Vineet Nayar: Most American grads are 'unemployable'

First off, I have nothing but respect for one of India's most successful people in the world. In fact, I've made another blog post about the success of Mr Nayar. However, I strongly disagree with what Mr Nayar claims here.

...The official wanted to know why HCL, a $2.5 billion (revenue) company with more than 3,000 people across 21 offices in 15 states, wasn't hiring more people in his state. Vineet's short answer: because most American college grads are "unemployable." (In fairness to HCL, the company recently announced plans to open a delivery center in another state, North Carolina, and invest $3.2 million and hire more than 500 employees there over the next five years under a Job Development Investment Grant.)

Many American grads looking to enter the tech field are preoccupied with getting rich, Vineet said. They're far less inclined than students from developing countries like India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Ireland to spend their time learning the "boring" details of tech process, methodology, and tools--ITIL, Six Sigma, and the like.

And Indians and Chinese and Brazilians are NOT? The entire reason why a good majority of Indian grads are even approaching software houses is because they offer the best pay for their knowledge and services. And that too for fairly low end work that is usually present in them.

And even worse is the fact that he classifies that "ITIL, Six Sigma, etc," as boring. In this case, about 90% of the Indians in these software houses have NO frickin' clue on how to write good code. Trust me, I've been there and done that. For ITIL and Six Sigma, they are not aware of basic quality processes and follow them on a rote model if instructed in written points pasted across bulletin boards.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that American grads are better than Indian grads. We have some of the most technically gifted people on the planet, however, much like how we cannot generalize how Indian IT workers are software coolies, we cannot say that American grads are unemployable? If American grads did not have the skills, how come most of the world is running on Windows or the Mac, or Google became such a powerhouse or facebook and twitter and tumblr are taking over the world?

As a result, Vineet said, most Americans are just too expensive to train--despite the Indian IT industry's reputation for having the most exhaustive boot camps in the world. To some extent, he said, students from other highly developed countries fall into the same rut.

In an interview following his presentation, Vineet said HCL and other employers need to have a greater influence on the tech curricula of U.S. colleges and universities, to make them more real-world and rigorous. For the most part, he said, those institutions haven't been receptive to such industry partnerships.

Holy crap a moley. Why would they want to tarnish American institution reputation? The Indian institutes save for those IITs and those BITs etc have the awesome reputation of churning out mindless coding zombies who don't ask a question, but can churn out code at mindnumbingly fast rates (of course with poor quality: bugs are the way maintenance guys make money) and can pore through oodles of freakshow documentation. And why don't they first try and work with Indian institutions to make THEM real world capable first. How many Indian grads truly understand what's happening in the world today? Are they aware of coding quality standards, processes, project management, algo analysis and design, compiler theory, languages, PERL, Python Ruby? How many of them really work on true projects and come up with awesome stuff during their college days?

I will concede a point to Mr Nayar though, yes, the Americans are over all more expensive and for an Indian IT powerhouse that relies on low-cost model to win contracts, it doesn't make sense to hire an American grad and pay them through the nose.

Again, I am not claiming that every American grad is better than the Indian grad, but first look inside and change the things before pointing fingers. This all seems like a very impromptu reaction to why they are not hiring American grads in HCL?

More broadly, Vineet echoed the concerns expressed by other CEOs, including SAS Institute's Jim Goodnight and Cisco's John Chambers, about the failure of the U.S. education system to prepare the country's next-generation tech workforce (a subject Goodnight and others will dive into at the InformationWeek 500 Conference, Sept. 13 to 15).

Seems like an also-ran case. What Jim Goodnight and John Chambers were referring to was a problem that is facing not only America, but India as well and relates to the overall poor situation in technical education. Good God man, you should've at least made the point clear.

Beyond the need to bolster competencies in math, the hard sciences, and basic problem solving, U.S. schools at all levels must place a greater emphasis on global history, foreign languages, and other subjects that prepare students for jobs and life outside this country. How many grads of U.S. colleges are ready or even willing to work abroad? Vineet asked rhetorically. "We need to define the American dream to be more global in nature," he said.

Again, please look at the Indian state of education before shouting at some other country's education system. What the heck do we do better that we can claim such things. If anyone has been following the global news and Obama's speeches, they can state what Mr Nayar has said. So he hasn't really said anything so precocious that everyone needs to react.

To tie it all together, let me reiterate that I am not claiming the American education system or the American graduates are superior to home grown "techie geniuses." All I am saying is that Mr Nayar should have at least referred to the Indian education system and considered before lambasting the American education system. Furthermore, he should also make genuine efforts from HCL and all other tech companies side to truly make the Indian education system world class.

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