Commentary & Perspective

Dell and AnitaB.org India Faculty Workshop

There is an existing disparity between the college curriculum, industry expectations and the readiness of fresh graduates to take on a job. According to an article on peoplematters.in despite producing the maximum number of graduates globally, the average level of the shortage of skilled talent in the STEM sector in India has increased from 6% in 2014 to 12% in January 2018.

Organizations want students from campus with technical skills and the basic knowledge and soft-skills that are required to perform even an entry level job. In addition to this challenge of talent, the percentage of women in the technology industry is still low. According to Nasscom in 2017 there were 34% women working in the IT sector. While the industry is seeing an increase in women hires every year, we need a 50:50 representation.

In an effort to draw focus on the gap in employability of fresh graduates and inclusion of women in the workforce, Dell India and AnitaB.org India organized a workshop for corporates and academia from technical backgrounds in May 2018. The objective of the workshop was two-folded:

Increase the understanding and awareness of faculty:

  • On the organizational requirements of fresh graduates: technical and business
  • Role faculty can play in preparing and inspiring students entering the workforce

Increase the understanding and awareness of corporates:

  • On the approach and training provided to students at a college level
  •  Support from organizations to better prepare students before they enter the workforce

The workshop was attended by 20 faculty members from Amritha School of Engineering, Atria Engineering College, BMS College of Engineering and HKBK College of Engineering in Bangalore. The session was opened by Sudha K V, V P System Management Engineering, Dell India who shared details of the Dell India initiative for training and mentoring women students on campus called the Girl Student Outreach Program (GSOP). The volunteers of this initiative work with female students from the engineering colleges – UVCE Bangalore and SIT Tumkuru. These students are not the top rankers of their class. The students get technical and soft-skill coaching and career mentoring through a time period of 8-12 weeks. The intention of the program is to enhance the student’s hands-on knowledge and bring out their confidence to speak up in interviews. The initiative helps the students enhance their technical-skill applications and reasoning and has played an integral role in boosting the confidence of many. The initiative is seeing positive traction with many of the students get better marks and securing jobs on campus.

The workshop then went on to having a technical session by Raveendra Babu Madala, Engineering Technologist, Technical Staff at Dell EMC India on the evolution of computing. This was followed by a deep discussion between the faculty and Dell India representatives led by Nirmala Mallanna, Senior Engineering Manager, Dell India on how the engineering curriculum needs to align itself to the current technology trends. Colleges and organizations need to work together in providing students with a better understanding of how their engineering concepts are applied in the real work environment. This session also gave the faculty participants an opportunity to share the challenges they face while teaching and how corporates can help. It was unanimously agreed by all present that the industry connects and exposure for students has to increase as a part of the curriculum, from the first year itself rather than the last semester.

The faculty members from different colleges also got to share their best practices for teaching students and getting better campus placements. A strong recommendation that came forth was that companies should allow all students to take the aptitude tests on campus rather than those who have a score above 70%. A more stringent evaluation can be introduced at the interview level. This would give more students a chance to make it to the next level and showcase their skill sets which at times cannot be judged during an aptitude test! There was also a suggestion from the faculty to share the topics and process, that is followed for the Dell India GSOP program at a  separate session.

In all, the workshop provided several useful insights for all involved. We hope to keep this dialogue going and look forward to more corporates start initiatives that will better prepare female students to make their entry into the workforce.