College Excellence Clusters mooted by the CII can act as a platform for knowledge and resource sharing.

In another attempt to make students industry-ready, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is actively involved in setting up College Excellence Clusters. There are a few clusters functioning in Chennai, Madurai, Tuticorin, and Coimbatore. Started in 2009, the idea is now gaining momentum and more colleges are expected to form such clusters.

Five to six colleges will form a cluster and share knowledge and resources with hand-holding by the CII. These will be achieved through various deliverables like CEO Speak sessions where CEOs from industry will visit campuses and interact with students and faculty; CXO Speak where senior management executives will talk to students on technologies and trends relevant to the industry; Faculty Mission where faculty will interact with corporate organisations including their top / senior executives and study their best practices, and Student Mission where students will visit companies and study first-hand the technology and working.

The first cluster was formed in Coimbatore in 2009 with five colleges as members. In collaboration with the CII, the institutions conducted various activities for a year. After some gap, another one was recently formed.

Five institutions — Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International School of Textiles and Management (SVPITM), D.J. Academy for Managerial Excellence, GRG School of Management Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, and Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology — have formed the cluster. With hand-holding by CII, they will conduct development programmes for the faculty and students, arrange seminars, workshops, and CEO meets, to take the concept forward.

Inaugurating the cluster, N.K. Ranganath, chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Tamil Nadu, said the employability quotient of today's students suffered because of the Indian education system. It was basically an education of cramming and reproducing. The formation of such clusters was to address this gap that the industry saw in terms of application of knowledge.

GRG School of Management Studies was part of the earlier cluster and is also one of the members of the recently formed one. Speaking about the experience, S. Balasubramanian, Director, GRG School of Management Studies, and Member, CII Education and Industry Panel, Coimbatore, said the concept was governed by identifying like-minded institutions which eventually formed a cluster that was driven by collaboration.

“Even though the cluster concept is good, the execution of the concept should be revisited. The deliverables, as they are conceived, are useful for the students. More good will come out of it if the industry is more interactive. Encouraging mentoring activities by which some industries can take into their fold a few students and train them hands-on for sometime before they leave the college, will go a long way in enhancing the effectiveness of the cluster concept,” he said.

There was also a suggestion that the cluster that included technical and management institutions could be segregated into two separate clusters, dedicated to the two domains. This would ensure that there was more commonality in the delivery of deliverables. The CII was actively looking to get more clusters into place and also bring into the fold arts and science colleges.