Only one in every five established engineering colleges in the country is in synergy with industry, a joint survey by CII and the government suggests, fuelling fears of a disconnect that threatens the employability of the country's youth.
On a score of 100, only 19% of participant engineering schools secured even 46 marks in the survey conducted by the industry chamber and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the country's apex technical education regulator.
"It is a big worry," AICTE chairman SS Mantha said, calling the findings a "benchmark."
The survey is the first comprehensive effort to analyze the quality of linkages between the country's engineering schools and industry, he said. "The results will help us understand where we need to intervene."
The country has over 3000 engineering schools, and the survey looked at those which have existed for at least 10 years. Of the 1070 schools that are at least a decade old and are approved by the AICTE, 156 responded to the online survey which was conducted in September.
The findings buttress evidence that is fuelling a growing concern within the government, and a theme that Rahul Gandhi has identified as key - how to find jobs for the country's youth.
The country has the largest under-25 population in the world (540 million) which the government has long spoken of as a demographic dividend. But of late, concerns are growing over whether this number could turn into a curse.
"Finding gainful employability for the youth of this country is a priority to prevent them from picking up guns instead," junior minister for human resource development (HRD) Shashi Tharoor today said, on his first day in office.
HRD minister MM Pallam Raju, and Jitin Prasada, the other junior HRD minister, have both also spoken about bridging the gap between higher education and employability as an area of focus.
In his first interaction with the press after taking charge of the HRD ministry on Wednesday, Raju referred to a recent report by a thinktank that found only 17% of the country's engineering graduates employable in the IT industry. "That is a concern," Raju said.
The government's latest detailed employment statistics, based on the 2011 survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), paint a grim picture of the job scenario for the country's youth.
Unlike the US and Europe, India has maintained a GDP growth rate of over 5 % even during the current economic slowdown. But more and more young Indians are working in jobs that don't match with their educational qualifications, leading to the increasing frustration that Tharoor referred to.
"If you can't get a commensurate job after an engineering degree, that degree really has no meaning," Mantha said. "In professional education, that's how things work."
Though the CII and AICTE survey is not the first to point to a mismatch between the skills graduates hold when they leave college and the needs of industry, it is the first that directly analyzed a common thesis: that colleges don't link up enough with industry.
Both the AICTE and the CII were circumspect in calling the findings an indictment of engineering schooling in the country. But CII higher education chief P Rajendran - a founder of NIIT - accepted that technical education needed to "get its act together."
"The hope is that the survey will help colleges too in identifying where they need to improve," Rajendran said.