Be a core engineer but sharpen yourself with latest skill: Chocko Valliappa of Sona College of Technology 

Sona College of Technology in Salem, Tamil Nadu, organised a webinar in association with EdexLive on the topic “Engineered to Succeed: Career Opportunities in Engineering"
Here are the details | (Pic: EdexLive)
Here are the details | (Pic: EdexLive)

Engineering has been a buzzing field in the country for many years. However, the field has seen multiple changes, including the shift to online learning, increased demand for Information Technology (IT) related courses, and the opposite effect on core Engineering streams. 

However, with each year passing, a fresh batch of students graduate with high hopes and soaring dreams. But are educational institutions equipping these students with the necessary skills to take on the opportunities presented to them? Additionally, will a job opportunity in a core Engineering stream be as relevant as a job in a specialised stream? 

All these and more questions were answered by an illustrious panel of speakers who have knowledge and experience in the Engineering field. Sona College of Technology in Salem, Tamil Nadu, organised a webinar on August 26, in association with EdexLive, the education-related news portal of The New Indian Express on the topic “Engineered to Succeed: Career Opportunities in Engineering". 

Chocko Valliappa, Vice-Chairman of Sona College of Technology; Dr Subrahmanya Sastry, Director of AEC Services and VEE Technologies and Lakshmi Toshniwal, Head of Human Resources at Titan Engineering and Automation were the panel members.

The webinar began with the main question being laid on the ground — With so many opportunities and the changing landscape in the Engineering field, are students engineered in educational institutions to succeed? With experience in both academia and industry, Chocko Valliappa, Vice-Chairman of Sona College of Technology, highlighted the exciting times the world is currently experiencing with the convergence of engineering and technology taking place. “It is best suited for countries like India and all of us are here to grab the opportunities today because there is less and less skilled workforce around the world but India has huge abundant talent and resources,” he said. 

New innovations and opportunities 
While emphasising on the shift to e-learning and digital education and the opportunities it presents, he mentioned that Sona College of Technology had already taken that leap of faith much before the pandemic-induced consequences. “We visited the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with our students and they had the idea to build a satellite which spins around Earth every 26 minutes,” he recalled one of the many opportunities that the students were presented with. 

Additionally, the college has 36 Research and Development (R&D) centres for students to explore and learn how technology and engineering converge to provide further opportunities for them. In fact, the college recently started the system of “seed funding” wherein students will be funded for their projects once they come in with their ideas. 

The university has also been given autonomy by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to introduce diploma programmes for students. “A student can do a course in mechanical engineering and do a program on python. A unique mix like that is available for students,” the Vice-Chairman added. 

Demand for core Engineering streams 
The current emphasis seems to be on this convergence mainly for Engineering students who will graduate and enter the industry within a few years. Dr Subrahmanya Sastry, Director of AEC Services and VEE Technologies, stressed on the point that it would be commendable if students could integrate subjects like Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their core Engineering streams. “We can identify a 100 per cent able engineer in a student if they are able to integrate one of the core Engineering concepts with one of the technology platforms which can add value to the output of any project,” he said. “If you want to study for today, that is not sufficient, you have to learn for tomorrow,” he added. 

“Being a mechanical engineer is not enough, one needs to be a learning and growing mechanical engineer,” agreed Valliappa. He said that one needs to keep re-adapting to the changing context of the engineering landscape. His views were also shared by Lakshmi Toshniwal, Head of Human Resources at Titan Engineering and Automation, who said that students need to learn to be a learner throughout their life. 

While highlighting the importance of this convergence, Valliappa mentioned that the Sona College of Technology has collaborated with the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. “It is a convergence of healthcare, mechanical, electrical, electronics, robotics,” he said. One can be a core engineer and also sharpen themselves with the latest skill, he added. 

Concerns and questions 
After the interesting interactive session between the speakers, the audience poured their questions in. A concerned parent asked, “My daughter is confused between new-age subjects like AI and ML, Aerospace Engineering and the more traditional route of Mechanical Engineering. What should she choose?” In response to this, Valliappa said that there are plenty of opportunities everywhere but one needs to go for what they are passionate about. 

With new elements of education such as the National Education Policy 2020 coming into force, few members of the audience also questioned whether options like dropping out and obtaining a diploma certificate (some features of the policy) will be seen in a good light by educational institutions. To this, Toshniwal replied, “We still have a long way to go in recognising these new elements. It will be hard to say where we stand on this until we see some students coming out of these institutions and seeing what they are able to do.” 

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