Meet millions of India's engineers - unemployed or stuck in unrelated jobs

India churns out lakhs of engineers every year, but while many have difficulty finding jobs, few end up in jobs that they like.
Meet millions of India's engineers - unemployed or stuck in unrelated jobs
Meet millions of India's engineers - unemployed or stuck in unrelated jobs

Ravi Teja completed civil engineering from Helapuri Institute of Engineering and Science, Eluru, in 2013, and he is yet to find a job. 

“The college authorities said that it was recession and they could not do much to help us. I have been trying for a year. I keep mailing companies but hardly any of them reply. Even if they reply it is in the negative. I am willing to work for any salary but still I am still unable to find a job in my field of study,” he says with despair.

There are many Ravis in India. Of the 15 lakh engineering graduates India produces every year, 20-30% of them do not find jobs, and many others work jobs which well below their technical qualification. And yet more are compelled to take up jobs which have nothing to do with their education or engineering.

Shree Balaji, for instance, is now also looking at government jobs because he must start repaying his education loan. Having graduated with a degree in computer science engineering from Sree Sastha Institute of Engineering and Technology, Chennai, he comes from a humble background.

“In the college brochure it was written that the placement rate was 100%. In that belief I availed a bank loan. But now there is no placement. My father runs a tailoring shop and my mother is a house wife. I must find a job soon. I am also taking exams for government jobs,” he says.

Shree Balaji has just graduated The Balajis of Indian engineers form a sizeable chunk too. Usually banks provide loans that cover 80-90% of the tuition fee. The repayment of this loan must begin as soon as the candidate starts working. A few banks wait until two years for graduates to get a job, and during this period they are not charged interest. 

There is also pressure on engineering graduates to not sit idle. Madhan, an electrical engineering graduate for instance, has taken up ME part time in Anna University for he hasn’t been able to find a job since he graduated in 2013. “If I get a job I will discontinue it. I am hoping that I get one soon,” he says.

And while one-sixth of Indians opt for engineering after finishing schooling, not everyone does it out of choice.

“My parents forced me to join engineering. I am not restricting myself to the field of electronics. I am already finding it difficult to get even a single job offer, so any job is fine,” says Vinod who graduated with an engineering degree in electronics and communication from Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology in Coimbatore.

The emphasis on taking up engineering as a sure-shot option is engineered largely by parents and the society. Sadly, these parents don't realise that Indian economy is not growing at the same rate as the number of engineers. In fact, it is only the IT sector that absorbs engineers in large numbers, between 50-75%.

Aarathi Menon from SRM took up an IT job in Tata Consultancy Services after studying biotechnology. “Biotech companies deem graduates with B Tech as less qualified and those with M Tech as over qualified. It is extremely difficult to get a job in this sector. I decided to take up teaching and took up an IT job temporarily so that I can earn and later do M Tech with my own money,” she tells TNM.

A study in 2014 found that there is a large mismatch in the aspirations of graduating engineers and their job readiness. 97% engineers aspire for a job in IT and core engineering. However, only 18.43% employable in IT & 7.49% in core engineering. 

After studying instrumentation from Manipal Institute of Technology, Arvind Kumar from Gurgaon got placed in an IT company which he soon quit. “I had not secured enough marks to get placed in core companies and I ended up in Wipro. The level of work was one for which a B Tech education was not required; it was similar to a data entry job. I resigned and am now to join MBA. At least after that I am sure that I will get to do something related to what I am going to study the next two years,” he says.

There are also those who aren’t able to cope with the high-pressure in IT and then resort to government jobs which have become more competitive than ever. Around 14 lakh candidates wrote the Group IV examination in Tamil Nadu last year for filling up just 5,269 vacancies!

Having completed engineering and not getting jobs, there is also a sizeable number of engineers who take up post graduate studies in engineering who would not have done so had they got a job.

