Communication skills among engineering students in India

The students in an engineering course in India have very limited time to develop their skills, as they have to study five plus three or four subjects every semester. Both teachers and students have to rush to complete syllabus, conduct exams and move on to next semester. Therefore, there emerges a gap between development of the intellectual abilities of a student and the skill-set that matches the required need of employers.  Employers expect engineers to possess a wide range of traits along with the domain specific technical knowledge. Developing a right skill set is the key.

Skills are a “bundle of knowledge, attributes, and capacities that enables individual to successfully and consistently perform an activity or task, and that can be built up and extended through learning” [1] Employability is a complex concept to define accurately taking care of the related paradigms.   [2]suggest that there is concern world-wide that existing undergraduate programs are not producing graduates with the kind of lifelong learning and professional skills which one requires in order to be successful in their careers. Companies are aware of and follow global trends, and they are adapting their staff accordingly. A

s a daunting challenge, companies perceive the growing need for training new-recruits for interdisciplinary skills including adaptive communication skills. [3]Engineering curricula at the universities have not traditionally addressed the development of undergraduate students’ communication skills including writing in a comprehensive and organized way[4]. A far-reaching comprehension of globalization is critical to an engineers’ success, today. An engineer must be well trained to work adequately in worldwide groups, to comprehend other social orders, societies, and to communicate viably—both oral and written.

It has been repeatedly emphasised that English is a medium of transboundary communication and has exceptional impact on the worldwide market. IPSOSGlobal report, states that 67 percent, of workers-surveyed, deal with people beyond their borders saidEnglish was the most often used language [5]. Students from nations with English not as their first language or mother tongue, face competency issue.

Lack of English competence is the reason why students need to take more English preparation classes. [6] In the employers’ perception survey, communication skills has been ranked the topmost priority that they lookout in their potential employees (engineers), reads India Skills Report 2019. This implies that possessing communication skills is one of the most desired qualities among engineers. However, when they were asked to rank skills of their newly hired employees, communication skill

was rated just 63%, the lowest among all parameters. A clear observation is that there is huge difference between demand and supply. The skills employers are asking more is available less among engineers.

This work reports the result of an opinion survey on communication skills among engineering students in the selected states of India. This includes graduate engineering students. This paper is an attempt to find out the perceived skills of engineering students in communication domain. The research shows the relative importance of various aspects of communication skills, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Finding of this research indicates the specific skills of communication that the employers anticipate from a technical graduate. Further, the present perceived communication skillsability of students is also presented in the paper. In conclusion, the paper highlights the level and contrasts the communication skills among technical students in two regions of India, northern and southern.

Language, as a Skill

Essentially, language is  a skill. Knowledge about these  is an intellectual exercise (cognition) and making use  or doing them is a skill (action). In fact , language skills are classified into four sections—listening, speaking, reading, and writing— further, that can be categorized into two subsections –productive/active skills (i.e., speech and writing) and receptive/passive skills (i.e., listening and reading).

Though, they can also be subdivided on the basis of their usage as proper and casual skills, as shown in Figure 1. Proper skills (i.e., listening and speaking) are used often byone and all, however, there is casual use of casual skills (i.e., reading and writing). An individual can sustain without reading and writing, but cannot live without speaking and listening. This shows the relevance of listening and speaking in language learning process (Paliwal, 1998).

So, in order to broaden one’s communicative abilities, one should have good familiarity with all four skills related to language. A language teacher should keep four variables (the learner or participants, the setting, the contents and the teacher) while formulating any program for achieving optimal proficiency in language. the learner, the setting, the material, and the teacher (see Figure 2). The outcome would be fruitful if the all four variables ae aligned properly.

Literature review

The concept of employability is a ‘synergic combination of personal qualities, skills of various kinds and subject understanding `Employability’ is going through similar processes. Individual Employability is the core notion relates to the propensity of students to obtain a job. Individual employability of a graduate alludes to graduate attributes it implies that individuals have the skills and are able to demonstrate, them in order to obtain jobs. Just as self-confidence is seen as the way one projects to the outside world, self-efficacy is the ability to handle a specific state of affairs.

Self-confidence is perception that can be observed from manner and behaviour of a person.  [8]agreeing to this fact states, ‘people with self-confidence are able to present themselves with poise and mark their presence among others. According to the [9], most communication-skill interventions aimed at training newly recruited learners fail to engage them and these engineering graduates are not able to cope. This affected their will and confidence to engage with language learning. In addition learners really only require a small amount of language ability to meet the performance requirements of a number of jobs in the technical sector.

Modern employers want engineering graduates to have confidence, optimism, and a belief that they can make a difference. Engineering graduates who can adapt to the workplace culture, use their abilities, skills to evolve the organisation be innovative while working in a team [10]

In view of [11] communication skill is important forcarrying outworks in a precision engineering domain. Engineers make use ofsome form of communication during most of their working time. They communicate with each other about procedures and problems, and they relay and receive information back and forth in both horizontal and vertical communication channels.

Effective oral communication also requires that engineershave self-awareness to understand how they are noticed, understoodapart from what they hear. It is important for engineers to understand and value communication approaches that are different in style from their own. This is needed to acquaint and adjust their style when in communications with someone who has a different style. The transmission and receipt of information in the workplaceis affected by listening skills.

