With a shaky demand-supply talent pool ratio, IT companies are turning to academia for nurturing talent.

An oft-cited 2009 survey done by the World Bank and FICCI came up with the alarming suggestion that 64 per cent of engineering graduates are unemployable! One of the reasons for this, it was felt, was the gap between the ‘drawing board and the black board’ and to address this, several companies, especially the ones from the IT sector have come forward to bridge this gap.

For instance, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys have stretched out a hand to the world of academia, to help the faculty and in turn pass on the benefit to the students. This initiative includes faculty selection, training, competitions and Web communities for students and much more.

Teaching the teachers

K. Ganesan, vice-president, HR at TCS, says that their industry-academia interface has four aspects: help in faculty recruitment; faculty development programmes; workshops for students and sponsorship for faculty to pursue Ph.Ds. The most important of these are the faculty development programmes that aim at aligning what the faculty have learnt with what the industry wants. “This is a two-way programme, there is an exchange of ideas and both of us learn,” he continues.

Mission 10X is Wipro’s not-for-profit trust established in 2007, to enhance the employability skills of engineering graduates. The “Mission 10X Learning Approach” which is meant to convey to faculty members, innovative teaching methods so that their students may benefit, has come about after deep research. Says P.B. Kotur, head of Mission 10X, “In addition to training the faculty on technology— which they can take back to their students — we give them projects in software development. They are in turn expected to train 3-4 others.” According to him, there have been 25 such centres established in nine states to train 210 teachers, who have in turn trained 250 others.

Enthusing students

Apart from workshops for the students, there are web-portals launched by some of the companies which help knit the students together and make them interact creatively. Infosys has a Campus Connect programme which provides seminars, competency development programmes for students and faculty, student projects and faculty sabbaticals with Infosys.

TCS has their own web-based programme called Campus Commune which creates an online community and talent pool. Students can post their questions here, which may be answered by other faculty or their own peers. This promotes collaboration between faculty and students. Mr Ganesan says, “A student from Tirupur drops a question, which is answered by a faculty of an IIT or another student — so the entire community becomes a mentor.” According to him this has many advantages — open-sourced learning; peer learning which helps students develop networks; plus these mentor-mentee relationships can lead to a future collaboration.

Competition thrills

In 2012, TCS held a competition called ‘Codevita’ in which 34,000 students participated. The top three teams from a shortlist were given orders directly.

But while winning must have been a thrill, this exercise indirectly pushed the students into becoming code-fixers.

The various measures being taken by these players to ensure the quality of their prospective employees is certainly making a difference.

Now, if the IT industry, despite being so sought after, feels the need to nurture its talent pool by strengthening the industry-academia interface, surely others must grasp this trend?