Rise and fall of Engineering in India

The third decade of the 21st century (the 20s) is here. The last decade taught us many things and most importantly reinforced the fact that change is the only constant. The realization is becoming increasingly evident that our workforce can’t survive in the 21st century with the skills imbibed in the 20th century. The ripples of this change are felt everywhere, including engineering which was one of the most common career choice for the Indian youth. And new technologies like automation, data, Artificial intelligence became the flagbearers of change.

At its peak, India produced nearly 1.5 million engineering graduates every year, more than the US and China combined. India was the epicenter of engineering talent for the world. But the tides have turned and the euphoria around engineering as a career choice has vanished. The worst-hit were the traditional engineering streams (Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Electronics). And once the euphoria faded the harsh reality bit. Landing up a decent paying job for an engineering graduate has become a conundrum. If you are lucky enough to get a job after graduation, the average salaries are worse keeping in mind the job scenario in India. The compensations for engineering graduates have hit rock bottom. But wait, how we reached this point? Let’s get some context.

Rise and fall

“As Victor Hugo once said, no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. And the emergence of India as a major economic superpower happens to be one such idea.” With these words, then the finance minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh unshackled the country from decades-old ‘License Raj’ in 1991. Industries started flourishing and foreign companies also saw the potential in India. Multi-National Corporations started to establish their Global in-house Centers (GICs) in India in the late 90s to tap the inexpensive technical talent and relatively affordable real estate. India’s technology position was further bolstered by the Y2K crisis in the US by the dawn of the 21st century. The crisis proved to be Godsend for India as technology firms here pioneered the methods for resolving the bug, at a much lower cost. Parallelly, the GIC’s in India also transitioned from back-end support centers to multifunctional centers of excellence. As a result, the Indian technology sector saw the greatest revolution in the first decade of the 21st century and became a go-to place for Indian youth seeking a better life.

The Indian technology revolution led to an exponential rise in the demand for engineers of both traditional engineering (Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Electronics) as well as emerging technology streams (Computer Science and IT). Consequently, engineering colleges sprung up everywhere to provide graduates a pathway to enter the booming technology industry. Engineering rapidly evolved to become the most preferred career choice for the students.

By the 2000s, the world started to realize the importance of data and clouds. Without a proper quality monitoring framework in place, the Indian engineering colleges didn’t tune the curriculum to the technological advancements and kept operating with the sole intention of doling out degrees with just bare necessary skills. Consequently, the quality of engineering and the employability of fresh engineering graduates plummeted. The golden era of engineering has seen a very fast approaching dusk since then. The emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, mobility, data analytics, cloud computing accelerated the process of making conventional curriculum redundant. And as a result, millions of engineering graduates from conventional streams are left to fend for themselves amidst the changing landscape.

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