Communication skills are at the heart of getting and keeping customers and gathering product feedback, as well as for participating in work teams and resolving conflicts on job”. Across the world, employees are expected to make significant decisions in synergy with corporate strategy and culture. Employees are therefore expected to have technical, relational and communication skill [12].

In an analysis made by [13], they analyzed data on employer’s satisfaction regarding skills of graduates of a business school in United States, in this analysis communication skills were one among four major factors. In addition to technical skills, Employers also assesses skills like communication skills and few others, which are paramount in becoming employed in organizations and succeed in performing jobs [14][15]. Despite technical skill as core skill for engineering students, problem solving skills, communication skills and teamwork are highly desired [16].

[17] in their study concludes that  An insight can be perceived from  employers on competency required for employees further he mentions that ‘Graduates in engineering and technology may seem to be technically competent to perform their jobs conversely, the communication skills and attributes plays an important role for the employers which are beyond sole-technical proficiency. His work proves the level of satisfaction over the engineering-graduates that have been employed’. [18]Highlights the importance of branding oneself. As technical person, the same applies to an engineer. Conveying a predictable message in a written, verbal and virtual way the work argues. Communication goes beyond verbal abilities, which are fundamentally essential for a job seeker. Job seeker have to figure out how to expand their verbal and non-verbal communication abilities as these are very useful asset for securing job, and achieving professional success. [19]Examined the English language skills required by the engineering students studying in India and the gap between the teaching methodology and students’ language skills. They argued that there is an urgent requirement of going beyond conventional textbook learning in communication skills class. Their finding pointed to the huge difference between the teaching methodologies and the confidence levels of engineering students. For engineers, communication skills is much beyond grammar rules and letter writing practice. Their work anticipates that communication skill professors in engineering colleges, when exposed to the reality of industry requirements, will find real gap between a student engineer’s academic environment and their prospective workplace. [20]Validated the technical communication of English language by the mediation effect of LSRW. The study has revealed several factors that affects paradigm of LSRW. They foundprofessional communication skills, academic English, social communication share a significant correlation with personality development and overall SAT of the English language. [21]Found that English language proficiency is a major factor for when employers recruit job seekers to companies. English stands as the lingua franca for MNCs across world.Researcher comments that English communication skill is one of the major employability skills in modern Indiabecause, English has emerged as a means for acquisition of employment, power and privilege in society. [22]’s study is concurrent on the notion that communication skills and English language are the prime factor for engineering students’ academic and professional life. Indian engineering students need to develop their English communication skills, to satisfy the expectations of MNCs. Their work suggests that, Indian technical universities and colleges need to integrate technical English into the engineering students’ curriculum for the entire four years of their studies, rather than giving limited priority to its development. [23], proposed a project-based learning strategy to lead students through the preparation of a research paper. Their work suggests the use of scientific writing to enhance communication skills in writing. The results of their students’ assessment indicates a significant gain in students’ confidence in technical communication skills. [24]Conducted a study to use oral presentations of project work to improve communication skills among the students at the Oxford Polytechnic. They found that communication skills along with technical and academic competency better prepares graduating students for the world of research and industry.

A survey[25]was carried out post- formal instruction between the students of engineering studies in the first and sixth semesters in Croatia. Data wascaptured using the Communication Skills Attitude Scale (CSAS), consisting of 14 listed-items. They found that senior and more mature students have higher positive attitudes compared to the students at the beginning of their undergraduate studies.

[26]suggests that the communication skills in a course  need to  include active listening, use of academic or formal language, nonverbal communication, effective writing, speech delivery, and the ability to effectively argue using reasoning and evidence. These can also be applied to students in engineering education. They found that instructional strategies like evaluating messages, listening, reading, speaking and writing actively improves communication. [27]used questionnaires to gather information pertaining to adequacies in communication skills from the students and graduates of a technical vocational school. The result indicates inadequacy in oral presentation of material, in writing reports and business letters as reported by the employer and felt by the employee.


The possession of honed communication skill isa pertinent factor for hiring of young engineers. However, there are no studiesdone so far thatfinds out the self-assessedimportance of communication skillsvis-à-vis existing level of these skills. On the lines of earlier studies, this work is intended to assess the relative importance of different aspects of communication skills for effective performance of technical graduates during recruitment process and day-to-day handling of tasks by newly hired technical personnel.

The data for this research was collected using an online and offline (hard copy) questionnaire. These were collected from students from engineering colleges from two different regions of India. The questionnaire incorporated a modified self-assessment inventory adapted from[28].The questionnaire differed as it sought to use third personfor actions and reactions from the respondents. A modified Likert’s scale was used for rating. While forming the questions for the survey, the competency units LSRW, were examined for their relevance in communication skill. The regional institutes surveyed followed the same AICTE derived curriculum and hence, no observable variation was foundin them. The questionnaire developed was divided into two parts.

Respondents were asked to rate the relative importance of different communication skills for an engineering student taken a communication skills course.Theywere further asked to assess their personal abilities, in these communication skills. Their opinions were registered on a five point scale where, never represented point one and always represented point five, the highest demonstrated ability.

The results of this survey illustrate traits, which are considered most important, and the ones, which require attention in communication skills training of technical graduates. The questionnaire was pilot tested with students and communication skills professors and necessarymodificationswere made. All India Council of Technical Education is an apex body that regulates the quality and standards of technical education in the country. In its report for the year 2000, it came up with ‘a greater input of professional communication skills’ in technical education. (AICTE 2000)