The placement cell of DU’s Department of Social Work is attracting jobs for its students, thanks largely to the mandatory CSR initiative of the corporate world

Post-graduation in social work was once a stream of study that attracted mostly girls. In Delhi University’s Department of Social Work — one of the first institutions in Asia to offer a master’s degree in social work — the pattern was no different. The reasons seemed simple and straightforward. There were relatively limited job opportunities and poorer salaries compared to other streams. So in a patriarchal society — which looks at men as providers — fewer boys possibly opted for an MA in Social Work.

“But we are seeing a change in the last few years,” states Pamela Singla, associate professor, Department of Social Work, Delhi University. “The number of boys is increasing gradually,” she points out. “For instance, the number of boys between 1994 and 2010 constituted approximately 25 per cent of the class strength in comparison to the last two years when the figure has gone up to 38 per cent in 2012 and 47 per cent in 2013,” says Singla, herself an alumna of the Department.

Interestingly, Singla considers this change a possible result of increased job opportunities and attractive salaries that students are beginning to get now. “This change could also be because of the attractive salaries being offered to the students, as shared by some candidates applying for the course and during their admission interviews.”

Unconventional turn

Singla should know as she has headed the placement cell of the Department for the last three years. Her term since July 2010 ended a week ago but she has seen “unconventional” job providers approaching the Department lately. “Besides the NGOs, schools and hospital settings which have been our employers since long, we have extended our list to include corporate houses, with mandatory two per cent of company profits to be kept aside for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives now,” states Singla. So companies like Yamaha, Maruti Suzuki, Moser Baer, Taj Safari, Airtel, Tata Power Division, Hindustan Zinc among others have come for campus recruitment.

The cell is also seeing other players. “During our times, the structured campus recruitment was not there, though in case the Department was approached by any organisation the students were informed about it or once in a while we had UNICEF representatives coming to interview students for a job. But over a period of time, the scope of job opportunities in Social Work has expanded to include various settings besides the CSR initiatives of companies — for instance, corporate sector ( welfare officers and deputy managers in Hero Honda, Hero Motorcorp), private sector social enterprises (project executives in Empower Pragati, New Concept Information), scholarship programmes ( national and international foundations like America India Foundation, Gandhi Fellows), schools (school social worker), hospitals (medial social workers) besides positions in international organisations.”

The Department opening a placement cell in the mid ‘90s was certainly the right move. Bringing out a placement brochure featuring CVs of students and mailing it to possible employers was another. “During the last three years the brochure was mailed to 300-350 organisations each year.” The Department also hosts a four-day placement fair that started during Singla’s tenure and during the headship of Sanjay Bhatt. “The idea was to have maximum organisations for recruitment within a given time period,” she says.

What has also helped is “the changes in the course curriculum. With the semester system, there have been changes in the mandatory fieldwork training. Students are trained to address issues related to rights, gender, human behaviour, development and basic communication by mobilising resources, networking with development-related organisations, undertaking policy level initiatives and engaging them in research and advocacy. The student community today is more aware of their rights and responsibilities and transfer the same to the communities with which they work.” She proudly states, “The Department has been ranked number two by Outlook-MDRA survey, 2013, and job placements of the students are an important parameter for the ranking.”

“In 2010-11, the average salary was below Rs.3 lakh per annum. In 2012-13, it has gone above Rs.3 lakh per annum.”

“With the entry of first-rate corporate houses in the job arena, the NGOs are now offering more competitive salaries to the students,” she states.

Students are trained to address issues related to rights, gender, human behaviour, development and basic communication by mobilising resources, networking with development-related organisations, undertaking policy level initiatives and engaging them in research and advocacy.