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Talent crunch: ISRO plans space institute
Ramnath Shenoy in Bangalore | February 27, 2007 13:14 IST
Faced with a talent crunch, the Indian Space Research Organisation is contemplating setting up an institute to train techies.
In an interview to PTI, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair acknowledged that with the booming IT sector absorbing young engineers with fat pay packets, other fields are facing the brunt.
"At one time, we used to get top-most people from various institutions. But today that situation does not exist. Even after going through all India tests, we are not able to get the numbers we want," Nair said.
He added, "At the same time, we don't want to compromise on quality. So, we are seriously contemplating whether we can start an exclusive institute which will take people and train them in space programmes".
Nair said if everything goes well, the Bangalore-headquartered ISRO should be able to start the institute this year.
According to him, the institute would offer graduate and post-graduate courses in space programmes and technologies and related areas, while there would also be provisions to carry out R&D activities.
Nair also pitched in strongly for parity in wage structure that rewarded bright engineers and researchers irrespective of the sectors they are working in.
"We need roughly 300 persons (engineers) every year. At least half of that should be met with this institute, while the rest will come from open market," Nair said.
Nair said the trend in various sectors (other than IT) not getting the talent they require -- along with steady drop in students enrolling for basic reseach -- is not healthy for the country.
"You take our manufacturing sector... we are not able to give good talent. You take the teaching profession, we are not able to give good talent... scientific research institutions...
we are not able to get the best of the people. If we starve (for talent) so much, it's going to hurt us in the long run".
He said it is the "distortion" in wage structure that is attracting young engineers to the IT sector.
"For the same job, you may have to pay in the US at least five times for employees there. But here, best of the people are taken for one-fifth of the US salary and doing very routine jobs. Of course, there are exceptions with some people doing R&D. But 90 per cent of talent is wasted. It's not a good situation for the country".
"People have to sit together...industries...IT industry�R&D labs and they should try to evolve a workable wage policy by which certain competencies are paid for whether you work for this sector or that sector... competencies that's valued and type of technical challenges what they face... that should be given more importance," he said.
Nair called for a much better compensation for the teaching community to attract talent.
"If you don't have good teachers, where are you going to get next-generation students. We have bright youngsters but they don't have proper training. So it will really go into a tailspin".
Nair added, "Today, we are surviving because 30 years back, we had good teachers in almost all colleges. These colleges had competent people".
He said today's teachers have only fraction of capability and capacity for enrichment of knowledge compared to the earlier generation.
The ISRO chairman said the wage structure for engineers and researchers in India cannot be raised equivalent to multinational companies because there is a "big gap".
"So, only way is to come to an understanding with even MNCs to have wages limited within certain bracket. May be there could be exceptions".
He said entry-level salaries in various industries, research labs and services sector in the US may have a variation of 20 per cent at the most (unlike in India where the pay packets in the IT sector are far higher).
"Such norms have to be evolved. (Then) naturally, people will go to the job they like, rather than always running after money," Nair said.