After being cocooned in a protected environment for three years, when boys and girls of this class were allowed to converse with each other, they just couldn't. “It was a huge shock as we were asked to discuss and debate topics in preparation for a placement session,” recalls Jalaja (name changed), a former student of an engineering college now working with an IT firm.

“These mock sessions did not help, because we are not allowed to talk freely after the class,” she adds. Restricted communication between male and female students, moral policing and seeking new ways of enforcing discipline — all these are not new to professional colleges in the city. But, this regimen takes a beating when industry is scouting for talent. According to HR professionals, academic proficiency is not the sole criterion to recruit someone. A whole gamut of skills and qualities determines the employability of a student, many of which must be evolved from the formative years. Companies look at multiple levels – technical knowledge, aptitude test, group discussion and interview – while selecting students from campuses.

“In GD and interview, we look at ease in communication and the different views presented. We have seen that when one is not from a co-educational environment it shows, especially if the interviewer happens to be of the opposite sex,” says Jaya Vaidhyanathan, Executive Vice-President and Head of Chennai Technology, Scope International. Candidates coming from cosmopolitan cities find it easier, she says.

Asha Dinesh, student psychologist, says such restricted communication is seen in many institutions, including in arts and science colleges of late. This is because the college management wants to keep the parent community happy. “In fact, nowadays engineering colleges are stricter than schools, setting tight norms and summoning parents if they miss classes. This is contrary to the expectation that students carry to college, and causes frustration among them,” she says. Not all students may pick up social skills on their own and colleges try to fill the gap through personality development courses.

A few others equip themselves after landing a job. B. Chandramouli, professor of IT, Sri Ramanujar Engineering College, says: “I have seen students who are calm and timid all through their engineering course, but they transform once they enter the industry. It is survival of the fittest in the industry, and college environment alone cannot bring in that transformation. One has to adapt to the situation.”

While the college does have a role in transforming an individual, Ms. Vaidhyanathan says transition in the workplace depends on the family environment and the social skills one picks up in the formative years.


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