The McKinsey-NASSCOM 2005 report made headlines with its sweeping generalisation based on a study involving an insignificantly diminutive sample of HR managers. Responses to an open-ended general question to around 100 HR managers (only 10 from India) on employability of Indian engineering graduates was later virally spread as “only 25 percent engineering graduates are employable syndrome”. Even today, conferences and seminars keep quoting this sorry statistic. After listening to the Higher Education Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development in an event last week, there is no doubt that the time has come to debunk this 25-percent syndrome.
The emerging role of India in the global Information Technology landscape is studded with milestones of achievements to which the Secretary’s speech is a crowning glory. The growth in the Indian IT industry from $74 billion in 2010 to $160 billion in 2017 is a serial success story. Many firms have become truly multi-national with delivery centres across the globe. This $160-billion IT industry employs close to four million people and is expected to reach $350 billion by 2025. The Indian IT industry will continue to be the leader of the global sourcing industry with its current market share being a dominant 55 percent. All this growth is happening despite the much talked-about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and other global IT empowering enablers still at their nascent stages.
Fat training budget of IT companies, strong relationship between industry and academic institutions, native intelligence of Indian students, etc, have together mixed well to only increase the employment opportunities moving forward. Not only has the engineering graduates’ quality improved substantially in the last 10 years leading to gainful employment but also the thirst for entrepreneurship has seen a significant spike. India currently is third in the global start-up ecosystem with over 5,000 start-ups. This is not only reflected in India’s rise from 81 in 2015 to 57 in 2017 in the Global Innovation Index but also in the quality of its STEM undergraduate students as measured by their academic and critical thinking skills.
The levels of academic and critical thinking skills among Indian and Chinese STEM undergraduate students measured during their entry and exit stage of their undergraduate education present an interesting comparative. While STEM undergraduates suffer a loss between the first and final years of study in China, there is significant gain among Indian students during this period. Results of a Stanford University study are awaited for more detailed analysis, but this is enough to welcome the MHRD-AICTE’s recent launch of a mission-mode Institutions Innovation Cell which is an attempt to increase the creative talent of engineering students.
Such a talent pool in India’s engineering education is undoubtedly a copious feed to its innovation ecoystem which has found its fertiliser not only in the country’s industrial startup policy but also in its recent higher education policy.