Slump-hit IT firms have their finger on the pause button when it comes to hiring. But engineering graduates have a plan B up their slevee — teaching as a career and higher studies.

Close to 10 lakh students took the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) this year, almost 15 per cent more than the 2012 count.

Admission to postgraduate programmes with government scholarships/assistance in engineering colleges, institutes and universities is open to those who qualify through this test. GATE is an all-India examination conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science and seven Indian Institutes of Technology.

P.S. Sreejith, Principal of School of Engineering at Cochin University of Science and Technology, said students were scouting for better alternatives after software companies cut back on campus hiring.

With the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) making M. Tech compulsory for teaching jobs in engineering colleges, more and more students were opting for it and later applying for faculty positions, he said.

Dr. Sreejith said the School of Engineering received around 100 applications for each of its 18 seats for its M. Tech programme this year.

G.P.C. Nayar, president of the Federation of Associations of Management of Unaided Professional Educational Institutions in India, said on an average 100 to 150 candidates apply for a vacancy of Assistant Professor in private engineering colleges these days. He said the number was growing compared to previous years, indicating that engineering graduates seem to have chosen teaching as a safe and secure career option.

Mr. Nayar said private managements also offer attractive salary package. An assistant professor can take home around Rs. 32,000 in the beginning.

Demand for teachers who retired from government engineering colleges was also high, with managements offering up to Rs. 1.75 lakh for select teachers, he said.

K.P.P. Pillai, an expert in engineering education and former executive secretary of the Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE), said certain managements insist that they will only consider the applications of candidates who have minimum 75 per cent marks in B. Tech courses for faculty positions. He said nearly 50 per cent of the applicants for an assistant professor vacancy in a private engineering college at Thiruvananthapuram had met this condition.

Prof. Pillai said increasing number of students pursuing an M. Tech programme or opting for a teaching career could also be attributed to the disillusionment towards the software sector. He said the recruitment in IT sector continued to remain bleak.

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