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Council to bridge college-industry gap

Pallam Raju

New Delhi, Feb. 7: Human resource development minister M.M. Pallam Raju today announced plans to set up a council that would act as an interface between academia and industry, saying such collaborations were the way forward.

Raju, who was speaking at a seminar on One Globe: Uniting Knowledge Communities, said India had the demographic advantage that could help propel the country’s growth, provided youths got the right education and skill training.

The comments came days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had highlighted flaws in the higher education system and said institutions were producing graduates in subjects the job market no longer requires.

Raju said nearly three million students graduated every year. While nearly 25 per cent of tech graduates were industry-ready, the ratio was 10 to 15 per cent in general streams.

A panel headed by N.R. Narayanamurthy had earlier recommended that the government set up a Council for Industry and Higher Education Collaboration (CIHEC). “The recommendation to set up the CIHEC to facilitate industry-institute collaboration is indeed the way forward and we are trying to take this initiative forward,” Raju said.

Raju also said the government was planning to set up 200 community colleges that would specialise in skill-based training. He said the colleges, on the lines of those in America and Canada, would be set up at existing polytechnics. The HRD ministry has held a two-day seminar on community colleges where experts from the US and Canada shared their experiences.

Tara Sonenshine, US undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, said: “Just as MIT and other US universities partnered with the nascent IITs and other premier institutions of higher education in the 1950s and 1960s, now is the time for partnering between our community college leaders and institutions.”

Some experts feel under-employability is the bigger problem that students face. S.S. Mantha, chairperson of technical education regulator AICTE, said most students graduating with engineering and management degrees were not getting jobs according to their qualifications.

“Majority of students, who get some kind of jobs after passing out from various professional courses, are under-employed in the sense that they are doing work for which their professional knowledge is not required,” Mantha told The Telegraph.

Amit Bhatia, CEO, ASPIRE Human Capital Management, a company that provides skill-training to students, said BTech or management graduates were taking up jobs in BPOs, front offices and retail stores. “After studying for about 17 years, a student stands to get a job with a salary little more than what an unskilled worker is getting,” Bhatia said.

He said some engineering and management colleges had become “degree mills” with “no quality faculty” while the curriculum was “outdated”.

Industry body Ficci welcomed the CIHEC plan. “If institutions provide the required training, it would enhance the employability of many students,” the chamber’s education officer, Sobha Mishra, said.