Quality of software engineers - the other side of the story

We lament the quality of the software engineers that  pass out each year from the Colleges.  The quantity is ever-increasing with the quality being inversely proportional.

The other day, in my conversation with the senior staff (Principal, Director, Heads of Department,  others) of a popular College/University in Tamil Nadu, where I had been invited for a discussion, I gathered "the other side of the story".

It seems last year about one lakh engineering seats are vacant - just in Tamil Nadu.  There are now Engineering Colleges in every town. Students no longer need to travel to a different town or stay in hostels to do engineering. They can do in their own town.

From last year, Tamil Nadu Government also did away with Entrance Test for engineering/medical admissions.  This means, the only criteria for admission is the marks in 12th Std.  I was told, there were more students with 200/200 looking for specific Medical College seats than the number of seats - so much so that other criteria like date of birth and marks in language papers were used to differentiate (besides caste and quota).

This also means that now students get to choose their Colleges - and they do, based on distance, campus placements and other factors.  Colleges now compete with each other to ensure that they attract students. 

With Colleges running in each town, and admissions based on 12th Std marks, many rural students, who would otherwise have had difficulty doing engineering are now able to do so.  The College that I went to, had this situation. There were a number of students from rural background, who were now exposed to a radically different culture, from their schools.

Engineering (followed by a software job) is still considered the best bet by most parents (if not students).

So, on one hand there are now more seats than number of students.  Many Colleges are running with as little as 15% capacity.  There are Colleges which are on the verge of closing down and some Colleges find this as an opportunity to recruit good faculty from these. 

What about the Faculty?  The two junior faculty that accompanied me during the trip to the College confessed that they "took up" teaching since they could not get a "software" job when they passed out ("recession" they said).  Both incidentally studied in the same College that they are now working.  What can be expected of those, who take up a profession, not by choice, but out of necessity?

The teachers with whom I interacted claimed that they did justice to their subjects, did have the students do a "lot of practicals", and so on.  Assuming they did, why is quality a big question mark?

These were some of the questions that were posed by students after the discussion:

a) How can I get into google/facebook?   (Answer:  What are you doing that will make google/facebook consider you?)
b) Why are companies taking mechanical students for software jobs (and thereby denying me one, though I am doing four years of computers)? (Answer: Many reasons - mechanical students may not switch jobs that fast; they may be ok with lower pay; companies may need diversity)
c) When will I get call letter from Company that has given me campus offer?  (Answer: What are you doing during that time, besides waiting for the letter?)

I could detect a sense of desperation in the students (and they were in their Second Semester of engineering).  

I also understand that there are professional trainers (and companies) who are now doing programs to increase the "employability" of the students - in fact, seeking to tie up with Colleges officially!  

What a paradox!