Are Your Courses Industry Relevant?

Are Your Courses Industry Relevant?


Throughout the course of a student's life, they are bugged by what they intend to do in the future. There are many possibilities but the pathway that is chosen by most technical undergraduates is either of Research or an industrial job, and both these fields require prior training. The students can either go for training at a research program that allows them to seek a job in the Research and Development sector, apply for further studies or join the line of lectureship. Many institutes like the IITs, IISER, IISc organize such programs. The other alternative is to go for an Industrial Training program where the students learn about the workings at an Industrial Facility. It gives them the right kind of exposure and prepares them for the job.

In such a situation, educational institutions need to share a commitment to delivering courses and programs that meet the needs of the industry and the economy more generally. This can be achieved by linking tailored degrees to employment outcomes and, in the process, restructuring course offerings and content.
This has resulted in more performance-based assessment and work-ready criteria, such as graduate attributes, which seek to capture generic skills and abilities that can be applied in the workplace. There has been popular demand for quite some time now to introduce industry relevant (non-core, as they are called) courses. Subjects which deal with Analytics, Data Science, Big Data and Statistics, and Management that are very much in demand among recruiters versus the conventional PCM subjects students study in this Institute (especially in their freshmen year).
 
While policymakers, institution administrators and employers champion links between institutions and the economy, thousands of graduates are still struggling to find work.

TRAINING PROGRAMS AROUND THE CAMPUS

The Training and Placement cell is responsible for making sure that the students are ready to face the placement season. After discussions with the Head of Departments, local study tours or industrial field trips are arranged, keeping in mind the requirement of the courses and the students. In the previous academic year, 12 industrial talks were organized for the students but these talks saw very meagre participation and hence the frequency of the number of such talks has gone down in the present year. Amidst such a pressing need for industrial collaborations or the short term courses to be organized by certain departments, in order to address these domains, the lacuna of enthusiasm and energy among the students to participate in such endeavours plays a major spoilsport.


I have tried to organize Industrial talks but very few people turn up for such events. They prefer to stay back in their hostels or go home during the weekends, rather than attending such talks. This has demotivated the Training and Placement Cell from organizing such talks.


 said Prof. S.K. Patel, Head of Training and Placement Cell.


The students have to clear the Preliminary Assessment Test (PAT) along with a series of Soft Skill Development (SSD) tests to be allowed to sit for placements. PATs were introduced last year while SSD tests have been in practice from this year. The pattern for the PAT is similar to the First round of Aptitude tests organized by the companies. A student must at least half of the average score in each of the PAT test organised to be eligible to sit for placements. Anyone who fails to attend must take prior permission citing a proper reason for the same. 
 

Satyajit Mahapatra, a member of the Placement Committee was quoted saying,

In order to ace an interview, having the right soft skills and confidence is just as important as having the subject knowledge. We try our best to prepare the students for facing the interviews and instill confidence into them.


The Training and Placement Cell also organizes sessions by students who have already been placed. They share their experience with the other students and suggest tricks to ace an interview.

A number of professors across several departments have already been doing research projects with several companies. In this year, Prof. Bidyut Kumar Patra from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering has teamed up with Flipkart to present a tutorial titled, “Concept to Code: Neural Networks for Sequence Learning” at The European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR) to be held from 14-18 April 2019 in Germany. However, the benefits of such tie-ups do not seem to be reaching to the students.
Apart from research, people skills and soft skills seem to have taken a step back as the institution’s redesigned curriculum focuses primarily on PSUs and academic research after graduation.


EYE ON THE FUTURE:

With almost every technology company from any sector, say IT or petroleum, wanting candidates with strong training in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), various IITs as well as NITs have rolled out courses and incubating centres to bridge this AI talent gap. The Bosch centre at IIT Madras is an interdisciplinary centre focused on AI in engineering with eight different departments participating. Apart from Bosch, companies that have funded research on AI at IIT Madras research park include TCS, Ericsson, Intel Research, and GE Research.

IIT Madras is also working on AI with several governmental organizations and departments like defence services, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Railways, Chennai Transport Corporation, Port Trust Authority, banks, hospitals, HRD ministry, and Science and Technology department.
Coming back to our home institution, various workshops organized during fests like Innovision, TechX or the ones organized by various clubs like SPAWN, CodeHub, Microsoft, etc. on Big Data, Android, IoT to name a few, prove to enhance the demanded employability skills among the students during the placement season. Getting certifications from such workshops and even online courses ensure one’s prospective employer that he/she has the requisite knowledge, experience, and certification in his areas of expertise. If one truly wants to succeed in their career, they need to stay current in all the technologies and regulations that affect one’s profession. Such certifications ensure that one keeps learning and have a knowledge base that will make them an asset to their employer in the future.


THE NEGATIVES

In today’s time, many colleges try to compete among themselves on the basis of the placements that they end up showing on paper. But this attempt to link the universities and economy has thus far not been very successful. The companies complain that the students today lack the necessary job skills. Many students leave their area of study to join the IT sector for the sake of a higher package. This has also affected the field of research, as brilliant students choose to leave their research and take up jobs to support themselves financially. This is an example of how the pursuit of profit gets in the way of learning.

Regardless of whether a student seeks to pursue a career in the industrial sector or in the field of research, it is imperative that he/she must be thorough with the fundamentals. Reading only industry relevant courses or only conducting research should not be done. Giving more importance to one undermines the other whereas both play important roles for the development of the society.

Prof. K.K. Mohapatra, Dean, Academics was quoted saying,

We seek to provide the students with the fundamentals and then provide them with the freedom to choose their career path. I am confident that our students excel in intrapersonal skills, therefore we must make sure the students’ basic understanding of the subject is clear because that is what most companies seek. Industrial training is done during internships or during the training period.

 

With this analysis and comparative, team MM hopes for an improved curriculum which takes into account the need for more industry-relevant courses.

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