Quality of Computer Training
Training for Profit
The Indian Software industry is one of the fastest growing industrial sectors of the economy. Today, Indian software industry employees more than 1.5 lakh people and this figure is expected to grow at an exponential rate. According to a survey conducted by the World Bank, the companies in the U.S. and Europe ranked India as their number one choice. The World Bank assessment of ‘Cost and Quality Advantages’ in the Software industry had put India in a prestigious slot of ‘Low Cost-High Quality’ quadrant. Today, India has the second largest English-speaking scientific manpower, next only to the United States. It also has a large network of technical institutions that train more than 100,000 people annually.
Software like any other profession needs aptitude. So the candidates who aspire to become software professionals should be screened for aptitude. But most of the institutes are not doing this screening. Because if you screen, conduct entrance examinations or aptitude tests, and take only the students who have the right aptitude, then the number of students who can be enrolled will come down drastically. This will affect the profit margins. So most institutes will take anybody, who has the money to pay for the course. Even in institutes which conducts entrance tests, the aim is to get people in, not screen out the people without the right aptitude. The students, misguided by the glamorous and often misleading advertisements jumps into the training bandwagon, thinking that, once they register for the course, the future is secure. The training institutes do nothing to dispel this belief. Because if one institute turns down a student telling him that he does not have the right aptitude and is not suitable for the software profession, then there are hundreds of institutes who will take him.
With the IT boom, the training segment has also bloomed and is booming. There are thousands of training institutes that have mushroomed and thrived and are still thriving on the ignorance and gullibility of the students. Most of them have neither proper infrastructure nor teach subjects that will be of any practical use in getting a job.
The question is how credible are the so-called certificate and diploma courses offered by these institutes? Do they ensure a job? Or are they just giving certificates and minting money by the day, cashing in on the insecurity of the public? Unfortunately, more than 80% of the training institutes are doing just this. According to a survey conducted by NASSCOM, there are over 5,600 computer training institutes in India and the number is increasing every day. The single reason why they are flourishing is the magic words they spell out–a well paid job, a secure future. They bombard students with colourful and glamorous advertisements, which assures them that once they complete the course, they can have any job they want. The advertisements are persuasive and project an exaggerated and glorified picture of the reality.
QUALITY OF COMPUTER TRAINING
The training provided by most of these institutes is either substandard or irrelevant. A majority still do nothing but sell certificates and diplomas. That is why even after getting a so called ‘Post graduate diploma in systems analysis or computer applications’, thousands are still without a job.
Every body agrees that there is a wide gap between the supply and demand for software professionals. But then why a person who has undergone training in the institutes finds it very difficult to get a job? Why, after spending thousands of rupees, students are still jobless? Why only a handful of institutes guarantees placement (that too with some strings attached)?
If the institutes are sure that the quality of their training program is good, if they feel that they are producing professionals who are fit for the industry, then why can’t they guarantee 100% placement. They can’t and they won’t. What is wrong? There are many reasons for this. Some of them are: lack of proper infrastructure, training sector not able to keep pace with the technology, lack of interaction between the educational sector and the industry, etc. This list of reasons can go on and on. But the major reason is that the training institutes are not producing what the industry wants.
Training for Profit
Since software training has now become an industry, the rules and values of the game have changed. In any industry the primary objective is to make profit. Computer training industry is no different. So in order to maximize profit, the industry should train more people in the shortest duration possible. Or if we borrow the terms from the manufacturing industry, production volume should be maximized and the throughput should be minimized.
Thus thousands of students who have neither the right aptitude nor the inclination for the software profession join the institutes. Pretty soon they get disillusioned and bored and won’t learn anything. Some institutes offer 24 hours access to computers for hands on experience, because in this profession what you learn in the class room or from text books has little value unless you have tried them out. But the sad fact is that even though the computer center will be open 24 hours, due to the low computer to students ratio the chances of a student getting access to the computer other than his allotted lab-time is very less.
