Aditya Jain stoops low on the drawing board, minutely detailing the elevations of a view of a wall that he is drawing on a sheet. A third year civil-engineering student of College of Engineering, Guindy, he plans to work for a construction projects consultancy firm and hence, an IT job is a strict no for him.

Jahnavi Krishnaraj, his batchmate, an ECE student, does not seem interested in the prospect either. “I would rather pursue research in the subjects I have developed an interest for in these four years,” she says.

The trend of engineering graduates opting for IT companies, leaving a talent crunch in the core industry seems to be slowly changing. Anna University this year attracted over 30 core companies, and many of them were given slots before the IT bigwigs. “We are making efforts to prevent the internal brain drain within engineering specialisations,” says T. Kalaiselvan, Deputy Director, Centre for University- Industry Collaboration.

And the core companies are trying to match the standards of IT companies too in matters of challenges, opportunities and salaries, say experts. Many mechanical core companies offered salaries on a par with their IT counterparts this year, the average being Rs. 4.5 lakh per annum.

Public sector companies have got into the act too by recruiting relatively more students this year. “A few years back, students would not think of going for them, but now since most of these companies have overseas operations, their offers are irresistible.” says Mr. Kalaiselvan. Validating this opinion is D. Parthiban, a final year Manufacturing Engineering student at CEG who got placed with BHEL. “You get the same opportunities and perks, and your years of studying a particular engineering do not go waste,” he says.

Many core engineering graduates feel that while IT has immense scope to accommodate people from different disciplines, coming back to your specialisation becomes difficult after some time. S. Krish, who graduated in Polymer Technology engineering from Amrita University two years ago, and has been working in an IT company in Chennai since then says, “Core companies do not prefer us easily, and even if they do, the IT experience doesn't count beyond a point.”

But there are some differing voices too. Deepika P., of Electronics and Communications at CEG, waiting for her turn at the Oracle interview process, says global opportunities and a diversified work environment of IT companies interests her more than the challenges offered in her specialisation. “People flock to IT because the industry lends them a global perspective and they get to work on different verticals ranging from automobiles to medical science,” says K. Purushothaman, Regional Director, NASSCOM.

Repaying of loans, onsite opportunities, and experience on the resume are reasons students from core engineering backgrounds cite for accepting IT jobs.

The fact that most core companies tend to recruit as few as three to five students on an average leaves them little choice, they say. “Since we have the one student- one job rule, many of us could not sit for the core companies that came later,” says Sridhar Ram, a fourth year Instrumentation Engineering student from a private college. “Opportunities are many, but it is up to the students to be confident about their preferences and wait, or accept the offer that comes their way,” says Mr. Kalaiselvan. Either way, it is mandatory that academic records are kept clear of arrears, he adds.