21 December 2016


Shrihari Honwad

In this age of e-learning, conventional courses have become passé. Students must, therefore, choose educational institutions that offer new-age courses, backed by robust placement mechanism, quality faculty and modern facilities. Present and future realities are crucial

The Internet era which lives in e-space, has rendered traditional thinking, of choosing programmes of study with decade-long steady career path, redundant. Fast changing market scenario and learning requirements have taken its place. For example, once-hot careers such as computer hardware engineering and jobs in BPOs are today riddled with lower prospects or benched employees. Thus, present and future realities become crucial for career decisions.

Today, education has become an investment that is expected to pay throughout one’s life time. While market uncertainties may require additional investments, careful thought in choosing a proper course, with excellent career prospects, is critical. Plain vanilla programmes make no sense nowadays because many will become redundant soon, if not already. Indeed, digital technologies can disrupt any business model. It is time, therefore, for students (and parents) to rethink on career options, keeping present and future realities in mind. Traditional courses no longer guarantee a lifetime of secure career opportunities.

Digital drives transformation: The digital world is set to lead to an explosion of 500 per cent increase in jobs by 2018. Spurred by disruptive changes in business models, even end user businesses would transform, taking into account new digital technologies, rapidly transforming the employment landscape, as predicted by a Gartner Report. Today, mobile technologies, user experiences and data sciences (or big data) are driving businesses. Consequently, some of the most in-demand skills and domains are connected to smart machines, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, integration specialisation, digital business architecture, nanotechnology, wearable technology, et al.

Given the current scenario, careers in domains such as IoT, nanotechnology, industrial design, robotics, tech innovations, cyber law, intellectual property rights, urban planning, modern architecture, interior design, disaster management, automotive design, aerospace, etc, can be considered for long-term investments in education. Consequently, academic programmes, leading to the skill sets corresponding to above areas, hold immense potential and are primed to grow globally (including India) in the years ahead.

Closer home, there are a number of Government initiatives such as the Smart Cities, Digital India, Make in India, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, 24/7 Power for All, among others. These programmes are poised to ramp up infrastructure development across the country, which will require a trained talent pool of human resources for varied verticals.

National talent pool and employability: A lot has been said about the demographic dividend and human resource of the country. Equally true is the refrain about employability or lack of it for large percentages of our graduates. While at one level, this is about corporate skills and life skills, one also needs to take into account a skew in employable candidates with a particular skill set and employment opportunities for those skills.

This skew on the one hand, results in either underemployment or retraining, adding to frustration of the youth as well as the industry. The need to identify long-term relevant skills that can help one survive is, thus, even more critical today than ever. Equally important is to build a national pool of relevant talent and skill sets which has to happen through market forces and academic institutes responding to these forces well in advance, with commitment and vigour.

Thus, creating and making quality education opportunity accessible students is a national mission which academics must respond to. Meanwhile, the generation-Z continues to waver between traditional choices of careers with past record, where most opportunities today exist, and the newer hitherto unheard of, but is strongly rooted in futuristic trends. The factors that influence these choices are, therefore, important and all stakeholders need to increase awareness of the trends and opportunities.

Choosing institutions and programmes wisely: The demand for specialised professionals in niche digital sectors is on the rise. Technological changes via big data, cloud technology, mobile Internet, 3D printing and artificial intelligence, among others, are creating novel avenues as well as new job categories and functions. Further, national initiatives by the Government are set to trigger tremendous opportunities in geo informatics, renewable energy, broadband communications, infrastructure development, disaster management, fire and safety, machine design, IPR and cyber laws etc. Opting for new-age courses will thereby make the youth future ready.

The conundrum quite often is to choose the programme or the institute. The programme on its own does not offer career if the skills are not acquired for employability, making quality of training and focus on employability important. Thus, the decision is a combination of programme and institute. Choosing the programme of interest is in itself a difficult process for prospective students. It would be easier to choose a generic area with large scope and within that an order of preference, which may be easy to generate. The institute becomes important as it has to cater to various academic needs.

Generation Z looks for lot of interactive e-learning. Institutions which cater to an environment of e-learning, would have a better image compared to others. Among others, it is important to note how institutes support employability through say focus on communication skills, life skills, aptitude training and most important placement assistance.

An institute with a learning environment and support may take you closer to the goal. Institutes which are closely connected with industry and have autonomy to upgrade curriculum, also offer appropriate upgradation, industry inputs and support for training of students by experts, which is invaluable. Additionally, the quality of faculty is critical to ascertain the quality of teaching. Without the former, the latter is impossible. Besides these, campus facilities are equally important so that students and the faculty do not fret about discomfort levels.

To identify good universities, students should check past records. The ability of institutions to place students in worthwhile openings and the kind of recruiters and companies that come to their campus are good indicators of reputed entities. Official recognition and accreditations, domestic as well as global, and the number, type and spread of courses are also significant benchmarks about the quality and standing of institutions. Those with multi-disciplinary courses naturally attract the best companies to their campus, boosting the placement prospects of students. Accordingly, students should note all the above parameters to ascertain career paths they select stand them in good stead throughout their lifetimes.

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