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."