Soft Skills And Leadership Skills Are Must For Every Engineer

In an email interview, The Vice Chancellor ( UPES) , Dr. Jha spoke to Dr. Waqar Ahmed of BW Education on his vision for the UPES

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Q. According to you what are the concerns with engineering education in India?

All India Council for Technical Education estimates that more than 60% of the 8 lakh engineers graduating from technical institutions across the country remain unemployed every year. Does this mean engineering is a worthless degree? Far from it. This problematic statistic simply points to the fact that students are not receiving an education that is relevant to the real world. The issue does not lie in difficult market conditions, but in the quality of education which clings to outdated models and fails to branch out to the rest of the world. Less than 1% of engineering students are reported to participate in summer internships and course contents are not updated regularly even when there are new branches and concepts of engineering being added in the field. 

Q.  How is UPES addressing these issues?

UPES recognizes the need to develop highly employable and agile graduates ready to take on the careers of the future. The highly specialized, industry-designed programs at UPES ensure our graduates are on the cutting-edge of the times and well-equipped for a new wave of careers in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cyber Security, Renewable Energy, DevOps, Transportation Design, Machine Learning, main-frame technology and more. The thriving partnerships between the University and several leading Indian and international organizations across the sectors provide our students with ‘real world’ education and ‘on-the-job’ experiences. UPES has been a pioneer in forming an alliance with IBM, offering 15 specialized engineering programs. It also offers Big Data and DevOps programs in partnership with Netherland based IT company- Xebia. UPES works closely with L&T, Cisco, Aditya Birla, Bosch-Rexroth, Philips Carbon Black, Tata, Infosys and other corporate giants to train UPES students, helping them gain an in-depth understanding of their dedicated fields.

Q. How do the academic collaborations with the industry help your students?

The positive effect of these strong industry partnerships is reflected in UPES’ excellent placement track record. In 2018, the University placed 92 % of its eligible engineering graduates with around 200 organizations including leading names like Dell, Microsoft, Reliance, IBM, Infosys, Boston Analytics, Maruti Suzuki, Shell India, Schlumberger, Denso, TATA, Bombardier Capgemini, Royal Enfield and many more. Last year, 23 students undertook international paid internships in France, Germany, Netherlands, Estonia, Ukraine, Indonesia, China and Russia. Since UPES students are considered to have an upper hand in training and career preparation through these industry partnerships, a steady stream of new recruiters visits UPES’ campus every year to round up our professionals.  Last year alone UPES witnessed a whopping influx of 74% new recruiters as compared to 2016.  UPES’ deep and fruitful relations with the business world successfully closes the gap between students and industry by creating a sound bridge for knowledge and skill exchange.

Q. Apart from industry collaborations how is UPES raising the benchmark in engineering education?

Besides industry collaborations, UPES engineering students get brilliant opportunities to participate in international competitions and events. For the last five years, the engineering students have been participating in CanSat- a prestigious aerospace competition that attracts representation from more than 50 universities from across the globe. At UPES, we also promote the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. We have launched Research Initiative for Students of Engineering (RISE), under which substantial funds are provided annually to convert ideas into reality. Students also get opportunities to assist faculty members in research and consultancy projects, which give them additional practical exposure. 

Q. It is a well-known fact that companies are no longer hiring candidates with just domain expertise. Soft skills have become equally important. How do you prepare your students?

As soon as a student joins, s/he becomes part of our unique Personality Enhance Program (PEP). For PEP training, world-class trainers from Dale Carnegie and other institutions are hired. The 4-day program acts as an icebreaker, helping students from diverse backgrounds overcome inhibitions. Students are split into three categories and their communications and personality issues are addressed accordingly so that no one is left behind. Internal training modules are then designed accordingly.

They get regular exposure to the corporate world through internships, workshops with industry people, campus ambassador programs for Intel, Google. This hones their soft skills and develops leadership abilities in them.

Q. What is Project Abhigyat at UPES?

UPES has pioneered Project Abhigyat under which it sends its faculty members to leading organizations for internships and projects. 

This helps the faculty frame courses and curriculum so that it is more application-driven and relevant, making students ‘industry-ready’. The program spread over 4-6 weeks provides opportunities for the faculty to correlate theory with practical application, in turn making teaching relevant to the industry and augmenting the realism of the classroom course. The industrial experiences and insights via case studies are later discussed and shared with students in the classroom.  Last year, UPES sent over 100 faculty members for industry internships.

Q. You have recently hired Manisha Mohan, former Design & Innovation Chief at Tata Interactive System as the Director of your School of Design. Please talk to us more about it.

Manisha’s vast experience and exhaustive knowledge base make her an ideal choice for our School of Design. She will be instrumental in leading the School towards delivering contemporary and cross-functional design education. At UPES, we are committed to developing students into industry-ready professionals, which is only possible through multiple, result-oriented industry-academia interfaces. Roping in an industry veteran as the School of Design head is a significant step in that direction. Manisha is a seasoned design professional and brings with her more than two decades of rich experience in e-learning, design, and animation. During her stint at Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) as Chief - Design and Innovation, she was driving research in emerging technologies and was also instrumental in setting up the 2D and 3D animation studio within TIS, which was focused on learning and marketing communications applications including 3D animation, motion graphics, virtual reality and augmented reality.

Q. What are the new teaching techniques adopted or introduced at UPES? 

We are one of the very few universities in India to teach ‘Design Thinking’. Through Design Thinking modules students learn and develop the necessary skills required for problem-solving, constructive and analytical thinking, development of knowledge through creative learning experiences. Today, these skills are much sought after by corporates in candidates they are looking to recruit. These modules are completely online to provide a continuous assessment of students.

We use Hybrid, Blended, and Online (HBO) technologies to teach our students. 

Our programming labs are all virtual- students can practice on the cloud 24x7 rather than having to go to a physical space in a defined time. 

Adoption of digital textbooks for certain courses that provide well-designed, rich media content, including virtual simulators. This has been very well received by students and we plan to further scale it up for other programs as well.

Video lecture delivery platform with rich analytics that gives faculty insights into how well their lectures are being received by students and areas where they need to improve to provide a better teaching and learning experience.

Q. Last but not the least, talk to us about some of the global best practices in education sectors & which out of them will you introduce at UPES?

Globally, employers are looking for candidates who have technical or domain knowledge for their respective industries, but also workplace skills that ensure they work effectively. Keeping this in mind, UPES is initiating Professional Assessment for its students. 

In addition to a student’s academic performance, this Professional Assessment will help employers assess the student on desired workplace competencies such as analyzing and problem-solving, working well with others, adapting to change etc. The Professional Assessment will also give a competitive advantage to students by differentiating them from the others in terms of their workplace competencies score.

We also plan to introduce initiatives wherein our students, faculty and other staff can create a meaningful impact in their communities through social work. It is important for students to develop a sense of commitment towards their local communities and society at large. 

Purpose of good education is not just a high-paying job but to become a better version of ourselves.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'July 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Apr-May 2018'

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