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Updated: December 29, 2009 14:26 IST

Job market hotting up once again

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IN A JUBILANT MOOD: Students celebrating after their concovation at a function at NIT-C in Kozhikode; more than 90 per cent of the Computer Science students from the institute have already been placed this year. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
IN A JUBILANT MOOD: Students celebrating after their concovation at a function at NIT-C in Kozhikode; more than 90 per cent of the Computer Science students from the institute have already been placed this year. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Even as the fear of global economic recession lingers on in the minds of students across campuses, things have started looking upbeat on the recruitment front. ABDUL LATHEEF NAHA takes a close look at the placement pattern of the National Institute of Technology, Calicut.

The fear of global economic recession is still in the air. But the current market trends indicate that the future of engineering graduates will not be as murky as widely feared.

The recession has had an impact on all campuses irrespective of their strength and credibility, but not in a uniform manner. While some campuses saw recruiting companies turning their back on them, others witnessed a slump in the number of companies visiting in the last two years.

The change in the campus recruitment pattern has prompted all stakeholders to explore new options. While some companies chose to visit campuses in groups, certain campuses formed exclusive committees to study and monitor the impact of recession and to counsel the students on the basis of current trends. Students too began to show a shift in their attitude to employment.

More and more engineering graduates have begun to opt for management studies in the wake of the recession. “Unlike previous years, we have quite a large number of engineering graduates for our MBA courses this year,” said V.K. Janardhanan, Placement Officer and Head of the Department of Management Studies, Calicut University.

Up to 40 per cent of the MBA students in five centres of Calicut University have come from engineering background. This, according to Dr. Janardhanan, is an indication of the impact the engineering campuses suffered in the wake of the economic slowdown.

But the thousands of engineering undergraduates on our campuses need not lose heart. Things have started looking brighter for them. A close look at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, one of the premier engineering institutions in the country and the best in Kerala, will tell them that the engineering job market is still bright and potent. But listen to the expert advice: be good in your core area.

NITC, the most preferred engineering campus in Kerala for recruiters, too was not spared by the recession. Unlike the previous years, when 100 per cent placement used to be recorded in the first two quarter of the academic year, NITC witnessed only 60 per cent student placement in the current academic year till December.

The reason for this slump, according to NITC authorities, is the cautious and slow path chosen to tread by the companies. NITC has formed a panel to monitor the employment scenario and advise the students accordingly.

NITC Director G.R.C. Reddy told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the job market was not as badly affected as everyone thought. “This slowness is temporary. Every sector has been hit as there has been less industrial activity, and less rate of growth. But what is interesting is that core engineering areas have not suffered at all,” said Prof.

Reddy, instilling hope in large number of engineering students.

According to Prof. Reddy, core engineering areas remain evergreen and people have begun to return to their core sectors. This shift, according to some engineering experts, has been a positive result given by the economic meltdown. The suffering of Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) sector in the wake of the recession has come as a blessing in disguise for all core engineering areas, including computer science. When 92 per cent of computer science students have already found placements this year, only 41 per cent of electronic and electrical engineering (EEE) students of NITC have been placed. This is an indication that IT as a core sector has not suffered.

“With one more quarter to go in the current academic year, we are hopeful to get more than 90 per cent placement,” said Prof. Reddy. “Our economy has started giving symptoms of picking up. We have the habit of saving money, always. And it is this peculiar habit that saved India when other countries suffered,” he said. Even when other campuses suffered during the worst period of recession in 2008-2009, NITC achieved 100 per cent placement. About 50 per cent of NITC students had got their “dream jobs” in the last three years; 50 per cent of them got more than one job.

A close examination of the admissions and placements of NITC in the last three years indicate that students did not prefer ITES. Instead they preferred their core engineering areas, be it computer science, mechanical, chemical, civil, electrical, or electronics. T.K. Suresh Babu, head of the Department of Training and Placement, NITC, said the shift in preference for core engineering was evident for the last three years. “This phenomenon did not limit to NITC. It was there in all other NITs,” he said. The other engineering colleges in Kerala too have witnessed this shift. Mechanical and civil branches of engineering have become the most preferred courses in some colleges, including M.E.S. College of Engineering, Kuttippuram.

V.H. Abdul Salam, principal of M.E.S. College of Engineering, said IT suffered a huge blow in preference among students especially after the recession. Although IT students had got larger pay than the students of other streams earlier, now everyone is on a par in payment, said Prof. Salam.

Before recession, companies used to take even pre-final students from engineering campuses. But post recession, only students in the final semester are preferred. But Prof. Salam appears less confident about an immediate recovery of the job market. “For me, it still appears bleak,” he said. According to him, the slowdown is likely to continue for two more years.

However, the recession has helped some recruitment agencies to thrive by way of offering training in employability skills. “I have been discouraging them since they charge heavy fees from students for training,” said Prof. Salam. Academics are of the opinion that the return of engineering students to their core areas is part of fulfilling their social commitment. “We teach them various engineering for four years, and we expect them to give their due back to society. Naturally we encourage students to work in their core areas,” said Prof. Suresh Babu.

The demand, according to Prof. Babu, is steady in all core areas, including IT. The slump has been only in ITES sector. Thus it justifies the shift in preferences for core areas. When 30 to 40 companies had visited NITC (formerly Regional Engineering College) campus in 1990s, the trend changed drastically in the current decade. As many as 89 companies recruited from NITC in 2006-2007. In 2007-2008, the number of companies that visited this campus for recruitment was 102. In 2008-09, when the world suffered the worst because of recession, NITC got 104 companies to visit it. “Interestingly, most of them were core companies,” said Prof. Babu.

As many as 16 IT product companies visited NITC in 2007-08. So many electronics and semiconductor companies visited that campus in the same year. When 23 mechanical core companies recruited from there in that year, the number of ITES companies that visited NITC was only seven. “This shows that NITC never jumped the ITES bandwagon during the IT rush that we saw a couple of years ago,” said Prof. Babu.

Last year, in the peak of economic meltdown, as many as 19 IT product companies had visited NITC, which also saw 14 electronics and semiconductor firms, 14 electrical core firms, 23 mechanical core firms, 20 civil engineering companies, four consultancy and banking companies, three architecture firms and seven ITES firms recruiting from the campus. Even though 45 companies already visited NITC in the current academic year, only one of them was ITES. “Although core engineering companies have been reluctant because of the economic slowdown, the trend shows considerable improvement,” pointed out Prof. Kumar.

Only 15 companies visited NITC between July and September. Usually most core companies used to visit this campus by July. But 30 companies visited NITC between October and December. And none of the companies that recruited from NITC during this year or the previous year was from Kerala.

“This is in spite of the locational disadvantage we suffer,” said Prof. Babu. According to him, connectivity problems of Kozhikode with centres other than Mumbai and Delhi have had their toll on student recruitment as well.

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