During a recent conference, a large manufacturing organisation shared its experience of making job offers to students in the first year of engineering, and then closely partnering with them to build their skills, attitude and understanding of what it takes to be successful in the corporate life. Most institutes have not yet established strong industry-academia partnerships and therefore lay emphasis solely on the core curriculum, which is fairly standard. The focus on building the skills to be job-ready requires a focus on skills that is normally not a part of a standard curriculum and can be easily built and delivered with the help of strong industry partners. There are several examples of large corporates that have initiated such interventions upstream – early into graduation as additional curriculum. The government’s role is key to skill-building. This process has been initiated in some form through the national skill building initiatives that we have been seeing in the last six-twelve months. These initiatives need to be strengthened and awareness of the same also needs to be strengthened through various industry bodies such as NASSCOM and others. Strong industry-based research and project-based associations of teaching staff help bridge this gap. Many institutes now absorb people with strong industry experience as teaching staff to help bring this understanding of what it takes to succeed at work.
The Indian MBA education system follows the pedagogy i.e. lecture mode with major evaluation weightage given to end-semester examination. The curriculum followed in many of the Indian universities is outdated, where curriculum revision happens once in four years. More often, the main focus is on knowledge-enhancement with less importance given to skill-development and attitude. The industry-academia gap can be bridged by regular industry and academia interactions, and collaboration. This is possible only when B-schools invite industry practitioners to deliver guest lectures, make them a part of the curriculum review and admission committees during the admission process. Hence, the industry–academia collaboration in B-schools should happen at the input, process and output stages. This will enable B-schools in getting guest lectures, summer internships and functional projects, which are essential for making our students job-ready. The government should start finishing schools in every state in association with the industry to provide personality development programmes to MBA graduates and make them job-ready. The revision of MBA syllabus should happen once in two years where the industry practitioners should be made a part of the board of studies committees.
A large number of institutes has been started in the self-financing sector that survive on the fees charged from the students. For generating revenue, these institutes strive hard to fill up the seats allotted to them by regulatory agencies and in the process, students with poor academic records are also admitted. A two-year theoretical MBA course cannot transform such students to become employable management professionals. The three key ways through which the industry, government and academia can work with each other are:
1) To attract good faculty in self-financed institutions, at least 50 per cent salary of the faculty members of those institutes that have obtained a high grade in an accreditation exercise conducted by an authorised agency should be contributed by the government;
2) The academia, industry and government should cooperate in making provisions for a mandatory professional apprenticeship in an enterprise for atleast six months as an integral part of the MBA programme;
3) The country needs a large number of high-level vocational institutes that can be started by the government or the industry under the public-private partnership mode. This will provide an alternative pattern of education. Provisions should be made, so that vocationally-qualified persons can acquire academic qualifications upto the highest level.
Indian graduates fall under a broad spectrum in their readiness for job – very few of them are job-ready, a few of them can acquire skills with additional training while on-the-job, most of them are not suitable for employment. Most of them do possess average technical skills but lack in other aspects such as good communication skills, an ability to work with teams, inability to persuade others with their ideas and/or build on others ideas, which are essential for jobs in corporates. Reasons are partly due to the fact that many public institutes have been corrupted with politics and poor standards while private institutes have become more of production facilities churning out degrees and have forgotten the essence of education. The government must play a role in making education independent of politics, encourage quality and penalise those institutes, which don’t comply with standards of quality in education. Funding alone is not going to solve the problem.