Interview by Yash Panchal
Mr. Anshul Sharma is Founder Chairman and Director of IIAEIT Pune. He wants to establish the institute in the field of Aviation, Aerospace, School Education and Research and Development. He takes care of the business development.
17 years of experience in the education industry and the reasons that make it the best industry to work in
When I started the Indian Institute for Aeronautical Engineering and Information Technology in 2001, there was void in the education system especially in the aeronautical engineering and information technology. There was a fast growth in the aviation sector but there was no trained manpower. In order to fill the gap, IIAEIT was established; similar was the case of information technology. Establishing the required laboratories and other infrastructure in the aviation education is very costly, in spite of this, fully fledged laboratories including aircraft, turbo, and jet engines, avionics, flight simulators etc. were procured and required laboratories established. Getting faculty in aeronautics was a difficult task and we had to scout all over for capable teachers.
As you are aware, aircraft maintenance is a high technology-based and training people in this domain is a challenging job. To meet this challenge, Wingsss College of Aviation Technology was established to train the personnel in maintaining the jet aircraft and helicopters. Then we graduated to a higher level by establishing a highly specialized course in BTech Aerospace Engineering. Having technology alone is not sufficient; we need to manage the technology and people. Keeping this in view, we have established the ASMA Institute of Management to run the MBA and MCA. We have a school and junior college in Arts, Science and Commerce streams.
You can see that we have practically all the important domains in the education field. We do need the trained manpower to run the industries, to conduct research, and train the trainers.
It gives great satisfaction to provide education to directly contribute towards the development of the nation
Hence, I feel the education sector is one of the best domains to be associated with.
The leadership style of showing faith in the employees
Most of the institutes follow the transactional leadership which is a business like transaction, in which employers need work done and the employees do that work in exchange for money. I do not advocate for this type of leadership because teaching is much more than just completing course content for the money. The teacher has a greater responsibility of not only doling out the classroom teaching but also to transform a student into a responsible citizen.
I like to put full faith in the employees with the assumptions that the employees align themselves with the goal of the organization. At the same time,
I fully endorse the emotional aspects of the employees and guide them towards the goal
However, in my opinion, it is better to combine the essence of various leaderships like servant leadership, transactional leadership, emotional leadership, and transformational leadership and form your own type of leadership best suited for the goals you have set.
Tackling the challenges in the academics
An important challenge in the present education system is the universalization of education. The standards of education in any domain must be, more or less, equal in all countries. Keeping this in view, we have collaborated with the US for engineering courses and in the aviation field. Information and Communication technologies must be the part of the learning process in creating and disseminating the knowledge, thus creating digital wisdom. We must concentrate on new teaching and learning processes that encourage creative thinking and focus on real life.
Another challenge is the lack of quality research work. Though the number of papers published in international journals is increasing, the citation is decreasing. Somehow, we do not improvise the curriculum in time to suit the needs of industry. Student-Faculty ratio is very high, and the infrastructure is inadequate. Institution and industry interaction needs to be improved, which in turn would improve the employability of the graduates. Keeping these factors in mind, I have taken every care to counter the deficiencies and improve the employability.
Views on the curriculum of IIAEIT and whether project-based learning be integrated with the mainstream education system in India
A major segment of graduates is unemployed. According to National Employability Report 2016, 80% of the graduates were unemployable and only 3% had the suitable skill to be employed in software or product market. This is because college curriculum is often rigid and does not undergo revisions. Care should be taken while preparing a curriculum to keep the industry in mind. That is what we did when we designed the curriculum for B. Tech Aerospace Engineering. This has resulted in a high percentage of absorption of pass out students in the core sector and the rest in peripheral sectors. In other engineering fields, there are a number of industries specific technology-oriented short courses, which can be integrated with the core syllabus to increase the employability.
As far as Project Based Learning (PBL) is concerned, I think, it is a very good idea which gives the student an insight of the situation in industry and requirement of curriculum to meet these demands. It prepares the student to be readily employable. I am a strong advocator for introducing PBL into the curriculum.
