India's technical education system is not turning out qualified job applicants
Off-shoring and outsourcing are a constant refrain among North American engineers: Move the jobs somewhere else where there’s a less-expensive technical work force and lots of them. That’s been the worry about India for a decade.
Early feedback was mixed, if you looked hard enough. Management loved it and used it like a finger flick against the ear of staff engineers: Work harder or else. But in almost every discussion about the wonders of offshoring, an executive would acknowledge challenges:
It wasn't particularly efficient, at the end of the day;
Designs had to be revved over and over again;
Time-zone and language issues slowed design cycles;
Indian teams were rarely given bleeding-edge designs.
Now comes a Wall Street Journal article that states (broadly) that while India graduates millions every year, few of them are fit for hire. Highlighting the plight of a call center company called 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd., the Journal writes:
"In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore."
Roughly 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India's high-growth global industries, according to the article.
OK, so 24/7’s business is not ours. Even so, the educational system comes under fire in engineering. Corruption and bribery are not uncommon. Can’t pass an exam? Put your cell number on the test and perhaps the examiner might call seeking a few hundred bucks to get you a passing grade.
Engineering graduate, Ajay Kumar, says (in the video below):
“Sometimes it happens that you’re not taught that much. You don’t get that much knowledge.”
Of course, the Indian education system isn’t falling apart. IIT is considered one of the premier technical universities in the world today and graduates excellent engineers. Education bureaucrats say corruption is rare and handled with jail time. But IIT is one institution; there are 3,000 engineering schools in India with a capacity for 1.5 million students, four times the level just 10 years ago.
A senior board designer friend suggested the story’s theme might be exaggerated because thousands of excellent engineers and entrepreneurs graduate every year. Still, he said, in several projects in which he used Indian engineers:
“They have the book part down cold, but when it came to (executing), they couldn’t. I had to fire them.”
Somewhere between the poles lies reality. But the notion that North American engineering jobs will be Hoovered up by India just isn’t coming to pass--no matter how sanctimonious engineering management may be about efficiency, profits and "overhead."
In a way that is sad, I'm not very familiar with the US school system, but I would wager that financial status affects which college one can attend. I have a colleague who is a telecoms technician by training but is the best SW and HW engineer I've ever met. He writes multithreaded DSP code in assembler and designs kW motor controllers for a living yet never saw the inside of a university. I have seen many engineers churned out by various universities that don't come close to his skill level. I think mental attitude and dedication account for 100 times more than school. How do you decide who to employ? I would say a written test, but not a resume if you're serious about getting the best man for the job.
When I started at Motorola so many years ago, they would not hire grads from DeVry, ITT, etc. as electrical engineers. For a technician position, yes. For an engineering position, no. They did not consider a BSEE degree from those types of schools to be real BSEE.
I don't know if MOT ever changed that policy, but clearly other employers did not share MOT's opinion. An acquaintence of mine got a BSEE from DeVry and was rather peeved that MOT considered him unqualified to be an engineer...so he just got a job (as an engineer) at another company.
Do you think the bean counters care or understand what your knowledge and experience are worth? I don't. I worked for a biomed company for 6 years and was let go for someone cheaper. I had got a board up and running in a couple of weeks and my cheaper replacement couldn't get a second going in 6 months. He did have a prettier CV with names like HP on it, but there might have been a reason for that?
The USA is cranking out unqualified engineers too. I have interviewed hundreds of engineers and graduates from the crappy tech schools like ITT, Heald, DeVry, etc. are consistently awful. Yet, they are convinced their BSEE's are the same as those from regular, accredited universities. I’ve repeatedly asked HR to filter those applicants, but there are so few grads from universities out there, we often have no choice. Every now-and-then I find a gem out of the tech school grads, but it seems they were very sharp going into the program and had a genuine, life-long interest in engineering.
There’s another aspect to Indian engineers’ mediocre performance many don’t know about: An Indian Bachelor’s Degree means they graduated high school. In the US, high school is high school and college is college, but in many Indian areas, grade 9-12 is called “college” and graduating “college” means they have a BS degree. My wife is East Indian and readily admits this and simply says US college is just harder that Indian college. I’ve confirmed this with Indian coworkers too. It sure makes for an uneven playing field in the US when my Indian engineer counterparts’ college degrees can’t be verified. My degree of course can be easily verified with a single call. I wish more US employers were aware of this.
Quite seriously I think we need to step away from an entirely market driven system. Parts of it must be market driven, but a lot of it has to be guided from a central management centre that is concerned about total final outcomes rather than some short sighted selfish profit motive. The only reason why America is in the mess it is now is because it thinks that totalitarian free market is the answer to all it's problems. Totalitarian capitalism is as bad or even worse than totalitarian socialism or any of the other totalitarianisms. They plod along for while and then collapse in their own excrement. You need boundaries and ground rules to guide things, not a free-for-all.
What u've said is 100% true. The current educational system in India needs to undergo a revolutionary change in order to produce efficient personnel meeting current industrial and technology demands. However, I would like to bring out a point here. Job opportunities in specific field should be developed which would automatically bring a radical change in the educational system and syllabus. This kind of change is evident from sudden growth of engineering colleges (which doesn't even have basic amenities) after people started getting tons of opportunities in software companies. The government should help and encourage entrepreneurs and also a strong relationship between the industry and academia should be developed. Remember the "Honors Cooperative Program" at Stanford initiated by Fred Terman to encourage employees from local firms to continue their studies, proved instrumental in building Silicon Valley!!!
The median home price in Bangalore would be around 5 million rupees. Thats roughly 5 times the annual salary.
A good way to compare cost of living,etc. is to use Purchasing Power Parity which is about 20:1 for the Rupee : Dollar. So 1.1M rupees roughly translates to the equivalent of $55,000 in the US.
I have lived both in the US and India and feel that this is a good metric to compare salaries
Major difference comes for engineers with 3-5 years experience who constitute about 60% of the total head count .For this bunch of engineers total annual compenstaion in India ranges from USD15K to USD25K . This is equivalent from purchasing power perspective about USD30K to USD50K in California. For engineers with 12-15 years experience , compensation in India ranges from USD40K to USD60K which is equivalent to USD100K to USD150K in California.Generally , these very senior engineers are returnee from US and need that high salary to maintain similar lifestyle.
Brian, any idea how 1.1M rupees compares with the cost of living in Bangalore, Heyderabad, etc.?
The median home price in Silicon Valley is over $500,000, so any comparison of salaries should also examine cost of living differences.
Long overdue response to Kris question about comparing Indian EE salaries to U.S. EE Salaries: The salary and opinion survey we collected last year has the Indian EE mean base salary at 1.1 million rupees or roughly $25,000. Mean total compension (bonuses and overtime) came in at slightly more than $27,000 USD.
(An Indian colleague of mine here at EE Times who started working for an EDA company as an engineer in India 10 years ago said it was the happiest day in his life when he got that job and a salary that was roughly that level).
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