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New realities: Keep updating your knowledge or be left out. — Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar
New realities: Keep updating your knowledge or be left out. — Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

DEEPA KURUP

Students take up add-on courses for a better career

It’s a tough and competitive world out there and even though the cup seems to be brimming with opportunities, the competition is cut-throat and students find themselves under pressure to give their learning some value-addition in order to fetch that coveted job.

While some students opt for industrial training or internship, most engineering students opt for add-on courses to specialise in software or application-based fronts to pep up their resume.

Spurred by the realisation that the university syllabus fails to cover all that is practical and does not make them “industry-ready,” students opt for courses with private institutions which teach everything from programming to fabrication. While JAVA, Data Structures and .NET continue to rule the roost as far as add-on courses go, some go in for the high-end applications such as VLSI and advanced networking with CCNA and CCNP.

Lure of placements

Besides being expensive, these courses also mean that students will have to spend a considerable amount of their free time at coaching centres. Generally, students in their second or third year go for these courses. The rates for these courses start with a minimum of Rs. 15,000 and could go up to even Rs. 30,000 for 60-80 hours on an average, depending on the market value of the course.

Students who cannot afford these courses feel left out and think that they stand to lose out in the placement process. This is partly the reason why there is such a rush for colleges in cities which have several such training institutes mushrooming around the campuses.

Outdated

“Add-on courses are very important especially since the course structure by itself fails to cater to the needs of the industry. Most of the software we learn are outdated versions and it will not be of use to us when we finally get working,” says Anand Holani, final year student of Mechanical Engineering, RVCE. For instance, Anand explains, the mechanical engineering curriculum teaches AUTO CAD and ANSYS. While ANSYS is good for analysis, the industry uses software such as Unigraphics (EDS) and CATIA for modelling everything from DC motors to aircraft applications. Now, a student interested in modelling will be forced to take an add-on course. A random look at any job advertisements will show that most companies ask for CATIA and students feel forced to shell out that extra money.

It is not that engineering colleges haven’t evolved to meet industry standards. Every other week a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is signed by some college or other with some corporate. However, students complain that all these courses are IT or Computer Science based and do not cater to the needs of any other trade of engineering.

For lack of any better option, all students tend to take up JAVA or C and C ++ in order to ensure that they don’t lose out during placements. “Colleges should give such training because these courses give you a feel of what to expect at the job. The problem is that it tends to be only focussed on Information Sciences. This is why most students take up IT jobs instead of sticking to their own stream,” says Siddharth Datta, student of Electronics and Communication Engineering at MSRIT.

Application courses for Electronics of Electrical stream could be in Digital Signal Processing or VLSI. Most of these courses offered by institutes, besides costing Rs. 1 lakh and more, are also full-time courses for three months or more. Students find it difficult to pack that into their vacations.

Invaluable

Ushnisha Ghosh from RVCE, who did a course in DSP from IIT Madras which was in collaboration with Analog Devices, says that the practical applications she learnt there is invaluable. “I wish there were more courses like that for us so we could get to explore frontiers in our own subjects,” she says.

Anand agrees and says that it can be disconcerting for students who do want to enhance their knowledge and specialise in their own stream. All these special software costs about Rs. 4 lakh but all of them now have student versions.

“If we are allowed to work on this after college hours, a lot of us will feel more confident and motivated to stick to our core subjects,” he explains.

Corporates such as Infosys have Campus Connect programmes where students are trained and made “industry-ready.” Students from all branches tend to enrol for lack of a better choice.

There are very few core companies that provide such programmes. Colleges such as PES Institute of Technology in Bangalore are an exception.

Positive

Add-on courses are very positive because they encourage a multi-disciplinary atmosphere for any student. A mechanical student can learn JAVA and a computer science student can consider doing an electrical workshop.

“That is precisely the model that professional colleges should work towards. One gadget today needs all sorts of inputs. Engineering today is getting more and more interdisciplinary,” says Jawahar D., CEO, PESIT.

PESIT has a General Motors Pace centre where students can train with engineering automotive skills. This means that a student interested in mechanical engineering can learn his trade at college without paying any exorbitant fee and even an Information Science student can add value to his education.

“There are gaps in terms of requirements. An internal committee does the assessment and packs the deficiencies into the total development programme through workshops and add-on courses,” Mr. Jawahar explains.

Akash Gupta of IIT Madras says that his college offers these courses and there are some students who get some training during the vacation. Yet, he disagrees with others in saying that these courses are not important.

“Our courses are interdisciplinary and we are given the freedom to work with any subject we find interesting. I feel it is a misconception that companies are looking for these qualifications. They are looking for your general aptitude and the rest they are willing to train,” Akash Gupta says.


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