Most Indian engineers can code but are not confident in their ability to do so, notes Narayan Mahadevan.
Imagine dedicating most of the crucial years of your higher education to a subject, going through rigorous courses and curricula, shelling out large sums of money and still not being able to secure a job after it.
This is the sad-yet-common reality which a majority of engineering graduates in India struggle with.
In spite of completing their education and training from leading colleges and institutions, engineering students are unable to find the right tech job.
Often, it has been seen that even though these students have scored good grades through the duration of their course, they face constant rejections during the interviews, which leaves them frustrated and low on confidence.
This, in turn, leads many of them to switch careers and settle for a non-tech job instead.
The primary reason behind these rejections is a major gap in skillsets.
This stems from the fact that most of these students have theoretical knowledge but lack the practical exposure required to manoeuvre through the professional realm.
Additionally, with the advent of new and emerging technologies, there is an increasing demand for skills to match, which makes it all the more essential that students undergo hands-on training on relevant skills of the rapidly evolving tech domain.
As per the National Employability Report on Engineers, Indian engineers lack industry-relevant IT skills, including advanced tech skills such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and wireless technologies, among others that today’s businesses are increasingly implementing.
Simply put, overall, only a mere 1.5 percent of Indian engineers and programmers have the required skills for new age jobs.
Moreover, only a handful of these job applicants (4.6 percent) possess good coding skills.
Therefore, the country needs to ensure that its engineers are trained in cutting-edge digital and data skills including AI, IoT, data engineering, robotics, and mobile technologies.
How and what the students are taught are largely also dependent on who they are being taught by. Hence, as per the findings of the report, the initial focus must be on building capacity for faculty that are already familiar with information age technology.
Recent research suggests that over 1.5 million engineers graduate every year in India. Of these, 80 percent are unemployed, and an estimated 45 percent have the potential to be made employable with the right training.
Here are 10 skills Indian engineering graduates need to develop in order to be more employable.
1. Complex problem-solving
With the advent of data handling and AI, computers are getting smarter, even outperforming human employees in a large number of tasks.
Just like cars have replaced horses, we can also be replaced by machines. But, there are certain decisions and problems which require human intervention.
To master complex problem-solving skills, engineers must learn to solve problems through hands-on learning which will help them learn within real-world scenarios.
This helps to groom them, as well as makes them more flexible and versatile when working on the latest technologies.
Coding helps in developing this skill.
Most Indian engineers can code but are not confident in their ability to do so. So, it is important to build this competency in them.
These young engineers know how to contribute but need guidance to chart out the roadmap to achieve this.
Engineers and programmers need to contribute at an individual level more than the company level.
Most engineers cannot deal with ambiguity due to a lack of exposure to dynamic coding scenarios.
Therefore, learning that involves practicing how to solve problems of an ambiguous nature will improve their learnability.
2. Critical thinking
The second important skill that an engineer must possess is of critical thinking.
The ability to think clearly and solve a problem by making a logical judgment is the need of the hour across professions.
Critical thinking helps engineers grasp new concepts; it fuels innovative ideas and facilitates a better understanding of their connections and patterns.
Machines certainly function faster; however, they cannot be as creative or imaginative as humans.
Tech companies prefer engineers who are creative and logical in their approach.
Creativity helps in transforming various kinds of data into information.
4. People management
People management skills are certainly a must-have irrespective of the profession you belong to.
This is important as you may be required to manage teams, or be part of one, and a person with good people management skills will be able to effectively divide the workload, while helping others work together productively.
5. Coordinating with others
Coordination with people is a part of people-management skills.
Achieving goals through collaborative efforts and planning your work well will prove to be beneficial when you are aiming to become an efficient engineer.
6. Emotional Intelligence
The ability to control your own emotions as well as empathetically understand those of others forms the basis of this skill.
A person with higher emotional intelligence is likely to be able to effectively navigate through a number of professional situations, helping them grow in their career.
Only when you can control your emotions, you will be in a position to communicate with clarity and get your work done in the way you want.
7. Judgment and decision-making
Making the right judgment and appropriate decisions are important skills for one to be able to come to sensible conclusions and draw connections/parallels between concepts and relationships.
We often gain this skill through experiences that we get in our personal lives.
In the professional space, it facilitates a better assessment of people, events, ideas and situations.
8. Service orientation
Service orientation refers to the possession of skills that enable you to help others.
If you can help others in effective, innovative ways while managing your own tasks, this determines the leadership quality that lies within you. This skill will help you gain the loyalty of your team along with the trust of your colleagues.
Reaching an agreement without any difference of opinion is the main aspect of negotiation.
This skill can be gained through practical experience and having conversations and interactions with your superiors.
Observing others' approach towards negotiation is also an effective way to help one imbibe this skill.
10. Cognitive flexibility
Last but not least, cognitive flexibility is the ability to handle different situations and people in the right manner.
Today, the biggest problem is that when the technology changes, engineers are stuck in a 'who moved my cheese' type of scenario. (The bestselling book Who Moved My Cheese written by Dr Spencer Johnson deals with changes in the workplace and life).
However, if you have high grasping power and cognitive flexibility, you can learn new skills and continue to have strong careers.
It has been observed that in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment, the most important skill engineers should possess is cognitive flexibility -- which can also be classified as ‘learnability’.
Learnability has been described as having the capability to quickly and continuously grow and adapt one's skill set to remain employable throughout your professional life.
If you can learn how to master new skills, you will be able to tackle new challenges with the innovation and creativity brought about by your evolving knowledge-base. When you manage to implement this approach, everything else will follow.
Narayan Mahadevan is founder, BridgeLabz, an incubator focused on solving the tech employability challenge. He can be contacted on contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.