“I did an internship in a particular company thinking that they would employ me. But the company had a bad year and it did not recruit at all. Therefore, I joined for M Tech in the same college where I did B.Tech,” says Shridar Sibi, an energy and environment engineer from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

However, many times, even after completing post graduate studies in engineering it is difficult to find jobs. As on March 2014, 1.5 lakh post graduate engineers have applied for government jobs in the Tamil Nadu government employment exchange, thrice more than last year!

There are, of course, those who are happy to have found the right place.

Engineers like Jayaram Govindarajan from Palakkad are happy that the IT sector is recruiting many engineers. “I wanted to do engineering and I joined SRM for the exposure it offered. As the mechatronics course ended I was just like any other engineer who wanted a job. I was ready to work for anything as I had spent Rs. 11 lakhs. I got selected in Accenture and I did not think much,” he says happily.

Vivek Anandan, who graduated with a food process engineering degree from SRM and has a post-graduation degree in food quality and innovation from the University of Leeds, UK spent Rs. 21 lakh in total. Back in India he is employed with ID Fresh, a value-added food production company for a salary of Rs. 18,000 per month.

“I was initially employed for Rs. 12,000 in another company. But I am working to gain experience so that I can start my own company and therefore I am not much bothered about the money that I get,” he says. When asked about the loan that he has to repay he adds, “Don’t ask about that. It is difficult but I have to manage.”

Another aspect is that most employers prefer graduates over post graduate students when it comes to ones having no industry experience as they would have to pay higher for post graduate students. In this regard, Vivek has a piece of advice for the young engineers. He says that they should plan their career very carefully.

“Studying abroad is nice but you may be seen as an over-qualified candidate once you are back in India. Big, established companies offer a good package but they give more weightage to work experience than the degrees. Start-ups employ you easily but the packages are low. If you chose the latter you have to spend a long time before you settle in life,” he says.

So, where does the problem lie and is there a solution?

There is a false perception in the society that if one does engineering he/she is a brilliant student and that it is easy to get a job with a fat salary. It is this perception that makes many students opt for engineering. Some know about this even before joining an engineering college but they do not dare to take a decision opposite to custom.

Towards the end of the course students come to realize the reality and end up accepting any offer that they get, be it a less-paying job in the same field of study, a job in a totally different field, or decide to study further just to escape social and peer pressure.

Another problem also lies in the fact that the quality of engineering education has dropped. The National Employability Report, Engineering Graduates - 2014 by Aspiring Minds says that less than one out of four engineering graduates are employable. Another study has shown that one-third of the engineers do not possess simple mathematical skills that they ought to know.

25-35% of the engineers are unable to comprehend English usage in basic conversations. Worse still, 25% of the engineers passing out every year are seen as employable by the industry!

Attributing the reason for decline a bit on the teachers themselves, Dr. Geetha Verma, Principal of Government NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad is of the opinion that the quality of teaching has gone down. “Over the years commitment of the teachers has considerably declined, and this has had a bad effect. The curriculum of engineering has also been diluted over the years so that students score better. This has made the knowledge level of students go down like anything,” she says.

This lack of quality is compounded by the mushrooming of private engineering colleges in every town. There are 327 institutions offering technical education that do not have the approval of the All India Council for Technical Education, the apex body that certifies colleges. 

“Such colleges admit students not on merit, a mere pass in the entrance examination is enough to get an admission in such colleges. This has contributed to an increase in the number of graduates with less skill,” Dr. Geetha says.

“The insistence of AICTE and UGC that the engineering colleges should have a certain record of pass percentage has made the private, self-financed or autonomous colleges dilute the examination pattern so that students score more. There have also been instances where college authorities permitted their students to adopt unfair means in the examinations. The affiliating authorities have taken this into account and have issued circulars that there be cameras in the exam halls. They are taking a pro-active role now and I am sure that the situation would change soon,” she adds.

Dr. Geetha is hopeful that in the near future the quality of engineering in India will become better. 

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