Making good use of an engineering degree needs careful thought before and after making the decision

Looking at the number of engineering colleges in India and the number of engineers coming out of these colleges, the questions that form in everyone’s minds are, “does India need so many engineers?” Are they all employable? The negativism brought forth by such questions has crippled engineering education in India.

In this global era, rather than focus on India, the question should be whether the world needs so many engineers. The answer is a big, “yes.” Is there a need for scientists? The answer is again, “yes.” The world needs in plenty well-equipped, talented graduates with the right attitude. There are job opportunities for those who have the potential. In addition, opportunities for self-employment are also plenty for innovative and energetic minds.

Breaking free

I will look at the Indian education scenario from the point of view of parents whose wards are applying for admission to colleges. As the trend goes, most students would like to pursue professional programmes such as medicine and engineering. Since fewer seats are available for medicine, getting an MBBS seat has become extremely difficult and the majority is left with the next popular option—engineering.

Our school education system offers combinations of courses in the higher secondary level such that a student by choosing these groups can pursue engineering or medicine, even though these two streams call for entirely different aptitudes. The ideal higher secondary system would orient the student towards evaluating their aptitude and choosing to pursue one of the two streams. This would ensure that the chosen stream matches their aptitude. This is not happening now.

In the absence of proper orientation in the system, parents and their wards follow an inappropriate procedure while selecting their branch of study in the college. During counselling, we notice that the selection of a branch of study is based on the following: (1) The most sought-after branch in counselling, (2) The branch having good job opportunities as seen by the previous year placements, (3) Parental pressure and (4) Peer pressure.

This is not the right practice. The correct way will be to spend some time assessing one’s interest for a particular branch and check if it matches well with the aptitude one has and the chosen branch of study.

It is because of such practices that we face problems of employability and dissatisfaction in existing jobs, which can lead to high turnover rates, low productivity and increase in the stress level of employees.

Myth and reality

Having understood the education scenario, parents should free themselves of a few myths that surround them, and make a fair decision concerning the future of their ward.

Myth 1 One should be a professional such as a doctor, lawyer or engineer to be successful in life. Other degree programmes are not useful.

2 Marks scored in higher secondary are a true reflection of one’s intelligence, and the one who has scored 95 per cent is more intelligent than others.

3 Those who studied higher secondary education in vernacular medium cannot shine in professional courses taught in English.

4 Unemployment is high, so campus placement is everything.

5 An engineering degree in the most popular branch, with 8.0 CGPA and above will definitely fetch a job.

How to make the choice

There are some thumb rules to be followed in choosing an engineering education.

•The interest of the candidate and his/her choice of branch should be the criteria for admission.

•Every parent should orient the child towards finding out their natural interest and the aptitude for the particular subject or branch of study.

•Parents should avoid deciding for the candidate.

•For a strong-willed person, if the choice is made based on his/her liking and natural taste, then studying that branch will be the best thing rather than joining any other branch, for whatever reason.

•It is not wise to join a branch of study because it is popular or because the job opportunities are high.

•The choice of institution is also critical.

The other option is for the students to take the branch of study available in a reputed college and start liking that branch, plan well and work hard. What is critical is students’ interest in the branch of study and the efforts put in by them to equip themselves adequately enough during their studies.

(The author is the Pro Vice Chancellor of VIT University, Chennai. He can be contacted at provc@vit.ac.in)