About Dual Degree Dilemma

Currently positioned as Head of Training with Godrej & Boyce since last forty years, Pradeep Bhosekar is a mechanical engineer from VNIT, Nagpur and holds a MBA degree in HR from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, Mumbai. He is very active in the field of Skill Development and is a member of CII National Committee on Skill Development.

Question:As per the India Skills Report, only 47% of Indian Graduates are employable. And what's more shocking is nearly 27% of the engineers fail even to pass an interview. What according to you is leading to this? And what can universities do to make them employable?

I totally agree with your sentiment, they must have done proper research, I believe. As an industry person, I can totally vouch for it. In my company, we hire over 200 engineers every year across various branches, majority being mechanical and production engineers, Godrej being mechanical manufacturing company. Now coming back to your question, we do find that employability quotient is very low, that is one part, so we are forced to look at their academics to deduce the inference that this boy is intelligent. You won’t believe that these engineers fail to pass our written test, it is an aptitude written test that we give them for selection, there are a few domain tests and a few aptitude tests. And mind you, these students are those students whose academics have been pre checked in order to permit them to sit in the test. If I talk about what is leading to this, I find that in college students are learning subjects like production technology, operation research techniques, mathematics- there are not two three but eight papers of mathematics, papers like integration, calculus, and this makes me wonder why these papers of mathematics? I have been in this industry for last 40 years but I never need them while performing my function. So these students opt for a 4 year course learn different subjects but when they start seeking job/ taking interviews, they rather function based not subject oriented. This is a transition, from subject to function. They have read a subject but now they have to perform a function. For example, purchase function where they are supposed to purchase goods for the organization, product planning, design engineer is supposed to design products for the organization, production, maintenance and so on. So this big transition from the subject that they have learned to function they have to perform. Definitely, there is a big gap! This gap creates a big challenge for training person like me of any organization, “Now how to make them job ready”.

Question:Companies like TCS and Infosys have set up campuses to retrain the graduates that they hire, majorly it is teaching them what they should have been taught in college. At Godrej and Boyce, do you face such challenges when looking to hire freshers?

Yes. Very much. The place where you are sitting right now, the corporate training centre, at this place we do the exact thing. We recruit 200 plus engineers, they join the organization, after the typical orientation and induction programme, they come to the training centre, I have a designed programme for them and they are trained. In this case, every company will have their own programme, I am talking about my company’s programme, but the basic principal remains the same, once they are recruited, post their induction, this is what happens in every organization. We have named our programme as Technical Training Programme, and this function aims at making the recruits function ready. I have a list with all the details related to which person is to join which function and we impart training accordingly. It includes familiarization with the production processes; here we help them do a transition that I was talking about. In this one month, we tell these engineers that how our purchase function works, what are maintenance principles, what are the different shops in the production department like- press shop, machine shop, assembly shop, packing department etc., while they are taught this they will continue to draw their salary, but they are spending in a training centre. I am just commenting on the TCS way of working, if the language that they are learning in the college is not the one used in TCS currently, that much gap will be there, and so their training programme might be for three months. TCS’s Gandhinagar setup, I visited once, and I was told that engineers are training there for 3 months, learning the new language that TCS uses. At Godrej, we found one month good enough! But the fact is, there is a gap and that is why we are forced to conduct trainings like these. While we train them for domain skills, we find engineers being poor in soft skills too. Actually for soft skills, there is a bigger gap. This is because in the four years of college, there is hardly anything related to soft skills- not just communication but team work etc. See, in any big organization an engineer is not going to work alone, he is going to work in a group, whichever function he will join, whether it is purchase, design, production- there are blue collar workers

Question:Besides the theoretical approach that curricula have, is it not important for Universities to bring in more practical practices like apprenticeship, internship etc. And on the corporate front, many companies just discard applications on the basis of percentile, is that the right thing to do? And what difference do you generally find between a job applicant has a degree with great marks vs one who has on job experience and has average marks? (Out of your experience)

This is a very interesting question. At Godrej, how we look at it is, we look for skills that will suit the function that the engineers are supposed to join. So apprenticeship is out of question because this happens post degree, let’s talk about internship. Internship is a very desirable thing, but we hardly get students who have taken that up. In the absence of testing their domain knowledge, what is left in our hand is to look at their academic scores, because every organization would want to have better people, nobody wants dumb people, as simple as that, therefore we are forced to look at their academics- what kind of percentage he have secured in all the semesters, does he have a ATKT- which works as an indicator of a fact that this person could not do good in that subject, how will he perform better in my function- but this may not be true, as you hinted at it. But that is all that we have got, so we are forced to look at it. We reasonably look at 60% plus, we don’t look for 70% and above , this is a fair indicator of the fact that he could clear all the subjects. Coming to the second part of your question, how about those students who might have taken up several internships, would they not make a better candidate?- yes! They definitely will. So in Godrej, what we have started doing is, we give some weightage to internships. So what we do is, depending on the function for which we are hiring, the highest number of hiring we do is for production, second highest number is in sales and then other functions, if the student has internship in the same function, we give weightage to that, so if his academics is not first class, we are okay to look at it. As I speak, I feel if all the candidates were with internship experience that would have been an ideal situation. AICTE has put up internship as a part of degree programme, but the number of colleges is huge compared to the industries that could be ready to take these people for summer internship for variety of reasons- they have to pay for them, they have safety concerns etc.,it is a sad part of the story from my industry side. I think, industries must support the government in this programme, we can atleast give interning chance to the number of people we plan to hire- for example, if at Godrej we hire 200 people, we must take 200 interns, why 200 but slightly more so that a couple of them can be weeded out in the process. If you see, Internship is a very effective tool that can bridge certain gaps.

Question:Having dealt with continuous skilling, reskilling and upskilling of working professionals, what do you think are the concrete skills that one must hone before getting into the job market?

We talked enough about domain skills, that of course is important, but what plays a role too is soft skills. When an engineer joins an organization to perform a function, he will have to deal with other people working in the same function- there could be 5, 10, 20 people. I believe what will help is to tweak the subjects so that they are more specific to what the industry requires. However, I understand that it is not so easy as there are many functions, and it is difficult to interpret if they all can find a place in the curricula, that University will have to see. People can be exposed to domain skills during an internship but looking at soft skills is equally important. So Universities must make their students soft skill ready, by using electronic modes and classroom training. Skills like , Number 1, interpersonal skills, as the name suggests- how the person is in group communication, team work, active listening etc. These are very important when you work in an organization. We have seen friction in the organization, the case was the person was very intelligent but was not a team player, so he ended up creating too many adversaries. Number 2, leadership, at college level there should be courses to impart this skill, these are engineers when they will join an organization they will have some subordinates under them, how he leads the group of people is very important like how he motivates the group? How he communicates? How he monitors the performance of others? Number 3, Communication Skills- Both written and oral. I am happy that some colleges have started some kind of exposure to communication programmes. And as a part of it, they have effective English and so on. Our business language is English, therefore the requirement for error free English usage is a must. I mean, it makes a very bad impression if the person cannot write in correct English, not just about him but the organization too. So these three skills other than the basic domain skills are important.

"Actually for soft skills, there is a bigger gap. This is because in the four years of college, there is hardly anything related to soft skills- not just communication but team work etc. See, in any big organization an engineer is not going to work alone, he is going to work in a group, whichever function he will join, whether it is purchase, design, production- there are blue collar workers.", said Dr. Pradeep Bhosekar, Head of Training, Godrej & Boyce. While talking to Rana Jyoti, Associate Professor, India Education Forum, he said that he believes that Internship is a very effective tool that can bridge certain gaps related to Academia- Industry Connect.