Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Somini Sengupta on shortage of skilled manpower in India


In today's NYTimes. While her take is a little to IT-centric for my taste (and I don't know why she thinks India has nine IITs), she lays out the key problems with interesting examples. In particular, she talks about TCS going to small-time colleges in semi-rural areas in its efforts to recruit talent.

This year, India’s largest software company, Tata Consultancy Services, plans to add 30,000 people to its current work force of 72,000. So it was that on a recent afternoon a four-man team from the company roamed the halls of a college founded by a local textile magnate in this small south Indian outpost.

The team came to Tiruchengode with the goals of selecting its next generation of software programmers and assessing how, in the short term, the company could help the college churn out more of what it needed. ...

They grilled professors and administrators: How many faculty members have doctorates? Why did so many students have incompletes by the time they entered their fourth and final year? What software programs do they use for the class in mechatronics — a combination of mechanics, information technology and electronics?

They tested the students’ ability to reason and speak, tossing out debate topics, like democracy versus dictatorship, and science quiz questions, like what happens to an iron rod put in a beaker of nitric acid.

They sampled the offerings at the college library and the English language lab.

The exercise was part of an elaborate process by the company to assess whether this campus, the K. S. Rangasamy College of Technical Education, can be added to the pool of colleges from which to recruit. ...

The imprimatur of Tata Consultancy would clearly be a prize for the college, and the campus was festooned with flowers and banners welcoming the company team. ...

7 Comments:

  1. ANANDASWARUP said...

    Abi,
    There was similar news in BBC news a few days ago:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5409252.stm
    Here is a somewhat unrelated item which may interest some of your readers:
    http://indiatogether.org/announcements/2006/edu-aeaseries.htm

  2. rc said...

    Abi and other academics here -

    Can you share your views on the BSc and BA programs in India ? Why are they three year programs ? It seems perfectly feasible to train these graduates for IT jobs the same way as BE students are being trained. It seems like we are sitting on an enormous undeveloped human resource here - would you agree ?

  3. Subrahmanya said...

    It appears engineering colleges are fast becoming mass producers of only Information Technology graduates. Eventually what will happen to the core engineering courses?

  4. Tabula Rasa said...

    rc:
    i'm not sure whether your two points are related or not. i agree that a three-year undergraduate degree may have its drawbacks, but that's the british system which we inherited. (hong kong is planning to move to a four year degree in 2011.) it may have advantages in the indian context -- not everyone can afford to spend four years in college -- timewise more so than in financial terms. i disagree with your second assertion that all undergraduates should be trained for IT jobs. not withstanding the awe-inspiring images of "a nation of telecallers" that generates, the more fundamental point is surely that that's a matter of choice.

  5. Hawkeye said...

    All these companies want to do is exploit the cost arbitrage while they can. Product low cost, non-risky good (in this case IT services) using monkeys and by paying peanuts. After a while, the engineering colleges in India will only produce monkeys. What is the core competency of the IT companies? What is the value add? Indian IT companies have the lowest revenue per employee compared to any other foreign IT company. Cant quite figure out how we are going to be surviving in the long term. And I dont know why the media keeps reporting such stuff. For all the hype, IT contributes a measly 2% of GDP.

  6. rc said...

    tabula rasa,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I didnt mean to say that all 3-year graduates should be trained for IT jobs. I mean all 3-year undergraduates could be trained for IT jobs. They are perfectly suitable for a vast majority of tasks done by the IT industry. They do however face problems when it comes to getting a H1 (almost impossible without a 4-year degree) or B1 visa. That fact is putting off a lot of companies from tapping into this very rich talent pool. This is a shame.


    The proliferation of half baked engg colleges is only due to the IT boom as the article indicates. I think the BSc/BA program can be suitably altered to a 4-year program, with say a minor in Computers / Animation / Web Design whatever. THis will increase the employability of these students beyond the BPO / Call Centre industry.

    You can walk into any of the historically strong colleges St Josephs Trichy, American Madura college Madurai, New College Chennai, Presidency Chennai. These centers of learning are now largely associated with losers who cant make it elsewhere.

    We have dropped the ball big time on old-style universities, converting their 3 - year program can help a long way to restoring their repute. Today there are hundreds of colleges that are created specifically with campus recruitment of TCS/Wipro/Infy in mind.

  7. Doctor Bruno said...

    //Can you share your views on the BSc and BA programs in India//

    Very Good Idea....

    Right now mechanical engineers and chemical engineers are working in Iflex and Satyam.

    So I don't think there will be a problem for BSc Maths or BSc Physics graduate in coping up