Getting the right sort of job through placements
Placement Cell plays an important role in the history of any institute. The students expect a placement during their final year through the efforts of the institute. Getting a placement is not a difficult job but getting the right job is a difficult job. Unfortunately, as we concentrate on the aviation sector, the domain search limits to a narrow field and hence it would become difficult to get a job of top quality. This aspect was studied carefully and a methodology has been developed to assess the capability of the student, the availability of suitable job and the growth of the sector. Our placement officer has been trained to identify the jobs suitable to the aptitude and capability of the students. The companies have to be briefed in respect of specialties available in the institute and help them in identifying the right type of student.
The students are trained in appearing for the interviews, preparing their CVs, projecting themselves in a proper manner and self-confidence. We call domain specific industrial professionals to guide our students. Placement brochure shall be prepared to help in placements and a proper placement committee shall be formed to supervise and guide the placement activities. It may happen that the companies take tests, conduct interviews and sometimes may even conduct aptitude tests. Our aim is to get the right type of placements for students.
Accessibility and open door policy for the students
I follow an open door policy which gives access to the students, faculty, and staff to encourage accessibility, open flow of communication, fast access to information, closer working relationships with employees. Accessibility increases the quality of output, reduces time-frames for the projects, and encourages the youngsters to take quick decisions. I am always available for the officers and staff of my institution.
I generally do not leave the office until the last man who wishes to meet me leaves the office after meeting me
It is an established rule that the decisions are taken in consensus and even the man in the last rung can suggest any improvement in the system. I understand the student’s psychology, what is good for them, where I must put a full-stop, where I must encourage them to follow the correct path, and what is good for them. In my institutes, I am in sync with the students, staff, and faculty.
An ideal school environment and encouraging a positive culture
Ideal school environment has many facets and it is difficult to maintain all the aspects together. Often some aspects gain more importance than the others. In ideal learning environments, the students play an important role. They should be inquisitive and curious as to ‘how and why’ aspects of a situation. The assessment of students should be impartial, conscientious, transparent and not punitive. Learning habits are constantly modified to suit the acquisition of knowledge. Ideas come from divergent sources and the quality of idea shall be considered and not from whom it has come.
When we get a feedback from a student, we must act immediately; getting a feedback and not acting on it is counterproductive. We must involve students in the development of the institute as much as possible. It is an Era of change and the methods of teaching shall also change taking into account the changing social needs, teacher capabilities and access to the technology.
Qualities that an aspiring engineer must possess and IIAEIT’s role in developing budding entrepreneurs
There are various qualities an engineering student should possess. He must have a good common sense, strong management skills, and good in mathematics, logic and analytical mind. He must possess excellent communication skills, efficient in organizing, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities.
There is a wide gap between the availability of a number of engineers and the availability of jobs. If each student looks for a job, it would be a difficult scenario of employment opportunities. I believe in promoting self-employment concept and give the students training and awareness as to how he can venture out to establish a start-up. Incubation cells have to be established to give ample time and opportunities to the students. Interaction with industries ensures the right path towards setting up small-scale industries. I believe in giving students ample chances and guidance in establishing start-ups.
Goals in mind for IIAEIT for the future
The aviation industry is lacking the trained manpower to maintain the aircraft. In this respect, I would like to add more sections of training, including rotary wing aircraft maintenance courses. In order to give hands-on experience to the students, I have procured a state of art aircraft so that students can study each part of it and enable themselves knowledgeable.
The number of air passengers is increasing, so is the number of aircraft. Hence, trained air-crew is the need of the hour. Aviation hospitality is specialized courses and we are expanding the facilities towards achieving the same. As you are aware, the new airports are coming up, renewal of old airports is on cards. Airport management is very much sought after courses and we are working towards it to create management facilities. Foreign collaboration in the aviation sector is in the pipeline and we are going to create world-class education in this respect.
Collaboration with universities abroad would start technical education including the aviation sector in near future.
Tips for the youth
The youth should prepare themselves for a prosperous future by developing certain skills. The most important one is to develop their attitude towards motivation to learn, expressing interest and showing commitment. Acquiring degrees or professional skills is not enough; one must develop personal values that can make a difference. They must have a clear vision for their future professional career.
Apart from generic skills, they must have interpersonal communication skills, negotiation skills, teamwork skills, etc. Employment of these skills in a work environment is an essential quality the aspiring students should develop. Intellectual curiosity leads to a willingness to grow professionally and must be cultivated. Develop a spirit of the challenging environment so as to develop innovative and creative ideas.