Bridging the industry-academia skill gap in the automotive sector

Bridging the industry-academia skill gap in the automotive sector

By Arindam Lahiri

As Industry 4.0 leads to a rise in automation and smart technology, the educational curriculum needs to be revised keeping in mind the current industry workforce demands, especially in the automotive industry.

Despite many students being educated, they continue to struggle in finding worthwhile jobs. On the other hand, employers lament they aren’t able to hire suitable employees. The dichotomy is primarily because there is a major gulf between the education of students and their employability quotient.

Many employers assert that prospective candidates lack specific skills that will make them worth hiring while others bemoan the fact that soft skills such as communication, presentation, team spirit and interpersonal skills are missing. Therefore, unless the current academic system is modified taking into account the present industry requirements, more students will continue hunting for employment fruitlessly.

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Skill-based education

The importance of specific vocational skills in today’s context cannot be overstated. But in some cases, students harbour a misconception that being trained in certain vocations will restrict the range of jobs available to them. Or cap their salary prospects. But this is not true.

Around 2.1 million new jobs would be created in specialised spheres such as computing, engineering, architecture and mathematics.

~ Future of Jobs study, World Economic Forum

Instead, being trained in specific skills or vocations will make these students employment-ready. As a result, they will be able to hit the ground running when they take up jobs in select industries. For the unskilled students, there will be a long learning curve as they gradually pick up the nitty-gritty of new jobs.

There is another stark warning of why skill-based education is imperative in the coming days. As per the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study, five million jobs will be eliminated before the end of 2020. Robotics, AI, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors will substitute the need for human workers in some spheres.

As companies evolve towards Industry 4.0, academic institutions and their courses must evolve similarly towards Education 4.0.

Nonetheless, the study also notes 2.1 million new jobs would be created in specialised spheres such as computing, engineering, architecture and mathematics. These jobs would call for different kinds of skill-sets. Thanks to technology, the work landscape has been changing rapidly. This factor makes it essential for the youth and upcoming generations to upgrade their skill-sets continuously to remain relevant in the employment environment.

Here, education can play a crucial role in helping students meet the requirements of tomorrow. As companies evolve towards Industry 4.0, academic institutions and their courses must evolve similarly towards Education 4.0 in meeting the demands of the upcoming fourth industrial revolution. With automation inevitably taking over the functions of industrial practices and traditional manufacturing, smart tools and technology will emerge as the new norm.

Present-day educational system is not geared toward meeting Industry 4.0 requirements.

Therefore, academia and students need to prepare themselves in addressing the changing demands of industries that will increasingly become reliant on smart systems. Along with knowledge of the conventional subjects and streams, students must receive a skill-based curriculum that makes them ready for managing such smart systems.

A revised and updated curriculum is needed in Education 4.0 that promotes strong digital skills.

The shift from traditional systems to smart will involve the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT, cloud computing, cognitive computing, data analytics, cyber-physical systems, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain, among others. Although the smart systems will be driven largely by automated operations, skilled coders, engineers and other personnel would be needed in overseeing their smooth functioning.

Collaboration and innovation

The present-day educational system is not geared toward meeting Industry 4.0 requirements. A revised and updated curriculum is needed in Education 4.0 that promotes strong digital skills. These would be attuned to solving complex problems, creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, collaboration and people management, judgement, emotional intelligence, decision-making, negotiations, service orientation and cognitive flexibility.

In reorienting the curriculum, academics should be aware of the industry’s dynamic demands. A collaborative approach between academia and industry leaders would help in ensuring the updated curriculum is in sync with industry requirements. Such an approach will ensure that the new crop of students has a higher employability quotient, unlike the previous years.

The teaching methodologies should be based on virtual collaboration via advanced technologies while including project-based learnings too.

The teaching methodologies should be based on virtual collaboration via advanced technologies while including project-based learnings too. These tech-driven teaching models can promote skills linked to smart technologies mentioned earlier. Simultaneously, the curriculum must focus on soft skills training and personality development in making students more employment-ready even while being tech-savvy.

Meanwhile, an attitudinal change is necessary for promoting greater employability among students. Previously, encouraging star performers was considered apt. This was a natural outcome of the traditional education curriculum that encouraged competitiveness and independent thinking. Now, however, the emphasis is on teamwork. As the work environment becomes intensely competitive, it is collaborative teams that outperform those based on star performers.

The current engineering and tech courses are not aligned in offering industry-ready EV skills.

The current engineering and tech courses are not aligned in offering industry-ready EV skills. To address this situation, academicians should work towards revising the course curriculum as per the above specialisations to support India’s nascent EV revolution. However, the shift towards EV-centric courses calls for close collaboration between academia and industry to drive a faster transition towards e-mobility. Fortunately, some industry stakeholders are already offering relevant EV-aligned courses and skilling programs.

For instance, the Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC) has partnered with pManifold to launch a first-ever online training and certification program on model-based development of Electric Vehicles.

Besides the above, MG Motor has partnered with ASDC and Autobot India to launch Dakshta– a training programme specialising in artificial intelligence and EVs in creating skilled human resources for the automotive industry. Similarly, to make automotive job aspirants future-ready in EV technology, Autobot Academy has introduced a new EV programme ‘EV Engineering: Architecture and Components’ in collaboration with MG Motor and ASDC.

Innovation is now the name of the game, worldwide.

Moreover, team players can be more flexible in working across diverse geographies, depending on the needs of specific situations. Star performers, on the other hand, will be more inclined towards staying in their comfort zones rather than moving to unfamiliar surroundings and situations where their performance may not be as good.

The emphasis on a collaborative spirit should also be backed by active partnerships between industry and academia. Through such a collaborative approach, there can be greater workplace exposure via internships and live projects. This can ascertain students are employment-ready even before taking up their first jobs.

Another change in approach is required in making the academic curriculum more innovation-centric. In conventional courses, students were expected to know all the answers to stock questions. While this was par for the course in an era where disruptive technologies were not the norm, in an age of constant innovations, the old approach is no longer valid.

Students with a hands-on, proactive approach who are adept at planning, managing and delegating assignments to secure the best results will be more effective than those simply good at taking orders and executing tasks.

Innovation is now the name of the game, worldwide. Consequently, students don’t need to know all the right answers. Rather, they should be taught the art of asking the right questions, which helps in driving innovation. In present-day scenarios, adhering to the rulebook in solving problems is not important. Challenging the status quo and coming up with more effective and better or faster solutions is more relevant.

Students with a hands-on, proactive approach who are adept at planning, managing and delegating assignments to secure the best results will be more effective than those simply good at taking orders and executing tasks.

Such a collaborative approach based on innovative thinking, rather than rote learning, as well as a focus on select skills training for students in meeting the needs of smart systems will help in plugging the skill gaps between academia and industry.

Also Read: Skilling crisis in India and the way forward

(Arindam Lahiri is the CEO of the Automotive Skills Development Council.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)

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