Engineers have always been known to create, invent and reinvent—it may be a simple design or gadget or a complex computing program. In the past, engineers were limited due to lack of knowledge or lack of machinery. But, with the boom in popularity of engineering fields, newer innovations led to bigger breakthroughs that have kept this discipline ever engaging and in constant demand, amongst students looking to pursue a career in engineering as well as companies looking to expand their technological footprint, alike. Engineering and its various disciplines edge its way into almost every area of the world we live in today— be it medicine, finance, marketing or media.

University and how the engineering college experience needs to change

The current pandemic has brought the world to somewhat of a standstill and has affected every sector in an unfavourable manner. Even though the curve may reduce over a period not so far away, the virus will continue to exist and pose a threat.

To avoid the spread of contamination and resume classes, colleges have already started to modernise their teaching techniques, while adopting new teaching methodologies. Teachers and students are collaborating to rapidly develop ways to communicate and meet the needs of continuing education. Universities are seeking out solutions to teach subjects that require a physical presence in a more innovative approach. With most of the campuses shut and universities focusing only on online learning as a tool to continue classes, students or staff stuck in isolated areas can benefit immensely. A few campuses have even started licensing new software and providing computing equipment to students so that they can learn better during the pandemic, but this comes with unavoidable additional costs.

There is also a flipside. Through the pandemic, engineering colleges have seen a sudden drop in the number of graduates applying for their courses. This could be attributed to several factors—people getting laid off being unable to finance their course, doubts regarding the quality of education (especially practical knowledge) that can be imparted using solely online teaching, cheaper online courses and diplomas for skills that can get you a job quicker and the uncertainty of the future of the engineering field.

So, why continue to pursue your dream of an engineering degree? It's understood that the current scenario has posed a lot of challenges in the education sector, especially in the practical learning-rich field of engineering. The current crisis has made us more aware of the fact that technology is in fact the new language that has the potential to change our lives. It gives us a chance to reflect and rethink existing practices and arrangements that need to be modified.

Move from traditional to niche fields

While COVID is a matter of big discussion at this moment, the problems of the future at how we tackle agriculture, sustainability, heath technology and climate change is the next big question. This will not only bring about more reinvention in education but also create more jobs for graduates to solve real-life problems. More people are straying away from the conventional Electrical and Mechanical Engineering courses and opting for niche courses such as Agricultural Engineering, Material Sciences Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, BioTech Engineering or Sustainability Design instead. Another approach that has begun to be integrated into the traditional engineering courses is training in the Social Sciences to provide a human touch to all that is innovated and created.

Amidst the pandemic, hopes of an effective vaccine rests on the shoulders of biomedical engineers. Resuming working from home as efficiently as possible is a reality only thanks to IT engineers working in tech companies and their development of safe and encrypted video-conferencing platforms. This is the present, and a comfortable post-COVID future is a possibility only with alterations in how the field evolves a few years from now.

Practical application of theories learnt

There has been a paradigm shift towards a more experimental approach in addition to the theoretical knowledge which was previously being imparted. Students are encouraged to innovate and build from their early years of training in engineering colleges. The increased focus on research at an undergraduate level acquaints aspiring engineers with the trial-and-error process involved and grants them the opportunity of experiencing the rewarding feeling of innovation!

The country, and the world, will need more and more graduates to meet up with this new digital age and help navigate this world. “Engineering is one of the few job categories that has held up well against the headwinds of COVID-19. In fact, there has been a slight increase on Indeed,” according to the MD of the job-search portal Indeed.

With newer approaches, innovative teaching skills and a slight tweak of the current curriculum, we might see an exponential rise in newer types of engineering graduates of a broader scope of imagination and understanding prepared to solve bigger problems in the future.