The most common saying in India “one becomes an engineer first, then one decides to pursue one’s likings.” The profession of engineering has been a sure shot option for upward mobility amongst Indians. It is due to this reason that from one generation to the next generation, parents insist that their children should pursue engineering for securing their financial stability.
While there are students who pursue engineering profession by choice, there are many who are pushed to join engineering due to peer pressure or family and culture herd mentality. Another reason is there are a number of engineering colleges and institutes that have mushroomed in rural areas as well.
What is the reason behind engineering graduates shifting to IT?
Like any other country in the world, India is also impacted by the changing global and national dynamics, and engineering as a profession has also undergone alterations and strains. In India, the engineering education is the sought-after education even though there is a challenge for the students with core engineering disciplines like Electrical, Mechanical, Civil etc., which rendered several graduates jobless or underemployed.
The prime reason for this is that the number of core engineering jobs in India is much less compared to the number of engineering graduates produced by Indian colleges every year. These core discipline graduates then opt for jobs in the IT / ITes sectors.
The other main reason is that the ignorance of the students and their parents plays a major role in stream selection due to lack of proper career guidance that multiples the problem.
A few more factors that contribute to making engineers unemployable are:
- Quality of the education: Outdated learning curriculum and old teaching techniques.
- Theory vs practice: Indian curriculum-education system focuses only on theoretical knowledge instead of providing a more practical approach.
- Examinations: Indian education measures the learning based on one final examination instead of concentrating on assignments / viva / on the job training, etc. during the 4-year period. As the examination is the emphasis, the focus is shifted from learning the subjects in-depth to passing the exams.
- Research: There is extraordinarily little scope for research within the curriculum with the institutions imparting the curriculum.
- Lack of appropriate exposure: Most of the institutes/colleges do not provide internship opportunities which are related to the discipline chosen by the students.
- Teaching professionals / professors:Majority of the professors and teaching professionals lack the right teaching technique; they are neither open-minded nor updated with the latest advancements in specialization.
- More Supply — less demand: As more and more engineering graduates pass out year-on-year, the supply and demand curve are getting affected.
How difficult or easy is it to learn IT skills like computing fundamentals, cybersecurity fundamentals for a non-IT person?
An IT professional requires some of these fundamental skills like analytical thinking, problem solving mindset, logical approach, assessment skills, creative and troubleshooting mindset, technical knowledge, and systems understanding.
While a non-IT professional may possess some above-mentioned skills, it especially important for an IT person to have in-depth technical and systems knowledge of the various IT domains like hardware, operating software, telecommunication, databases, networking, application systems, information security, data privacy, data warehousing, artificial intelligence, etc., along with soft skills like organizing ability, good communication skills, project management skills, and inter-personal skills.
The key is not a technical background, but willingness and desire to learn how technology works and to never stop. In many cases, a non-IT person can pick up technical skills over time and effort through training, certification, and hands-on experience. Hands-on experience does not necessarily need to come from a paid job; there are others way of getting the experience by volunteering to work with experts in the domain areas.
Other than Engineering, are there graduates from other streams too taking up to IT?
Graduates from other disciplines like management graduates, science, commerce, law, writer, accounting, auditors, psychology majors, and teachers also take up IT jobs.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic had anything to do with this shift in careers?
During the pandemic, various levels of lockdown have been implemented across the world, which led to industry and education moving to the digital space and career discussions needing to completely revolve around understanding the change in industries and upskilling to stay relevant.
The most frequent questions have been – “what can I do FOR myself?” and “what can I do BY myself.” This resulting in an explosion of three main skill areas
- creativity, 2. entrepreneurship, and 3. digitization.
The idea behind it is this – if you have a skill or a talent, hone it and use a business mind to market/explore it. The COVID-19 era has brought about a monumental shift in understanding the importance of skills and building a breed of young, individual businesses in the SME space. The employment market globally has always been linked to skill-based, technical education leading to work readiness. India has also caught up quite rapidly. So really, the Post – COVID-19 Era or the “What Next?” Era will unfurl a myriad of opportunities based on education background and immediate learnings in the past. The focus has shifted from careers to skills which have the portability to apply to any industry or independent work as required, including:
- Creativity – including art and design thinking skills
- Digital Technologies – including software and app development
- Digital Marketing – including SEO and social media marketing
- Computers – from a base level user requirement to advanced coding, graphics, and animation.
Specifically with the pandemic, remote-working arrangements is on the increase and demand for specific IT skills like the following has grown multifold:
- Cloud Computing
- Data analytics and data science
- Networking and wireless
- Software development
- AI and machine learning
- Project management
- IT service management
- Data Privacy
Industries and organizations that have been built over the years are going to continue to exist (assuming they are capable of adapting to new environments), but their personnel requirements have changed. It is significantly important to make sure that as we progress in 2021, personnel need to bag some of the above skills to stay relevant and get a head start in the post-Covid-19 era.
Of late there has been a spike in online certification courses. How relevant are these for those wanting to shift gears to IT?
The Covid-19 era has forced the world working and learning community to conduct their regular activities remotely. While there were online certification courses even in the pre-COVID-19 era, there was always a preference with students, employees, and organizations to have an onsite training. This pandemic has made it mandatory for the learning community to seek skills and knowledge through online courses. The advantage of the pandemic is that learning can be done from anywhere, anytime—it is instead the mindset of the learner which is of paramount importance.
The IT online certifications courses provide the depth and knowledge for those who want to shift from other faculties. Some of these online courses also provide testing labs which helps students to have on-the-job / practical experience by implementing the learning and obtaining and analyzing the results, including the recently introduced Information Technology Certified Associate (ITCA). These kinds of online courses provide confidence and helps to garner the career shift smoothly.
Are online certification courses alone enough to make a career shift to IT?
The online certification courses are cheaper when compared to the onsite training courses, as well as flexible and allow for learning what one needs in ramp up skills and knowledge. While it is imperative that one has relevant experience to make a career shift, the online courses provide the gateway that enables someone to undertake the career shift.