“How to effectively embed skill development into Educational Program so that the graduates are rendered industry ready?” This was the topic of a panel discussion organized at the inauguration of Cyberia 2018, an annual student technical festival organized by SJCE Mysuru. I had the privilege to be the Chief Guest at the inauguration as well as a panelist. My thanks are due to Prof. Sudharshan Patil, faculty counsellor of the IEEE SJCE branch, for this invitation. I understand that this is the second time I have had this honor. Several years ago, Prof. C.R. Venugopal, who was then the branch counsellor of the branch, had extended a similar invitation to me.
This year, my co-panelists were Mr. Srikantaswamy Bisilavaadi from Robert Bosch, Mr.Ramesh Agrahar, Vice President of Kaynes, Mr. Arun Pradeep, CEO of Neutrinos Solutions, Dr. Narasimha Kaulgad, Professor NIE, Mysuru, Dr. Bindu Thomas, Professor at VVIET, Mysuru, and Varun Shastri ,employee of Applied Materials. The panel was moderated by B. Ramkumar (former Tektronix). Several faculty members of SJCE as well as students attended the panel discussion and raised interesting questions.
Let me summarize some of the important points that came up during discussion. I want to emphasize that in a panel discussion, there are no conclusions. It is a discussion where ideas are tossed across to make people think.
Some of the panelists from the industry felt that students must focus on “project-based learning.” In today’s competitive world, industry is looking for students who have the ability to solve practical problems and have a higher level of awareness of the trends. One panelist made the following remark. “When I interview candidates, I ask them what they can do. Unfortunately, I am unable to get a clear answer. Professionals such as carpenters or chefs will be able to give a clear answer to such a question, but engineers are unable to do so.” This is food for thought for everyone. Should engineers have a specific answer for such a question? Are they expected to do one thing and only one thing when they graduate? What is the aim of engineering education?
Some panelists felt that it is important for students to pick up soft skills such as good communication skills. Both written and oral communication skills are important for an engineer. Be warned, however, that softskills are necessary but not sufficient to land a job. Remember, you will have to do well on exams to be shortlisted, get good scores on written tests and excel in technical interviews.
There was a discussion on what industry’s role is in this process. Of course, industry professionals can provide inputs to the committees that design curricula. Companies typically invest in one or more colleges from where they tend to recruit. They may send engineers to teach courses. They may provide internship opportunities to students. They may provide free licenses to software or free IC samples, etc. During the Q&A, there was a discussion on whether the viewpoints of students must be given consideration in framing the curriculum. There was a also discussion on what academia can do towards imparting skills. In this connection, there was a discussion on upgrading the curricula. It was mentioned that VTU is planning to reduce the number of course credits in undergraduate programs, which would reduce the burden of classes and allow students to focus on project-based learning.
The panel discussion was lively and generated good interest among the participants. Of course, as is always the case, a panel discussion generates more questions than answers. I have had the privilege to attend, moderate, organize, and participate in several panel discussions at IEEE conferences such as VDAT, VLSI Design Conference, VTS, and ITC to name a few. I congratulate the organizing committee of Cyberia-2017 for having organized yet another interesting panel discussion.
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