“Today students choose only those institutes who provide good internships and jobs - though we provide quality education no one seems to be interested in it anymore."
Of course, I won't name who told me this, but there are several similar engineering colleges in India that are having trouble as a result.
I am aware of a few of these institutions that formerly had excellent faculty but gradually lost their lustre. The ability of an Institute to provide high-quality education does not always directly correlate with its ability to provide chances for students by way of quality internships and jobs. In addition to offering high-quality education, it is crucial to interact with industry and maintain the relationship.
The institutions I'm referring to placed a lot of focus on education but missed the chance to develop strong relationships with business. As a result, internships were uncommon even if there were good placements in the beginning. Even the job placement prospects began to diminish over time. Due to the decreased interest in admittance to the college and the resulting lower revenue creation, some of the college's best faculty members were let go.
This is a destructive cycle. Regardless of the level of education they may offer students, institutions should prioritise offering paid or unpaid internship opportunities. A lot of learning takes place on the job, and as students gain more expertise during their internships, they will eventually bring that knowledge back to the institute, raising the standard of education there.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of internships and industry exposure in engineering education. By bridging the gap between academia and industry, these experiences give students hands-on knowledge of how academic principles are applied in the real world. As was mentioned, many engineering institutions in India today struggle to give their students enough exposure to industry and internship possibilities. The root of the problem is the absence of successful methods for collaborating between business and academia. I'll try to examine the five possible ways used by college administration to deal with this issue in this blog.
The cornerstone of enhancing industry exposure and internships lies in forging robust ties between academia and industry. Indian engineering colleges need to proactively reach out to industry partners to establish collaborative relationships. It is important to understand that such collaborations might not start with offering an internship opportunity in the very beginning. There has to be some sort of Give and Take relationship where there is a benefit for both the parties involved. The relationships can take several forms – guest lectures by industry professionals, higher study opportunities for Industry professionals, joint research projects, use of college infrastructure for industry’s R&D needs or even setting up industry-sponsored labs on campus.
By inviting professionals for lectures or workshops, students can gain insights into current industry trends, technological advancements, and real-world challenges. This also provides a platform for students to interact directly with industry professionals, fostering dialogue and mutual learning.
Joint research projects allow students to contribute to solving real-world problems while still in college. Industry-sponsored labs or centers provide a platform for students to get hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment and technologies, thereby enhancing their practical skills.
On the other side, giving business professionals the chance to pursue higher education or allowing the business to conduct some of its trials using the infrastructure already in place at the institution serve to enhance the partnership. With such actions, business and academia can collaborate as mutually beneficial partners. Such partnerships are long-lasting and resilient.
When it comes to giving their students placement and internship possibilities, there is yet one more difficulty that I have witnessed institutions encounter. They are short on resources and are unsure of exactly whose responsibility it is to look for suitable opportunities. Finding chances for students to interact with industry shouldn't be done on the fly. A dedicated placement cell or career services office should play a pivotal role in enhancing industry exposure and internships. This office would be responsible for liaising with companies, arranging internships, and coordinating campus placements.
This dedicated Team should also make sure that companies are approached in a professional way and the right people are plugged in to the right opportunities. So, beyond the activities involved in establishing collaborations, the career services office can provide career counselling to help students make informed decisions about their career paths. They can also offer workshops on resume writing, interview preparation, and other job search strategies. These services equip students with the necessary tools to navigate the job market successfully.
Some institutions fail to recognise the value of giving students internship experience. Students who might arrange their own internships have occasionally been denied permission due to the likelihood of low class attendance. Students choose to adhere to the institute's programme as a result. Making internships a mandatory part of the curriculum can ensure that all students get industry exposure. This can be facilitated through different models – semester-long internships, summer internships, or cooperative education programs where students alternate between periods of study and work.
Mandatory internships not only provide students with practical experience but also help them understand the work culture, business ethics, and teamwork. It's an opportunity for students to apply their classroom learning in real-world scenarios, thereby reinforcing their understanding of engineering concepts.
However, there have been instances where certain restrictions, such as an institution's distance from a hub of activity in the industry, make it difficult to offer students worthwhile internship opportunities. In these situations, it's critical to at the very least provide students real-world assignments to do in the classroom. Project-based learning is an effective strategy for enhancing industry exposure. By integrating real-world projects into the curriculum, students can gain hands-on experience right in the classroom.
These projects should ideally be designed in collaboration with industry partners to reflect current industry practices and challenges. By working on these projects, students can develop problem-solving skills, learn to work in teams, and gain a better understanding of the practical applications of theoretical concepts.
I support the idea of circular education at a time when the circular economy is being discussed. An institute spends a lot of work into giving a student the appropriate industrial exposure. Such an effort shouldn't just result in the student being placed. How the institute grows its alumni network will have a big impact on the benefits. The alumni network of a college is a valuable resource that can be leveraged to enhance industry exposure and internships. Alumni who are well-established in their careers can offer valuable connections and insights into their respective industries.
Alumni can be invited to give guest lectures, mentor current students, or even provide internship opportunities. They can also provide first-hand accounts of their career journeys, thereby giving students a realistic picture of what to expect in their careers.
Enhancing industry exposure and internships in Indian engineering colleges is a multi-faceted challenge that requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. The strategies I outlined in this article is an attempt to provide a roadmap for colleges to improve their industry-academia collaboration, thereby enriching their students' educational experience and career prospects.
However, it's important to note that these strategies need to be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of each college and its students. What works well for one institution may not work as well for another, due to differences in factors such as location, available resources, and industry connections.
Moreover, these strategies should not be seen as a one-time effort, but rather as part of a continuous process of improvement. As the industry landscape evolves, colleges should regularly review and update their strategies to ensure they remain effective. This might involve seeking feedback from students, faculty, and industry partners, as well as staying informed about latest trends and best practices in engineering education.
The task is not easy, but the potential rewards are significant. By enhancing industry exposure and internship opportunities, colleges can equip their students with the skills and experiences needed to succeed in the engineering profession. This not only benefits the students themselves, but also contributes to the overall development of the engineering sector in India.
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