Engineering education in the country is facing enormous challenges. Other than Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), it is difficult to fill even 50% of seats in the engineering institutes for core engineering disciplines. It has been observed that students are uninterested in core engineering disciplines such as civil, mechanical, chemical, material science, metallurgy, and electrical engineering. This raises a slew of unanswered questions. What happens to the other disciplines if everyone studies IT/CSE and all of the companies and products they build are IT-related and e-commerce? It is simple to move from core branches to the IT domain, but the reverse is more difficult.
In last few years, core branches are losing rank /popularity in comparison with Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). This is the situation present not only in IITs but also in the majority of engineering institutes across the nation. The main causes include campus placement, the abundance of employment opportunities, and decent CTC. CSE students from any state or private government college are hired by elite companies and paid well. The main factor encouraging students and parents to choose the CSE branch without considering where the students’ passions lay is the high remuneration at the entry-level. Another important point is that if we want to start a business in the core sector, we will need a large investment in the beginning, whereas starting a business in the software industry requires a good idea and a small budget.
However, we cannot ignore any core engineering branch. We cannot build a self-driving car without the help and support of a mechanical engineer. Supercomputers and quantum computers cannot be built without the support of electrical or chemical engineers. The IT Tech park cannot be built without the aid of civil engineers or architects. All students and their parents must realize that there are lucrative professional careers available in other engineering fields. The contributions made by engineers from core branches are essential to our existence. e.g. Chemical engineers have a significant impact on our daily lives, from the morning toothbrush to mosquito repellant in the evening, life-saving medications, energy, security, etc. Core engineering disciplines including civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering have a significant impact on daily living. But the issue is that nobody wants to take a risk for their passion and everyone wants to play it safe in their future careers and personal lives.
How can we address the situation and rekindle students’ interest in these core engineering domains? We must change people’s attitudes and perceptions of these fundamental engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineering, for example, is no longer limited to dealing with large machines that require physical strength to operate, nor is Civil Engineering limited to the construction of bridges, roads, and dams. Mechanical engineering has been completely transformed by Industry 4.0, with many departments conducting advanced research on micro-electromechanical systems, microfluidics, robotics and automation, and other such technologies. Many civil engineers are now studying environmental issues and working on pollution-related issues. Electronics is no longer about communications, there is VLSI and nanoelectronics. Electrical engineering is all about smart grids and renewables, not electrical machines. Chemical engineering is not about manufacturing various chemicals for industrial use. The chemical industry can now use technology more intelligently thanks to Industry 4.0, saving time and effort that was previously wasted in production and back-office operations. Intelligent manufacturing, also known as smart factory, is the combination of intelligent manufacturing (IT), Internet of things (IoT), advanced analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI), with operating technology such as additives, advanced materials, and robots.
There is urgent need of AICTE and University Grant Commission (UGC) to organize awareness workshops and provide counseling to the students at school level. It is essential to create specific skill development courses for engineering students in order to help them contribute to structural transformation and economic growth. Institute should offer minor degree programmes in the areas that great job opportunities so that every student can gain the required background from employment point of view. Research initiatives need to be backup by significant innovation and start-up funding schemes. There must be schemes to encourage industry participation. Knowledge generated through the basic research needs to be steadily routed to application oriented areas that is beneficial to society at large. National technology missions that not only fund research but also serve as vehicles for innovation and wealth creation are needed. Educational programmes must be planned well in advance to determine how many graduates are required in technology fields at the diploma, undergraduate, and PhD levels. The key to these exercises is teacher training and special manpower development. Such convergence of educational activities, research, and innovation is essential for boosting employment and societal value.
Prof. (Dr)Kiran Patil
Professor of Chemical Engineering
School of Chemical and Bioengineering
MIT World Peace University, Pune