India Needs More Well-Trained Chip Designers

IEEE’s Blended Learning Program helps increase the supply of skilled engineers

12 May 2015

There’s no lack of electronic devices made with very-large-scale integration (VLSI) circuits—anything from computers to household appliances. What’s in short supply are engineers who know the VLSI design process. That process involves creating an integrated circuit that combines millions of transistors on a single chip. The shortage is especially being felt in India, where in the face of a rapidly growing number of electronic system design projects, manufacturing companies like Texas Instruments cannot find enough qualified VLSI engineers.

“It is not a problem of quantity that we are facing, as we have more engineers graduating every year than industry can employ,” said Jaswinder S. Ahuja, president of the VLSI Society of India, in a March interview with BusinessLine. “It is a problem of quality—the quality of VLSI education and the quality of students getting through engineering institutions is poor.”

The IEEE Blended Learning Program in VLSI hopes to fill that training gap through a mix of e-learning courses, hands-on labs, and online tests. The program is available in Bangalore and neighboring regions in India and is specifically designed for undergraduate and graduate students of electrical and computer engineering, as well as recent graduates and new and experienced employees in technology companies.

“We want to help bridge the gap between graduation and employment and ensure a supply of skilled engineers to meet demand," says Harish Mysore, director of IEEE India Operations, in Bangalore.

ASSESSING THE NEED

The program was initiated by the IEEE Product Ideation Ad Hoc Committee of the Technical Activities Board (TAB) and the Publication Services and Products Board (PSPB) after it assessed the educational needs in India, according to David Goldstein, lead director for IEEE New Product Development, in Piscataway, N.J.

The New Product Development group took on the project. It worked closely with the IEEE Bangalore office and others to decide on the type of program and engineering content to offer and identify partners in the country that could supply instructors and hands-on training. Excelsoft, in Mysore, provides a state-of-the-art performance-based e-learning platform. The RV-VLSI Design Center, in Karnataka, provides the training facilities and the instructors.

ENSURING SUCCESS

The more than 10 courses in the program were designed with industry input and reviewed by leading IEEE experts from academia and industry. Lab instructors also have years of industry experience. Each course includes 10 to 16 hours of e-learning and 2 to 3 days of instructor-led labs.

The program consists of two key components critical to building competency in any engineering field and particularly in VLSI, according to Goldstein. In the e-learning part, students learn basic concepts and are taught how to apply them through case studies and simulations. Students also gain understanding through practice and assessments. In the lab part of the program, students use industry standard VLSI design tools to build VLSI chips.

“This hands-on approach to learning makes the program more engaging and rewarding for students, further increasing its effectiveness,” Goldstein says.

Upon successfully finishing each course the student will receive a certificate of completion from IEEE.

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