by such an institution.

The first step is registering a society or trust which is nothing but a registered association of people with the stated objectives as promoting technical education in the state or country or region. Essentially, there would be a few founder members who cleverly make the bye-laws of the society in such a way that the actual promoters control all issues of managing the society for ever. It is not necessary that the founder members have any knowledge in engineering. If the members are mostly from the same family or friend circle, it would be of much advantage. 

The next step is to mobilize the funds. A negligible sum comes from the membership contribution of the society members. The major sum comes as loans or donations made by the individuals to the society. They need to have at least 10-20 % of the total money required to set up the engineering college initially in the account of the society.

At present, setting up the engineering college initially would require about Rs 5 -10 Crores. Let us see how it works out:
         1. Purchase of about 5-10 acres of land away from the city limits ( the more the better) : Rs 2-5 Cr
         2. Costs of AICTE approval including security deposit:    Rs 1 Cr
         3. Buildings and other infrastructure            : Rs.2-4 Cr 
Now, how to initially finance this amount. Suppose that there are 20 members in the society. Each member contributing Rs.10 Lakhs would make Rs. 2 Cr. That is enough for the society to proceed with their project. The rest of the money could be raised through bank loans or other personal loans.

Initially the AICTE gives temporary green signal to proceed with the allocation of a few branches of engineering and the number of approved seats for each branch of engineering. The trend adopted by the new engineering colleges is to start courses on Computer and Information Technology, Electronics, Electrical, Communication which requires the minimum infrastructure and offer the maximum possibility of various course combinations. In any case, the start up institute gets permission to start 3-4 streams of graduate studies with an intake capacity of about 160 students in an year. 

If the college is fortunate, they get all their seats filled up. If not, they may get around 100 students. There is government patronage in getting the seats filled and in fixing the minimum course fees. As the minimum fee is government determined, the start up engineering college in the first year itself would be in a position to earn about a crore. They manage the finances by paying less initially to the faculty and the staff so that a surplus is generated in the first year itself. Every year the number of students increase to become the maximum in four years time. The revenue of the college (society) by way of student fees now surpasses more than fifty percent of the total money invested. In a few years time, the society cleanly comes out of all debts and would have good sums to spend in improving the infrastructure, beautification and other improvements with money accumulating in its accounts. The society members get back their loans with interest. If the college has survived a decade, the chances are that it becomes a good institute provided the management committee and the staff do their job well. 

Legally, the individual members of the Society which manages the college cannot have any personal gains from the profits of the college. But it should be remembered that the majority Indians do not have any mindset to do any philanthropic work. The simple logic for them is this: If there is no fayada (benefit) why should any one do some work ? So definitely fayada is there. But how this benefit is to be realized is not written in the laws and the statutes. So the unfair siphoning of funds accumulated by collection of hefty fees do take place. The methodologies are the same old practices that are adopted by people who are entrusted with powers to manage. It does not matter whether it is the industry, the NGO, the society or the government department ! Absence of the laws or inadequate check systems or pliable individuals all make these things easier. But at the same time the law enforcement agencies can target any one whimsically if they so desire. This gives the power centres ample scope to control things the way they want. In short, prevalence of arbitrariness becomes the way of governance in a country which claims to be democratic.

Now coming back to the fate of the millions of fresh engineering graduates whose parents spent nearly a million rupees for getting their engineering degrees ! There is no authentic data on how many of them find a useful job. Even then, private estimates by various agencies figure out unemployment levels as high as 30 % among engineering graduates of India. Remember, this is the situation of the present. You can well imagine the situation when the number of graduates double in the near future as planned by AICTE.

Even this unemployment figures could be misleading. The actual could be much higher considering the fact that the majority engineering graduates of any discipline are going to be employed in non engineering jobs including computer software related fields. In the software industry and the BPO industry of India, the markets lie beyond the boundaries of India and no one really knows how far this industry could go like this. Will the software industry bubble burst some day ? What would happen to the millions of Indians and the Indian economy that have now surrendered themselves to an economic activity which they do not really understand with regard to its market dynamics ? In other words, what would happen if the major markets that are outside India change their priorities ? Only foolish people will try to live without contingency plans !

