VTU refines its graduates’ skills

With Mission VTU—Empower 10,000, Visvesvaraya Technological University is helping its former students prepare for and procure meaningful careers

Being one of India’s largest technological universities, with 202 affiliated engineering colleges and over 350,000 students enrolled at any point in time for its 32 undergraduate and 92 postgraduate programmes, Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) feels responsible for their graduates in terms of finding employment.

To this end, the university has committed to deliver industry-oriented courses. It pays close attention to the curricula of its courses. VTU takes inputs from industry interactions and incorporates the feedback to revise its undergraduate programmes once every four years and once every two years for its post-graduate programmes.

Falling short of industry-readiness

In spite of being committed to a dynamic curriculum VTU’s Vice Chancellor Dr H Maheshappa affirms that students can find it challenging to get jobs because they lack knowledge about the latest technology advancements.

“In four years, which is the time our undergraduate curricula remains frozen, technology advances so much. Prospective employers expect freshers to have a basic understanding of such advancements. But it is practically impossible to include the latest technologies in formal courses because they are not mature enough. There is a lack of reading and teaching material in the early stages of any technology. What little material is available is far too expensive to include as regular text books,” explains the Vice Chancellor.

Students from VTU’s 100 odd affiliated colleges in rural areas and small towns suffer the most because of this disconnect. Dr Maheshappa explains why, “While students in cities can afford to acquire basic exposure to technology advancements and associated technical skills by doing additional value addition courses and through their peer network, students from small towns miss out.”

Students from rural areas and small towns are wholly dependent on the engineering course they pursue to fetch them jobs. They are not exposed to any technology advances beyond what their colleges teach them and they cannot afford to pay for separate soft skills training, which improve their employment prospects. The number of such students is about 5,000 of VTU’s 50,000 annual graduates.

Empowering recent graduates

In 2013, VTU embarked on Mission VTU— Empowering 10,000, an ambitious training programme to bring the skills of 10,000 graduates up-to-speed from its 2012 and 2013 batches. The typical target are those from its affiliated colleges in small towns. By enhancing the employability quotient of these graduates, VTU aims at helping them get absorbed in the industry.

IDENTIFYING IN-DEMAND TECHNICAL SKILLS: The biggest challenge to achieving Mission VTU was identifying exactly what technical skills to impart. VTU has crossed this bridge in innovative ways. At the outset university representatives interacted with technology companies based out of Bengaluru, typically micro, small and medium enterprises looking at employing less than 10 engineers per annum for hard designing jobs, including start-ups.

Another initiative held to provide university officers opportunities to interact with representativesof large corporations, was a job fair organised at UBDT College of Engineering, Davangere, on September 28, 2013. Over 23,000 students attended this fair, where 104 participating corporations from various sectors processed 47,800 resumes. Participating companies included Google, Yahoo, Wipro, Godrej, Airtel, Infosys, Aditya Birla, Core Green, Samsung, Siemens, TESCO, HP, Accenture, Amazon, etc. In all, 5,233 candidates were shortlisted for the final round, pending salary negotiations and report card verification. There were also 139 0n-the-spot offers.

According to Dr Maheshappa, “The fair was very useful in identifying areas to define the training of students.” Based on the inputs gathered, different courses of two months duration each have been designed for graduates in different streams of engineering. The courses are completely in sync with industry needs. For instance, there is a course in Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) and embedded design for graduates in electronics, one in mobile applications for telecommunications engineers and one in foundry skills for mechanical engineering graduates.

SOFT SKILLS TRAINING: Soft skills training is another component of Mission VTU. According to Dr Maheshappa, “We aim at helping freshers understand their communication strengths,and mapping these competencies with appropriate training. So that a graduate with reasonable writing skills is being trained to write proposals, someone with talking skills is being trained for a career in marketing and so on.”

MODUS OPERANDI: Students who have completed their engineering from VTU affiliated colleges in small towns or who are from economically less privileged backgrounds, and jobless, can sit for an entrance test for an admission to these courses. No student is rejected. Those who don’t get admitted to the immediately available seats are put on a waiting list. Professional trainers are delivering these courses at affiliated colleges in Bengaluru or in the VTU campus in Belgaum.To meet the expenses of these courses, VTU has set aside Rs. 25 lakh in the first phase. Participants bear only their travel expenses to the venue of the course.

Early success

VTU is aiming at training 10,000 students of its 2012 and 2013 batches by July 2014. The process is underway.

“We are seeing early successes. When university representatives were interacting with the industry, companies committed to employ 28 of the 40 participants of the very first course in VLSI and embedded design. Essentially, it is a reciprocal initiative. We are asking the industry what it needs. The companies in turn are employing the trained graduates,” says the well-meaning Vice Chancellor.

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