While glorifying the IITs, let us not underestimate the ITI’s and polytechnics

We hear a lot about the IITs nowadays. We read all kinds of admission news, placement news, students moving from the IITs to IIMs and IAS, getting plum jobs in consulting, and of course the millions of dollar advertising spend of private coaching classes which conduct coaching for IIt entrance. From IITs to US universities and to MBA courses in India and abroad and then to non engineering jobs , is yet another story- but not in the purview of this article.

While discussing IITs and their inherent strengths, has anyone however wondered what is the backbone of the Indian Engineering industry ? Have you thought about who trains “hands on”, our engineering workforce which works on the latest design and drafting softwares, executes the drawings then created, and those who slog out in the plants and work sites to ensure the project is a reality ?

You will be surprised to know that the core engineering, design and the execution in field, is the contribution of hundreds of ITI’s and and lesser known diploma colleges and unknown engineering / semi technical institutions in the private and unorganised sector. The output delivered by IIT engineers and engineers from other similar well known institutions is just a tiny fraction of the contribution made by the thousands of engineers & technicians from these lesser known ITI’s / polytechnics & unknown institutes from all over the country .

Engineering is an ancient profession, in practice for several hundreds of years . It takes several years to produce an engineer and many more years for evolving a complete engineer. Engineering is so very dependent on its sub categories, like Autocad draftsmen, technicians from different fields like mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, piping and site supervisors, erection foremen & construction workers. It takes a lot of back breaking work to deliver a real project.

So where does the real contribution to Indian engineering come from ? Is it the IITs which contribute a very small fraction to this entire work force or someone else altogether? In fact, most IIT graduates move out of core engineering very fast, early in their career. Most of them want to move into more glamorous professions & higher paying jobs , like investment banking , management consulting, consumer marketing or selling noodles, soaps and creams after their MBA. THE REAL WORKFORCE THAT EXECUTES LARGE ENGINEERING PROJECTS COMES FROM FAR LESSER KNOWN TECHNICAL INSTITUTES SUCH AS ITI’s & Diploma engineering colleges, & privately run institutions ( just for example: Gupte Academy/ Father Agnel / Paras CADD and so many of them ) which provide thousands of draftsmen, technicians, and computer operators who use latest drafting softwares, machinists, technicians and construction supervisors etc., These are the people who learn in very average institutes and cling on to the engineering profession in India and deliver goods at a fraction of the cost at what their overseas counterparts in developed countries do.

The Government must refocus its HR strategy to support , develop & nurture these institutes & their students which provide the backbone to Indian engineering. Scholarships & loans to students ( who normally hail from difficult family conditions & from a lower strata of the society ), better learning facilities, developing their English speaking & communication skills, job placement guidance and encouragement to focus on their core areas of work are some of the issues the government must focus on.

The inward remittances into India from the Middle East of personnel educated and working in the lower end of the engineering workforce is several times more than all IIT graduates put together who work overseas and send money back home. Philippines -a country which is much less developed than us and tiny in comparison to us in size and population and with no IITs/or “PITs” to boast, sends a far higher number of semi–skilled & skilled engineering technicians to the Middle East than India. Their Government actively supports migration of such skilled talents and the country reaps rewards in the process. India can do far better than Philippines in this areas as our training standards and local work experiences are distinctly better. But, we still want to ignore the blue collar employees and we seem to focus on building & funding new & old IITs instead.

Casting aspersion on our IITs is not the intention of this article. Opening our eyes to the wealth of the REAL engineering workforce is the purpose. It is time our HR & education ministry takes due cognizance of the ”real engineers & technicians” and give them their due. After all, we are a country that produces a well experienced AutoCAD draftsman who draws at the most $ 400 to $500 a month !

An example why we must do it sooner is here- a well trained Revit/CADS RC/BIM/ Tekla / Autocad/BoCad/ piping draftsman / operator is outsourced at $ 500 a month- working at an Indian KPO , but the same 12 th passed person, if polished off with good English & communication skills will earn himself 4 to 5 times the amount in the international market. We must re-jig our focus on the technical staff at the ground level, and not just glorify our highly qualified IIT engineers ..

USA & other nations are now outsourcing engineering work in a big way from India through engineering KPOs; and millions of dollars are being generated by these so called lower categories of trade within India. The backbone of the new operations in putting India on the global engineering map is not really the IIT graduates, but the 12th passed , ITI graduates and their likes. Lets not forget them. Lets strengthen their position and reap rewards .

Written by

Dinesh Bandiwadekar
BE(Hons) Civil) (VJTI) PGDCM (NICMAR) MBA( IIFT)

Mobile: + 91 -9619545460
Skype: dineshb777

Mumbai, India

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