So what are we supposed to do then ? Training engineering graduates and postgraduates in the engineering colleges in huge numbers is one thing. But that is not going to help India getting improvements in engineering expertise in any way. No fresh engineer is good to undertake any real life engineering work with confidence unless he or she gets the opportunity to get trained under experienced seniors for a couple of years. Again no engineering graduate can gain useful experience when opportunities of actual work exposure do not exist. A good number of working engineers in many organizations in India hardly get any useful experience to make them an expert in their field of work.

Indian planners, who are definitely not experienced engineers or technocrats, have forgotten the importance of having matching numbers of trained technicians and engineering supervisors and the importance of them gaining reliable work experiences by doing years of actual work. When India prefers to import equipment and systems from China and other countries, what is clearly forgotten is the opportunities lost in this country to get its people trained in core engineering and technology works.

Operating in this manner without understanding the fundamentals have landed India into a precarious situation. If any one wants to set up a manufacturing base in India, he is posed with the problem of shortage of experienced technicians and engineers. In a competitive world, how can you think of spending huge sums for training all your man power some where else always ? Barring a few, almost every manufacturing facility now India are foreign owned. They may close shop at any given time when things do not move in their favor.

Engineering graduates, post graduates and doctorates who work in the engineering colleges as teaching faculty cannot be considered as engineers with practical experience, in India. This is because of the extremely poor mobility of engineers from industry to academics and vice versa in India. The AICTE which is presently dominated by academicians seem to prevent this from happening for reasons that could be guessed easily. Engineering curricula in India is crammed with theoretical topics which are of practically no use in real life situations in many instances. Engineering colleges and universities need to learn tailoring of the courses for the benefit of the industries where the engineers are going to be employed by mutual interactions. However, due to the impractical approaches by AICTE and the institutions, such a thing can never happen in India as that are happening in developed countries like the USA and some European nations. The result is that India produce more cut-paste engineers who haven't really understood what engineering really is !

Now let me come to the personal side of engineering career. Engineers are the most isolated lot of professionals in the world, even while they do their jobs in teams. This is because, every individual engineer, in most situations of actual engineering, does a unique work most often not really understood by their colleagues, peers or seniors. Their problems are not realized by their family members, their employers or their colleagues who themselves could be engineers. This is true even for those engineers who happen to be modern IT engineers. Engineering in reality is a brain storming work and as human beings are, no one really wants to live with fuming brains always. Thus in real engineering field, a number of engineers learn the tricks of cheating their hardworking colleagues to gain easy benefits. Many times, especially in India, deserving engineers get neglected when clever colleagues snatch their opportunities. In such a situation, most often it so happens that the clever ones get elevated to top positions of technocracy. This complicates the matter further for real working engineers because now it would be their bosses who would do the actions of killing the real engineering and technology work environment. Real brainy engineers would be totally deprived of their opportunities to excel in their fields doing good for the country and the society. The easy goers would be happier and benefited if their organization get an equipment, project or technology from external sources rather than getting it done using their own talents ! Many organizations in India with major stakes in engineering and technology have failed miserably to accomplish their goals or sustain their goals only due to this kind of a situation. Indian engineers due to various reasons become so selfish that they fail to do mentoring their subordinates so that the latter can give their best in their career.

Another aspect which I have noticed is important to be understood in this context. The engineering curricula, as I said earlier, is too theoretical oriented that the young graduates do not get much opportunity to learn professional ethics and other soft skills that are essential in life. At the same time, when many of them proceed to do their management studies, they forget their engineering for all practical purposes. Unfortunately, post graduation and doctorate courses in engineering are more theoretical and are prepared by those who have learnt it in the same manner before. These courses only prepare an engineering graduate to be a teacher of some theoretical aspects  of applied physical sciences and they would no longer be in a position to distinguish between science and engineering. Unlike in other professional courses, engineering has degraded itself to be worth of considering as a professional course. Thanks to the way it proceeded in India in the last few decades.

