A paradigm shift in the choices exercised by Generation Z is putting a labyrinthian challenge of the best brains opting for the computer science and associated disciplines of study only. This trend is seen since the last few years in admissions to engineering programmes in the country. The choices of engineering aspirants seem to be greatly influenced by the employment opportunities offered by the respective programme of study. This has resulted in the subjects catering to collaboration between human and artificial intelligence (AI) coming out in great demand. Symbiotic human-AI partnership for the smart factories of next-generation as envisaged in the Industry 4.0 seems to be pushing for it, nevertheless, the separation of core engineering domains from the newer computer-based technologies will never take place.
The use of high end computational facilities, data storage and its retrieval, integration of information, communication, and artificial intelligence in systems will essentially call for robust core engineering fundamentals. That is why with the changing time, it is felt that the emphasis has to be shifted beyond merely producing goods and services for profit. Industry 5.0 underlines the fifth industrial revolution that will reduce focus on technology and enhance collaborations between humans and machines by dismantling the boundaries between various engineering disciplines. The ubiquitous application of drone technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence reiterates the changing industry vision. This human-robot collaboration termed ‘cobots’ contemplates the co-working of human and intelligent machines in industrial environments as well as in normal life. This preconditions the ample no. of trained personnel for the anticipated Industry 5.0 vision. Simultaneously, the digital twins is another fast-growing technological change that involves visualisation of complex products and processes, their design, manufacturing, functioning, and maintenance through suitable software for human interactions with machines.
Undoubtedly, the huge digital interventions in existing processes and their remodelling are going to offer transformations in industrial practices and processes. Thence, the engineering systems have to be compatible with the cyber-physical interventions in them along with provisioning of the efficiently trained professionals to nurture effective outputs from them. The manner in which the manufacturing sector has to flourish under the changing productive and economic scenario in the future needs to be understood, else the existing companies will not be able to take competing advantages.
This calls for a proper balance between the modernisation of machines and human resources. As a result, the engineering curriculum may have to be cross-fertilised from the perspective of digital metamorphoses. However, the fundamentals are not going to change and the essence of the core curriculum of different disciplines of engineering and technology remains intact even with the digitalisation creeping into them.
The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has explicitly attempted for creating the requisite eco-system for making existing education programmes multi-disciplinary. This is because of the need for a skilled workforce, particularly involving mathematics, computer science, and data science, in conjunction with multidisciplinary abilities across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The ensuing challenge for fulfilling worldwide requirements of energy, water, food, sanitation, etc. will necessitate virtuoso human resources to make inevitable intercessions and thus corroborate the remodelling of technical education.
It is noteworthy that the choice-based credit system (CBCS) was introduced in the country long back and paved the way for students to choose assorted subjects in every programme suiting their interests and passion. University Grants Commission has constantly impelled for CBCS, but the institutions, in general, could not implement the CBCS due to limitations of the availability of teachers and required infrastructure. Thus, the students were deprived of the opportunity of seeking multidisciplinary education and the educational programmes remained stereotyped as traditional. Had the choices of subjects focussing around the present jobs been exercised by students pursuing technical education programmes, the uneven employment scenario could have been taken care of to a certain extent.
Indisputably, the marginalisation of the manufacturing sector has pushed for the unprecedented rise of the service economy due to the dominance of the service sector consisting of trade, hotel, restaurants, transportation, storage, communication, financing, insurance, business services, community, social and personal services, construction services, etc. Besides, the growth of the manufacturing sector is ineluctable for the healthy economy, which in turn pegs at the adequately trained technical human resource as per synchronic sustainable development.
The apparent trends of Industry 4.0 moving on to Industry 5.0 entail alterations in the engineering curriculum to imbibe students with capabilities to support the use of cyber-physical systems in every domain of engineering and technology. The contemporary aspirations for improvising every process concerning its productivity obligates the annihilation of the existing rigid compartmentalisation of different programmes. The curriculum warrants inclusion of requisite courses that ingrain IT proficiencies along with core capabilities through provisions of major and minor subjects for enhancing abilities pertaining to varying specialisations. Brooding on the revision of the syllabus to meet the current aspirations from the technical professionals leads to embedding every subject with experiential learning through applications of the contents covered in it along with using IT tools to make the knowledge application much more proficient. Adding cyber-physical intrusions to various possible subjects in the curriculum will automatically change the flavour of the respective programmes to industry-friendly. This will gear up the engineers and technologists from every discipline to fit in the forthcoming upgrades due to cyber-physical initiatives and eventually end the lopsided drive to get trained in IT and computer-based disciplines.
Revamping the engineering curriculum for handling the revolutionary advances in businesses, industry practices, and innovations for better performance will hold the skewed exodus of brilliant minds to certain IT-centric engineering programmes. Inarguably, there is a need for brighter minds in every walk of life and the ongoing major requisition for only computer-trained manpower should not be misperceived as the reducing demand for the professionals from other core disciplines of engineering like civil, electrical, mechanical, chemical, etc. The sustainability of civilisation and its growth sanctions the education system to roll out knowledgeable, competent, and capable educated students. The contorted flow of sharper minds to certain disciplines of engineering and technology is concerning and impresses the regulators and government to ponder upon proper human resource planning and mandating the academics for enriching the knowledge base of technical professionals to fit in the vision of Industry 5.0.
(The views expressed are personal)