Why do engineering aspirants opt only for Computer Science and Engineering when the future Industry 5.0 shall require engineers and technologists from all disciplines to sustain and upgrade civilization?
Year by year, engineering admissions are witnessing a peculiar drift of students towards courses in computer science, information technology, and allied disciplines. This has culminated in the springing of programs offering degrees in computer-related disciplines with a focus on software engineering, artificial intelligence, data science, cloud computing, etc. There are numerous instances of technical institutions shutting down traditional engineering disciplines of Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc. due to fewer takers for them. Most of these institutions have increased their intake in computer science and floated similarly placed programs in related disciplines which have current demand. Nevertheless, the speculations of future technical manpower demand after 3-4 years should rely on the prospective changes in industry & society.
Unequivocally, computers and information technology have revolutionized present-day life, but this all has been possible because of the availability of the infrastructure, manufacturing technologies, and framework required for facilitating the same. Given the relevance of traditional disciplines of engineering for sustaining and advancing the technologies, it is germane to introspect the implications of the prevailing trend in engineering admissions, especially at a time when the fifth industrial revolution (termed industry 5.0) is in offing. Aspiring students and their guardians must assess the forthcoming scenario of technical human resource requirements in metamorphosing industry which shall require all engineers and technologists.
Further, the mass exodus of meritorious students to one particular discipline of engineering will build up to a skewed competency across the technological world which may be deleterious for sustenance and the forward march of civilization. The workforce from across subject disciplines has to inevitably have brilliance, so that synergy contributes to the judicious application of science and technology in maintaining, innovating, and developing solutions for industrial and economic development.
The contemplation of the industrial revolutions in the past and the ongoing fourth revolution points to the digital transformations. Undoubtedly, the cyber-physical systems led productivity improvement, digital services, e-commerce, artificial intelligence (AI), etc. along with ease of handling resulted in the growth of employment opportunities for computer and IT professionals with the presence of adequate technical personnel from other disciplines to facilitate the technology-driven Industry 4.0. The present era of industrial revolution focuses more on digitalization and AI-driven technologies for enhancing flexibility in production and efficiency. These transformations in workplaces, learning throughout life, team working, newer career prospects and knowledge management led to the creation of the social-technical system.
The mass employability of engineering graduates, irrespective of their discipline in the IT sector, became a godsend as it seeded the collapsing of the rigid boundaries between disciplines. However, this sector is unable to offer employment opportunities to all, and engineering graduates from traditional disciplines are seen wandering in search of jobs for long. This creates a perception of fewer jobs for engineers from traditional disciplines as compared to computer science and related professionals, which is, in fact true. But, the perennial demand of expanding, removal of obsolescence, and sustaining civil infrastructure, electricity, machines, and equipment, etc., along with setting up new industries to meet the contemporary requirement entails the presence of a large number of engineers from all disciplines in times to come.
The impending fifth industrial revolution – Industry 5.0 – is value-driven and envisages exploiting human creativity for getting efficient and intelligent machines for optimal resource utilization and effective manufacturing solutions to increase production and customizing products spontaneously. The core values of industry 5.0 being human centricity, sustainability, and resilience are complementary to practices of Industry 4.0 with economic and societal considerations. The ensuing intelligent healthcare, modern biotechnology, cloud manufacturing, supply chain management, manufacturing production, edge computing, digital twins, robots, internet of things, blockchain, networks of 5G – 6G, etc. necessitate engineers & technologists from all disciplines. The aim is to engage the industry in realizing prosperity beyond jobs and growth through production processes having a focus on well being of human resources. The key enabling technologies in Industry 5.0 as per the results of a workshop on Enabling Technologies for Industry 5.0 with Europe’s technology leaders 2020 of European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation are listed as below ;
- Individualized human-machine interaction technologies that interconnect and combine the strengths of humans and machines.
- Bio-inspired technologies and smart materials that allow materials with embedded sensors and enhanced features while being recyclable.
- Digital Twins and simulation to model entire systems.
- Data transmission, storage, and analysis technologies that are able to handle data and system interoperability.
- Artificial Intelligence to detect, for example, causalities in complex, dynamic systems, leading to actionable intelligence.
- Technologies for energy efficiency, renewables, storage and autonomy.
It pertinently calls for the apposite presence of all engineers, technologists, and scientists to achieve the envisioned augmentation of research and innovation support to industry for ensuring its long-term smart service to humanity. Thence, the engineering aspirants must choose discipline as per their passion and interest, instead of rushing only for a few computer science & engineering-related disciplines. Moreover, the future lies in the application of digital know-how to the existing and upcoming systems from various domains.
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Above all, the National Education Policy 2020 prescribes multidisciplinary education so that the compartmentalization of education does not hinder in fulfilling the aspirations of anyone. Remodelling engineering education in the light of NEP 2020 with the concept of minor and major specializations will enable students to get professionally equipped in more than one discipline. The cross-fertilization of a variety of concepts may call for technical professionals possessing a broader range of expertise which is enabled by the new policy framework. This enjoins technical professionals from every engineering discipline with vital competencies, and the same can not be merely taken care of by computer and IT-related professionals alone. The curriculum for engineering graduates belonging to non-computer disciplines needs reorienting for enhancing digital competencies in their specific domains. This will be better met with brilliant minds landing into traditional disciplines too, else deficient capabilities of such core engineering professionals may end up hampering technological upgradation and sustainable developments.
Also, employment opportunities being the biggest push factor in choosing the engineering discipline at graduation level, it is imminent to create ample opportunities for placement of technical professionals from traditional disciplines and maintain the balance of intellectual capabilities across engineering and technology disciplines before it is late. Regulating bodies and academics must formulate an explicit road map for the development of suitably trained manpower ranging from skilled workers to highly qualified engineers, technologists, and scientists so that there is no shortage of technical personnel in respective domains. History shows that running crash programmes to train personnel for meeting emergent demands is time consuming, costly, and adversely affects research & development. Time is ripe to analyse, forecast and disseminate the information about the sectorial/specialized manpower requirement to the public at large and facilitate youth in selecting courses for study accordingly.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). Currently, he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).