22 Jun 2021 13:56 IST

Integrated engineering specialised courses could be way forward

Combined engineering and management technology programmes offer an alluring option for student s

The virtues of specialisation in the workforce need no extolling, as all of us have been enjoying its benefits for quite some time now, in terms of increases in productivity and efficiency, improvement in skills, and rapid pace of innovation, just to name a few. But thanks to the growing popularity of remote working in the pandemic world, the adoption of a hitherto slowly growing trend is now being rapidly embraced — that of hyper specialisation — the breaking up of different tasks in a project into smaller tasks so that each distinctly-specialised individual task is carried out by highly-skilled persons from that domain.

The increasing virtual global connectivity that has taken place in the last one year has brought about a realisation that it has never been easier for people from all over the world to connect and collaborate on a common project. Owing to the fact that every industry is awakening to the need to digitally transform itself, specialists in the technology domain are in much demand across sectors, even in areas where technology merely played a peripheral role not so long ago.

This burgeoning trend towards specialisation, or even hyper-specialisation nowadays, makes it imperative that the education sector also adapts and modifies its programmes to ensure that it creates an industry-relevant workforce. Since a lot of these specialisations are intertwined with the technology domain, engineering education needs to strive to stay ahead of the proverbial curve.

There was a time when undergraduate education was mandated solely to provide fundamental knowledge about a subject, and if one sought to specialise in specific domain areas, postgraduate studies was the next logical step. However, in this era of specialisation, it is evident that a certain degree of specialised and advanced knowledge, related to the latest technologies and emerging trends, has to be imparted during undergraduate studies itself.

Fundamental knowledge

And herein lies the challenge for the education system. They must ensure that they provide the necessary fundamental knowledge and generic skillset at the undergraduate level to make the students holistic thinkers who are not only able to survive, but thrive, in today’s fast-changing world. At the same time, the education system must endeavour to equip the undergraduate students with specialised and advanced knowledge about specific domain areas, to render them more employable.

One of the ways in which engineering institutes are tackling this challenge is by offering their students the option to pursue an honours and minor degree, in conjunction with the undergraduate baccalaureate degree. These options allow a student to undertake specialised and advanced courses on completion of extra credits, over and above the credits required for the award of the undergraduate baccalaureate degree.

While an honours programme allows a student the opportunity to pursue advanced courses in their chosen domain that would normally not be a part of their undergraduate curriculum, the availability of a minor programme empowers a student to explore courses beyond their core degree programme. Value addition can be further unlocked if these honours and minor programmes are designed and offered in collaboration with industry. These options are gaining added importance in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Sciences and Automation.

Essential skillsets

In fact, this focus of undertaking specialised courses during one’s undergraduate education can extend beyond disciplines too. For example, the growth of the gig economy is going to require that each student, irrespective of chosen area of specialisation, is familiar with concepts of marketing, finance and budgeting. These essential skillsets for thriving in a gig economy are part of the management curriculum, which has long been a preferred field for postgraduate studies for engineering students.

Integrated engineering and management technology programmes now offer an alluring option for a student to study management subjects along with the engineering courses. These programmes may also offer the additional benefit of completing the degrees in a lesser time frame in comparison to pursing BTech and MBA degrees in succession. So, if you are intent on pursuing engineering and are leaning towards obtaining a management degree thereafter, integrated programmes are a compelling proposition for you to consider.

The meteoric pace of disruption in the technological sector, and its ever-expanding influence on all areas of our daily lives, will necessitate engineering education to evolve continuously just to stay relevant. And only institutes that foresee these changes and adapt their curriculum and pedagogy accordingly will be able to fulfil their obligation to the next generation of learners.

(The writer is Director, SVKM's NMIMS Deemed to be University, Shirpur.)