Guest Columns

Evolving talent requirements and institutional response

Information Technology has been the largest generator of employment in India’s organized sector for the past five years, with around 3,50,000 jobs being added every year.

Mr Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-Bangalore

Mr Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-Bangalore

The maturation of the Indian IT sector and the emergence of IT product companies, along with the ubiquitous presence of smart devices, increasing popularity of cloud computing and the growing need for analytics are dramatically changing this expanding industry’s talent requirements. For this reason, colleges and particularly the reputable ones are now exploring ways to respond to these changing needs.

However, a word of caution is in order. Any curriculum has foundational elements that address the long term needs of a professional who acquires 4-6 years of college education (Bachelors or Masters Degree), and that is expected to provide the basis for the professional’s 40+ year career. This is why the curriculum must be relevant so that graduates can enjoy meaningful employment in the industry of their choice. Foundation and relevance are like the cake and the icing. Both are important, but the proportion should not be forgotten. Countries like India have a history of being hospitable to low quality, fly-by-night operators who promise relevance, often at the cost of quality, while at the same time universities that are steeped in bureaucracy turn a blind eye to relevance altogether. Fortunately, some of the premier institutes have the right balance, though sometimes the industry fails to take notice of it.

The realm of computing has gone through a major transition in the past five years. For instance, microprocessors have become increasingly multi-core with application specific optimization, and FLASH memory is mainstream now, blurring the line between primary and secondary memory. Thanks to greater internet penetration, wireless technologies like 3G, LTE and SDN are becoming more widespread and bandwidth availability is increasing as well. Databases are also evolving, and are no longer limited to “structured” data, but are moving to “no SQL data” of enormous size, giving rise to what is known as “big data,” which when available instantaneously through high-speed internet, leads to “real time” analytics becoming a reality, at least in a few industry segments such as telecom, retail and banking.

As those responsible for educating tomorrow’s IT professionals must take these changes seriously, there are steps that institutes of higher education may take to address the accompanying demands:

  • Thoughtfully re-evaluate the foundation courses such as architecture, programming, compilers, operating systems, databases and networking.
  • Integrate cloud, big data, analytics, app development and smart devices.
  • Implement fresh and relevant elective courses.

In a sense, the foundation must be revised so that the students see a continuum of evolving ideas; for example, cloud computing as a natural extension of distributed computing, location-independent hardware/software resources, eventual consistency that is sufficient for many big data issues. The creation of a more relevant and enriching curriculum with ample online resources and environments conducive to experimentation, along with the help of open source volunteers, will lead to a more fun and rewarding learning experience.

Companies like HP and Infosys have domain experts who have developed courses in some of the emergent areas and some institutions do benefit from them, and the maturity of cloud infrastructure permits the creation of “cloud labs” which enable the testing of new ideas.

In short, the strategies to be employed for meeting evolving talent requirements include:

  • Revising the curriculum
  • Benefiting from industry expertise
  • Making use of open source materials
  • Leveraging cloud technology to provide on demand laboratory resources.

 

The writer is Mr Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-Bangalore. He can be reached at ss@iiitb.ac.in

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