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Skill Gap in Engineers
Skill Gap in Engineers

According to a recent research published in 2011 April, conducted by the World Bank in India, Skill shortage remains one of the major constraints to continued growth of the Indian economy. For instance, the exporting IT sector reported lack of skills as the most serious obstacle for growth, and salaries rose 15% annually from 2003 to 2006 mainly due to the shortages of qualified workforce. Similarly we can see similar problems in other industries as well.

In order to understand the problem, an Employer Satisfaction Survey was carried out as part of preparation of the Second Phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP) initiated by the Government of India and financially supported by the World Bank. This employer survey seeks to address this knowledge-gap by answering three questions:

  • In which important skills are the engineers falling short?
  • How satisfied are employers with the skills of engineering graduates?
  • Skills that employers consider important when hiring new engineering graduates?

Survey details:

  • 157 Companies Survey as part of TEQIP – II
  • World Bank MHRD & FICCI conducted it.
  • Sectors covered included IT, Infrastructure, Power & 20 others.
  • Companies were from all over India.

After classifying all skills by factor analysis, the authors find that employers perceive (professional Skills, Core employability Skills and Communication Skills) to be very important.

 

Table 1: Skills grouped into three factors

Factor 1
(Core Employability Skills)
Factor 2
(Professional Skills)
Factor 3
(Communication Skills)
  • Integrity
  • Self-discipline
  • Reliability
  • Self-motivated
  • Entrepreneurship Skills
  • Team work
  • Understands and takes directions or work assignments
  • Willingness to learn
  • Identify, formulate, and solve
  • Technical/engineering problems
  • Design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
  • Use appropriate/modern tools, Equipment, technologies
  • Apply knowledge of mathematics, science, engineering
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Written communication
  • Design & conduct experiments, and analyze and interpret data
  • Reading
  • Communication in English
  • Technical Skills

 

The skills set of engineers were broadly categorized into three overall skills Factors:

  • Core Employability Skills (which cover generic attitudinal and affective skills, such as reliability and team-work)
  • Communication Skills ( such as English skills, Written and verbal communication)
  • Professional Skills (which generally covers cognitive skills related to the engineering professions, such as ability to apply engineering knowledge; as well as design and conduct experiments and related data analyze and interpretation

Employers were asked to rate the importance of each of these skill factors. The response is as follows:-

Table 2: Skill set of engineers and its importance

Core Employability Skills

Mean

Professional Skills

Mean

Communication Skills

Mean
Integrity
Reliability
Teamwork
Willingness to learn
Entrepreneurship 
Self-discipline
Self-motivated
4.48
4.42
4.41
4.40
4.35
4.26
4.22
Use of modern tools
Apply Math/Science / Engineering Knowledge
Creativity
Problem Solving
System design to needs
Contemporary issues
Customer Service
4.08
4.07
4.07
3.93
3.84
3.83
3.51
Communication  in English
Written Communication
Reading
Technical Skills
Experiments/data analysis
Verbal Communication
Basic computer
4.26
4.07
4.04
4.02
4.01
4.00
3.95

 

From the above table we can conclude that:

  • Employers give a lot of importance to integrity and reliability.
  • Communication in English is also given equal importance.
  • Use of modern tools, problem solving ability and good knowledge about engineering carries equal importance.

Skill gaps:-Graduate engineers

Core Employability SkillsMean gapProfessional SkillsMean gapCommunication SkillsMean gap
Reliability
Self-motivated
Willingness to learn
Understand/take directions
Integrity
Teamwork
1.22
1.10
1.03
1.03
0.98
0.95
Problem solving
Creativity
Use of modern tools
System design to needs
Contemporary issues
Customer Service
1.06
0.99
0.93
0.89
0.88
0.85
Experiments/ data analysis
Reading
Technical Skills
Written Communication
Verbal Communication
Advanced Computer
0.99
0.96
0.89
0.85
0.83
0.68

 

Higher-order thinking skills are lagging:

A closer assessment of the skill gaps tentatively suggests that for cognitive skills the skill gaps are largest within higher-order thinking skills, and smallest among the lower-order thinking skills. To arrive at this finding, we map the Professional (cognitive) skills into the Bloom‘s revised taxonomy of cognitive skills. This taxonomy orders the level of cognitive skills.

 

Blooms revised taxonomy

skill gap in engineers

 

We classify the Professional Skills into either higher order thinking skills (the top three cognitive skills in the revised Bloom‘s taxonomy: analyzing, evaluation, and creating) or the lower-order thinking skills (the bottom-three cognitive skills in the revised Bloom‘s taxonomy)


Table 3: Importance and skill gap for higher and lower order thinking skills

Higher Order SkillsImportanceSkill Gap
Identify, formulate and solve technical or engineering problems3.931.08
Design a system, component or process to meet desired needs3.840.89
Use appropriate/ modern tools, equipment, technologies to the specific job4.080.93
Creativity4.070.99
Design and conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data4.010.99
Average higher order skills3.980.97
Lower Order SkillsImportanceSkill Gap
Apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering4.070.85
Knowledge of contemporary issue3.380.88
Technical skills (E.g. Programming)4.020.89
Basic computers (E.g. Spreadsheet and Databases)3.950.68
Advanced computer (E.g. Spreadsheet and Databases)3.710.69
Average lower order skills3.900.77

 

From the above table we can conclude that:

  • This simple analysis shows that Indian employers demand higher-order thinking skills.
  • It also indicates that the graduates are better at meeting the demand for lower-order thinking skills, but they fall short in meeting the demand for higher-order thinking skills.

Summary of findings:

  • 64%  of employers are only somewhat satisfied with quality of new hires.
  • Employers perceive Core Employability skills & Communication skills as most important.
  • Skill gaps are severe in the higher order thinking skills.
  • Communication in English is the most demanded skill.

Suggestions for engineering institutions:

  • Seek to improve the skill set of graduates.
  • Recognize the importance of Soft Skills.
  • Refocus the assessments, teaching-learning process, and move away from lower-order thinking skills, such as remembering and understanding, toward higher-order skills, such as analyzing and solving engineering problems, as well as creativity.
  • Interact more with employers to understand the particular demand for skills in that region and sector.
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