Vikas Khanvelkar, Managing Director, DesignTech Systems Ltd

“Manufacturing companies can help by accepting students for internships, contributing and giving them necessary assistance and support for industry projects, articulate a “Manufacturing companies can help by accepting students for internships, contributing and giving them necessary assistance and support for industry projects, articulate a  part-time working model for them while pursuing studies, allowing colleges to bring their students batches for industrial visits and by being open to collaborating with the educational institutes to elevate the overall quality of knowledge imparted in our education systems,” says Vikas Khanvelkar, Managing Director, DesignTech Systems Ltd.

What are your views about the Indian engineering education and the skill set of Indian engineers?
We have some of the finest engineering institutes in India, producing technically sharp engineering graduates. But the volume of the ‘Industry Ready’ engineers is much smaller compared to the demand. It is necessary to bring in a strict regulatory system across government funded, private and autonomous colleges that will monitor and maintain the quality of education. Though there are government bodies measuring and monitoring the education standards, we need stricter rating, grading or ranking system that would make it necessary for the colleges to meet the required quality bar.

Faculty development programmes should be conducted in regular intervals to create awareness about latest technologies and other developments among the professors/teachers. Course curriculum should be updated more frequently. Students should be given more handson exposure for assimilating and comprehending the applications based knowledge.

Only a limited number of ‘Quality Engineering Institutes’ will not be able to meet the demand for trained manpower. To meet the industry demand, a standard quality of education should be maintained throughout the educational institutes, colleges and other academic-set-ups. Coming to the skill set of Indian engineers, I would say the industry is fast growing backed by technology, but as mentioned above, the syllabus is not updated accordingly. Which is why, the knowledge possessed by the graduating engineering students is incongruous as per the industry expectations. The students are then compelled to take self-initiatives to upgrade and update their knowledge to be considered employable by the industry. So we do have a huge pool of young and enthusiastic graduates, but sadly they cannot make productive contributions to the industry growth soon. Setting up more engineering institutes is not the answer, but updating the syllabus and revolutionising learning methodology is the key to bridge this gap.

According to the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), India will need to add 109.73 million people by 2022 to cater to 24 crucial sectors in the country. Do you think India is ready with such a huge number of skilled manpower to serve the growing manufacturing sector?
This is the classic case of balancing or finding the right equilibrium of demand and supply. When the industry demand or new employment opportunities are lower, many of the graduating engineers find themselves without a job. But then, when industry demand is high, and the supply of rightly trained manpower is scarce, still most of the engineers remain unemployed.

At the moment, India’s growth rate looks promising. The recent industry report looks very optimistic with the growth rate touching a little above 8%. This is the best time, especially for the job market. Engineers can find exciting opportunities that can provide their career a good start. With projected increased industry growth and output, the crunch in rightly skilled manpower can hinder the pace of the industry’s growth. India at the moment is getting ready to supply this workforce to the industry. The government of India, through their public-private partnerships are working to set up dedicated training centres and skill based centres of excellence that will introduce students to the latest technologies and industry practices. This will augment their chances of employability and also help industry source the rightly trained manpower to support their growth objectives. While, we might not be completely ready to cater to the demands of industry as yet, but we are well equipped and are gearing ourselves to meet that demand with expected proficiency and skill sets. Having said this, getting 109.73 million people industry ready by 2022 is quite a tall order.

Several tooling suppliers in the country face the challenge of finding skilled manpower. How can this be addressed?
There are numerous ways to address this situation:
Empirical Learning Methodology: Our educational institutes focus more on imparting theoretical knowledge as compared to practical knowledge. Students can best understand a technology or system only through hands-on training. Demonstration of even the most basic concepts and fundamentals through practical applications is invaluable for students to understand and internalise the learning. The industry after all is looking for people who can apply their knowledge in practice besides the theoretical definitions of how systems work.  Involving industry experts while articulating course syllabus and teaching curriculum. This will help educational institutes bring in industry insights and practices in to the learning environment making the students future ready.

Industry internships: It should be made compulsory for the graduating engineers to undergo one year of working internship in the industry before they are considered for campus placements. This will give students the industry exposure with insights into the latest technologies and processes. If the companies are happy with the capabilities and potential demonstrated by the interning candidate, they might even consider hiring him/her.

Dedicated skills enhancement training centres: Our government is already active here; centres of excellence focusing on skill sets and domain are being set-up across the country. These centres will not only provide a platform to the students to learn about new skills and advanced technologies, but will also make it easier for the industries to spot the right talent.

What are the models that various developed nations have practised over the years in terms of education and skill development that can be implemented in India?
There are certain good practises that developed nations have in order to train their manpower’s that can be applied in India as well:

  • Compulsory industry internships
  • Dedicated centres of advanced skills learning
  • Public-private initiatives
  • Industry based project reports
  • Dedicated advance labs or workshop areas in the institute facilities where students can apply and practice their knowledge

In India, we certainly practise these things however we need improvements.

How can the government help sectors like die mould and machine tools in terms of talent?
Government is already setting up centres of excellence and advanced skill learning facilities that will impart domain specific and industry oriented knowledge and trainings to the students by providing the right exposure. Introducing skills sets specific standard certification courses can also help and encourage students to develop an expertise in the respective area or field. For example – six-sigma certified, Cisco certified etc.

What are the various government initiatives related to skill development in manufacturing sector?
The Skill India initiative by the government hugely focuses on providing skill sets based training to the students. While, Make in India initiative focuses on creating employment opportunities for the trained manpower. Government is allocating huge funds, and is investing heavily in order to set-up the right infrastructure across the country to provide equal learning and job opportunities.

How can the manufacturing companies help in skill development?
Manufacturing companies can help by accepting students for internships, contributing and giving them necessary assistance and support for industry projects, articulate a part-time working model for them while pursuing studies, allowing colleges to bring their students batches for industrial visits and by being open to collaborating with the educational institutes to elevate the overall quality of knowledge imparted in our education system.