Most institutes have career counselors, the first person that one will meet when he enters the institute for inquiring about the courses. The counselors are supposed to give guidance, and after judging the aptitude and based on the educational qualifications of the student, help him in choosing the right course. But in most cases, these counselors are not qualified for the job. They are some pretty faces who neither have the experience nor the knowledge of the industry to do justice to the job. Their main responsibility is to somehow enroll the student to a course. Ideally counselors should be people with enough experience and necessary skills to find out form the student what his interests are. But even then, the institute will have only a standard set of courses to offer, so the best they can do will be to put the student in a course which is the ‘nearest fit’ and not the ‘perfect fit’.
Some of the training institutes offer something called industrial practice in a company at the end of the course. The idea behind this that the students will be exposed to the real life projects, while the industry will get to know potential employees for a trial period. That is at the end of the apprenticeship, if the company is not satisfied with the performance of the student, he can be send back. But this program has two inherent flaws. First, the kind of organizations that the students will be undergoing apprenticeship will be small organizations, which lacks proper infrastructure and qualified professionals to guide the students. So they will be given some project and will have to fend for themselves. Large organizations or software houses do not usually take students under this program, they prefer to recruit the employees and train them. So in most cases, there may be exceptions, these practices fail to add much value to the students.
The faculty or the instructors in most institutes are not qualified for the job. This is not one of the well paid segments of the IT industry. In most cases instructors are students from the previous batches. So these instructors do not have the real life experience or practical knowledge to impart quality training. According to the guidelines provided by DoE, the faculty should be competent with Ph.D/M.Tech/MCA/B.Tech with adequate teaching/industry experience. But the DoE has no way of enforcing this and institutes still continue with instructors who cannot do justice to their jobs.
Another mistake the training institutes make is that they try to teach everything. The more items in the syllabus the more marketable the course. In this process the students are dumped with unnecessary, irrelevant and often obsolete information and trained in packages that are no longer used. There are certain skills that all software professionals need to learn, like computer fundamentals, database concepts, good programming techniques, software engineering, software quality assurance and testing, etc. The above topics are necessary for any software professional. But these are general topics. The students need to specialize in a topic or area and receive focused training on that. These topics/areas can be client/server computing (here itself one need to choose from a host of front-ends and back-ends), Mainframes, Networking, Multimedia, Web-authoring, Workgroup computing, etc. Once the students have identified their area of specialization (here they will need the assistance of a well qualified counselor), they should receive concentrated training in that area, so that they become real experts. If this specialization is not done and instead the students are trained in all the areas, but does not have in-depth knowledge in any one area, then it is not going to do any good, because they will have an impressive skill set on paper but will fail to impress and qualify during an interview or a test.
One of the most important but often ignored topic by training institutes is communication skills. The days of introvert software programmers have gone. Today’s software professionals need to interact with clients and associates from different parts of the world. They need to get the requirements from the clients, they should interact with the people at the client site, they should conduct and undergo quality audits, they should communicate their ideas and thoughts to others clearly and concisely. So good written and oral communication skills are a must, but this is one topic that is yet to be added to the curriculum of almost all the training institutes.
Most training institutes does not take the qualifying examinations seriously. In most cases all the students who enroll will qualify with flying colours. Because if the students are kept in the institute for lack of knowledge, then it is waste of resources. I know institutes, where the only thing you need to get a certificate, is to register and pay the fee. You will get a certificate stating the grades of examinations that you have not attended and projects that you have not done at the end of the course. These students often cut a sorry figure in job interviews and soon the these institutes will earn a ‘reputation’ among the employers and this will affect the chances of students who have really slogged and are good.
So the training sector needs a total revamp to be of any value to the students and employers. If they continue the current practices, they will be doing gross injustice to the students and to the country. Education should not be made an industry, in education the profit should not the primary motive, the primary objective should be imparting quality training and to produce qualified software professionals.
Alexis Leon, DQ Week Madras, 10th February 1997.