As a mechanical engineering graduate, Suchit Thakkar always felt there was a gap in his industry internship experience. When the opportunity to conduct research came his way as part of the Masters of Design course Building Research at Anant National University, he decided to focus on internship programmes.
ANUSandhan connected with Suchit to learn more about the expertise he gained through his research.
Designing Internships By Suchit Thakkar
I am a mechanical engineer. Since my undergraduate days, I felt that a proper internship setup was missing in my college as well as university.
I found that many graduate mechanical engineers do not get entry-level jobs in Indian companies as they are considered unskilled or under-skilled. This is a huge problem for universities and policymakers. It is important to train students so that they have the practical industrial knowledge which is a requirement for entry-level jobs in industry. In 2018, Economic Times reported that only about 6% of graduate mechanical engineers are employable (ET online, 2018). Thus, though students may have excellent grades in their undergraduate study, they may be unfit for technical jobs because of their lack of practical industrial knowledge. This is why I took the opportunity to research this topic.
I used a post-positivist approach for my research framework. For my primary research, I conducted one personal interview with the Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at LD College. I also conducted telephonic interviews with a job consultant and with the Head of the Department of Mechanical Department in AIT College. As a part of my secondary research, I studied the steps taken by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) as well as the Gujarat Technological University (GTU) towards building internship programmes. I also went through several research papers in this area. In addition to all of this, I studied the internship guidelines at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur, the University of Munich and the Altoona College.
At this stage in my career, I cannot advise anyone. However, I would like to bring to the notice of higher education authorities a few points that came up in my analysis of internship policies at different universities. . My main findings were as follows:
First, Bachelors’ students in Mechanical Engineering who are not trained properly receive a lower advantage in starting salaries compared to diploma students.
Second, internships help employers and students to know each other. Students also become aware about the company culture. So, it is important that all students undergo at least one internship.
Third, apart from GTU, IIT-Kanpur, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Munich have made internships compulsory for students studying mechanical engineering. However, it seems that these universities do not have credits allocated for internships. Internship programmes should adopt a holistic approach to evaluate students on the basis of behaviour, soft skills and other parameters decided by the AICTE. Such a mentorship model will also help students self-evaluate.
A best practice that I would recommend is that colleges promote the development of Centres for Excellence in collaboration with the industries. Then, students can learn the operations of the latest machines on campus.
From my perspective, design is a process to solve any problem in the world.
First, while solving problems, we may come across solutions which may or may not work. Maybe our method of solving the problem is wrong. In this case, if we research solutions/ experiments proposed by others, then we can learn from them and propose solutions.
Second, when we solve problems through design, we need to study users through research methods, personal interviews or focused group studies.
In short, research is about collecting all possible information about a problem and the users even before we start thinking of a solution or start sketching our ideas on a sheet of paper.
For a designer like me, research is not only relevant but an integral part of my profession.
Suchit Thakkar is pursuing his Masters in Integrated Product Design at Anant National University, Ahmedabad. He is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering. In his graduation project, he developed a pedal power grinding machine and an electricity generator. Recently, he was involved in research on different types of materials that can be used to make masks. He is working on user experience (UX) design of an application on the theme “One Application for all Public Transport in India”.
Suchit’s paper can be cited as follows:
Thakkar, Suchit, 2020. Evaluating internship guidelines for undergraduate mechanical engineering students. Working Paper, MIPD Programme, Anant National University, Ahmedabad.