The degradation is too visible when you notice the eagerness of some technocrats who proudly declare them as management experts and not as engineering experts. They consider engineering as an inferior job. This is a peculiar situation in India. No engineer in high positions in developed nations would ever prefer to say like this. In fact this particular situation has created a situation in India that many engineering organizations are now headed by non-engineers.

If any one has failed the engineering profession, no one else should be blamed. It is the so-called engineers themselves who created such a situation in this country. By creating that kind of a  situation they have knowingly or unknowingly made engineering a free-for-all profession with no value. That is perhaps the reason why the top brain engineers from the IITs and other such institutes are trying their level best to use their education to leave this country seeking better pastures elsewhere where they can use their talents and creativity in a better way !

India needs engineers who can work for India with honor and dignity. India needs to provide its engineers the opportunity to try out their skills without the hassles of constraints and pressure of opportunists. When that is possible, perhaps we could think of keeping pace with our neighbors like China.

At least we would be doing some justice to the million of youngsters who are hopefully spending their moneys and brains to acquire the basic skills in engineering. If we fail to do that, then it would soon be the engineering bubble that is going to burst in India !

11 comments:

  1. Great Article!!! This is totally enthusiastic post for the students willing to purse engineering from the Colleges in India. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Great post !! A unique opportunity to meet and listen to leaders of some of the best universities of the world.Thank you for this information.

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  3. Hello Everyone,
    AICTE is a act for see which college are provides the facilities to the student. AICTE are gives the agreement for opening of the college. All the professional college are approved by AICTE. After the engineering student are searching the job. Professional students are search good company which is gives high package.Online many site are available for finding the job in India.

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  4. I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. In your next post, provide the management colleges, so that students come to know about the colleges. Thank for the sharing.

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  5. Engineering is the field with vast scope. Various areas of engineering can be specialized. If you have great skills, right educational background then there is huge scope for you.Campus Bulls offers latest news about the top engineering colleges in india .

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  6. Thank god that medical education is not like the indian engineering education, otherwise, undercooked surgeons may have chopped off the limbs of a physically fit person. Yes, this is the sorry state of Indian Engineers. And you are right, Engineers cannot be trained in roof, they have to be trained under the supervision of Senior Engineers, who do real works. This applies to Software also, until and unless junior engineers will not read the code written by Senior Engineers, how will they learn? Unfortunately, everyone has overlooked this fact. Parents also have to be blamed, they push their kids into Engineering Discipline just to satisfy their ego. They think that since organization such as Infosys train the Engineers in sprawling campus, they will become expert. Infosys etc train the candidates just to show their clients that they have bench strength of the people who can deliver the projects. They are not their to help others learning. People must understand. Vocational training and learning are entirely different process.

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    1. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the millions of students who graduate from the engineering colleges of India now do not get any worth while employment. Yet their ignorant parents still want them to be engineering degree certificate holders by spending lakhs of rupees! The abundant supply of engineering degree holders in the job market in India also mars the opportunities of those who have the essential aptitudes for this career. It is really a pity and the situation needs to be reviewed by some one in authority who cares!

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    2. It will not happen. Indians don't rise above petty things and don't keep personal and professional matters different. It will be always like, if the person is from my state, and speaks my language, we will support him.

      The worst possible work ethics can be found at IT industry. They are now equivalent to the manufacturing factories, where all the clerks and babus work. The functioning style remains the same.

      I don't know how the situation for talented engineers is going to improve in India. Not all talented engineers can go abroad becaue that also costs money. But given the pathetic state, it is advisable that engineering minds just leave this nation. There is nothing for them, no engineering works, no respect, no human kind of treatment.

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  7. Hello! nice article!! Yes some aspects are indeed overlooked but engineering as a career is really lucrative!! All the Engineering jobs are in the blooming zone as nowadays IT as well other fields are in great demand! There indeed is a myth about engineers not getting job! But the real scenario is that, people are not aware much about the right platforms to find the suitable jobs according to their profile!!
    Nevertheless,I wish everyone good luck!!

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