Why India needs to revise its course curriculum to address EV skill demand

Why India needs to revise its course curriculum to address EV skill demand

As the Centre incentivizes the use of electric vehicles, the shortage of skilled EV talent could impact the fast-tracking of India’s 2030 e-mobility target of 30% in the automotive industry.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been making headlines for a few decades. But it is only in recent years that EVs have been attracting seminal interest, innovation and investments. Significantly, India has the world’s third-highest CO₂ emissions. Embracing EVs will help reduce CO₂ emissions and curb air pollution.

Incidentally, two core pain points – battery life and charging infrastructure – have either been largely addressed or are being fast-tracked towards a resolution.

While this is good, another pivotal aspect has still not attracted adequate attention – EV-related skills. Considering the latent yet growing demand for EVs, India must create a highly skilled talent pool of EV industry workers and allied professionals.

Addressing EV skill shortage

EV skills are also required to mitigate high unemployment rates. Shortage of such skills is one of the factors driving higher unemployment. Not having adequate skilled professionals before EVs take to the roads in large numbers would be like placing the cart before the horse.

Considering the incentives/subsidies being provided by the Centre and States, EVs will keep gaining acceptance year-on-year. Consequently, engineers with a cross-sectional knowledge in the spheres of mechanical engineering, electricals and electronics are imperative to service the sunrise sector.

Although the automotive sector has a sizable pool of talent, this personnel lack the niche skills for working in the EV segment. As a result, EV manufacturers may be constrained to hire from spheres such as software, aerospace and consumer electronics, where personnel are conversant with the role of connectivity and AI-enabled technology in the workings of machines.

Given the above skills shortage scenario, the demand-supply gap needs to be plugged by tackling the root cause –outdated course curriculums or those not wholly in sync with the EV industry requirements. For EVs, mechatronics, the technology that combines electronics and mechanical engineering, is gaining currency. As a multidisciplinary engineering branch, it serves both electrical and mechanical systems, with skill sets useful in the advanced automated manufacturing segment. Since it intersects mechanics, electronics and computing, mechatronics engineers specialise in creating smarter yet simpler systems.

While the subject appeared in American universities around the 1990s, India has been lagging in this new age speciality. As the nation embarks on its EV journey, multi-domain engineering specialists will need to manage mechanical motors while understanding the electronics driving them and the smart software controlling the same.

Given the skills shortage scenario, the demand-supply gap needs to be plugged by tackling the root cause – outdated course curriculums or those not wholly in sync with the EV industry requirements.

Status of current courses

The current engineering and tech courses are not aligned in offering industry-ready EV skills. To address this situation, academicians should work towards revising the course curriculum as per the above specialisations to support India’s nascent EV revolution. However, the shift towards EV-centric courses calls for close collaboration between academia and industry to drive a faster transition towards e-mobility. Fortunately, some industry stakeholders are already offering relevant EV-aligned courses and skilling programs.

For instance, the Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC) has launched its Electric Mobility Nanodegree Programme in association with DIYguru– an online learning platform for engineers across India and South East Asia. The six-month programme is conducted via a mix of online recorded and live lectures held on weekends. Specially designed for students and professionals with an engineering and diploma background, the certification is driven by ASDC’s blockchain-powered solution – Certif-ID, the latest technology protecting certificates from being counterfeited or forged.

Besides the above, MG Motor has partnered with ASDC and Autobot India to launch Dakshta– a training programme specialising in artificial intelligence and EVs in creating skilled human resources for the automotive industry. Similarly, to make automotive job aspirants future-ready in EV technology, Autobot Academy has introduced a new EV programme ‘EV Engineering: Architecture and Components’ in collaboration with MG Motor and ASDC.

Promoting indigenous manufacturing

Going by the disruptions in the automotive supply chains caused by COVID-19, the industry is confronting a severe shortage of spare parts and other critical components sourced from China. As industries worldwide seek to de-risk businesses from an overdependence on Chinese imports, it’s the right time for domestic OEMs to scale up operations in attracting as much of the global business as possible.

While the Centre is offering PLI (production-linked incentives) schemes and subsidies for domestic manufacturing, for EVs, the focus is on charging infrastructure and battery development. Though crucial, these measures should be balanced by an equal focus on EV-related skills development, if indigenous manufacturing programmes are to succeed.

In promoting ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’, hardware manufacturing must be supported ably by software skills, including those for e-mobility. To ensure the viability of ‘Make in India’ EV projects, the skills gap should be filled on priority. In achieving this, upskilling and re-skilling programmes plus periodic refresher courses are required in pushing faster EV adoption. These skilling initiatives must be at par with global automotive best practices in EV manufacturing.

While the Centre is offering PLI (production-linked incentives) schemes and subsidies for domestic manufacturing, for EVs, the focus is on charging infrastructure and battery development. Though crucial, these measures should be balanced by an equal focus on EV-related skills development, if the indigenous manufacturing programmes are to succeed.

Additional skilling programmes

This apart, the Centre and industry players could take the lead in introducing courses on battery design, battery management systems, development of charging stations, energy storage and management, electric motors and suchlike. Besides boosting domestic manufacturing, these will augment employment generation, which is the need of the hour.

EV skilling programmes will also provide tailwinds for faster acceptance of EVs pan-India. Considering India’s 2030 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), EVs are essential for lowering carbon emissions.

Apart from skilling programmes highlighted earlier, IITs in Delhi, Roorkee and Kharagpur, as well as institutions such as UPES (University of Petroleum and Energy Studies), are offering courses and research facilities for EVs. Some short courses and EV training are also provided by NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning), an initiative of the IITs and IISC. Additionally, other initiatives are being undertaken by ASDC in collaboration with SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers), ACMA (Automotive Components Manufacturers Association of India) and FADA (Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations).

Nonetheless, as India aims for 30% e-mobility in the automotive industry by 2030, EV skilling programmes should be scaled up majorly in meeting this ambitious target. Whereas range anxiety and charging infrastructure continue to be barriers in promoting EVs, the requisite talent can help surmount some shortfalls. If this happens, India’s EV target of 2030 will remain on course to be achieved.