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SLIIT raises benchmark on graduate employability


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From left: SLIIT Chairman Prof. Lakshman L. Ratnayake, Computer Science and Software Engineering Department Head Dr. Nuwan Kodagoda, Information Systems Engineering Program Coordinator Dr. Dasuni Nawinna, Graduate Studies and Research Faculty Dean Rahula Attalage and Dumindra Ratnayaka 

- Pic by Shehan Gunasekara

 


 

  • SLIIT outlines how 93% of graduates gain employment in six months
  • Industry partnerships help students with internships, scholarships, employment
  • Soft skill training at orientation level
  • Focus on academic staff upskilling

 

By Shailendree 

Wickrama Adittiya

The Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) actively works with the private sector to fine-tune curricula to improve graduate employability, resulting in over 93% of degree-holders finding jobs within six months of graduating, SLIIT Chairman Prof. Lakshman L. Ratnayake said on Wednesday.

At a media roundtable on the non-State not-for-profit higher education model in Sri Lanka, SLIIT faculty members laid out how they had introduced new techniques to make their graduates job-ready.

The IT industry has estimated that by 2022 it has the potential to generate $ 5 billion in revenue, enabling 200,000 direct jobs. As one of the leading IT degree institutes of the country, SLIIT aims to increase its student numbers from the current 10,000 to 30,000 and produce a quality workforce in order to meet the 2022 estimate. 

Prof. Ratnayake attributed SLIIT’s high levels of graduate employability in part to the opportunity for students to be in direct contact with the IT industry. 

“We get people from the industry to conduct programs, seminars and certain modules,” Prof. Ratnayake said, adding that this blend of academics and industry experts was vital for such professional programs.

Computer Science and Software Engineering Department Head Dr. Nuwan Kodagoda added to the discussion by sharing details about SLIIT’s ‘Employability Skills’ guest lectures that give students first-hand knowledge from industry leaders who talk to them on the latest trends in their workspaces.

While it is compulsory for students to go through six months’ training during their four-year degree program, Dr. Kogagoda said: “We also work closely with the industry when formulating our curriculum. We get a lot of feedback and have industry consultancy boards at the department level.”

The industry partners SLIIT collaborates with also offer scholarships to students, where they can work part-time for the organisation in exchange for the payment of their tuition fees. This ensures that parents are not burdened with tuition fees.

Added to this, most students go on to gain employment at the organisations they work part-time for, thus making the program beneficial for both students and the organisations.

Prof. Ratnayake also shared that the Government-issued loans for higher education were also beneficial to students as they encouraged students to follow higher education programs without any financial barriers.

The industry collaborations benefit staff too, Information Systems Engineering Program Coordinator Dr. Dasuni Nawinna said, explaining that they conducted research collaborations with the industry for both students and staff. 

“Some of the ongoing collaborations are with the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children and SriLankan Airlines. In addition to these, some of our senior lecturers conduct knowledge-sharing sessions on request at organisations,” she added.

The upskilling of SLIIT academic staff also plays a role in high graduate employability rates and Prof. Ratnayake said that the institute had initiated a staff development program to enhance and upskill the knowledge of academic staff in areas like soft skills and new teaching, learning and assessment methods. 

Soft skills like critical thinking and analytical problem-solving are also taught to students during their orientation programs and SLIIT has also recently begun introducing modern skills which empower students in the fundamental areas they must have knowledge on upon graduation.

“The main set of skills in addition to critical thinking are soft skills like communication and leadership skills. These are fairly important and we try to incorporate them right from the beginning,” Dr. Kodagoda said.

An initiative by SLIIT that is worth paying attention to is the Sri Lanka Technology Incubators. Graduate Studies and Research Faculty Dean Prof. Rahula Attalage explained that for a nominal fee, those who wished to develop their own startup could make use of the space provided by SLIIT.

“The mechanism is that the space is given to those who want to create an enterprise. Based on a proposal for their startup, they can also get advice from academic staff,” Prof. Attalage said, adding that the space was provided for a period of two years during which the startup’s progress is monitored.

SLIIT currently has nine cubicles in which six companies are developing IoT products and specific software. The support from SLIIT academic staff ranges from advice and protecting their intellectual property to bringing the company to a spinoff level.

 


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