EDUCATION PLUS

Stuck in a trough

CHITRA V. RAMANI DEEPA KURUP

The recruitment slump is widespread and students have to grin and bear it.

The student community, which is generally oblivious to rituals such as quarterly results and tracking sectoral growth industries, is today a reformed lot. Colleges and placement cells are closely monitoring the dismal results across sectors, even as they are assessing where this makes the fresher stand vis-a-vis job prospects.

Though there are still some sectors dealing with FMCG and perhaps retail that are not doing too badly, most sectors seem stuck in a trough. With experts predicting that business will be slow, and companies coming out with predictions which are anything but rosy, students are even thinking of putting on hold plans to jump into a job.

Keeping aside dreams of financial independence, several freshers are looking at sharpening their resumes with certificate courses, and others who can afford the extra time are looking at higher education, even overseas. This is why we start this final leg of the series with what the foreign education sector looks like.

Foreign education

Over the last year, leading coaching institutes in the country have seen a dip of about 30 per cent in their enrolments for Graduate Record Examination (GRE), used as benchmark for U.S. admissions. ETS figures fell from 74,000 in 2007 to 55,000 in 2008. IELTS and TOEFL have also seen a dip in the numbers.

So, does this mean that fewer students are opting for higher education? Not really. Experts say that the dip is in the number of working professionals opting to study abroad. A 20 to 25 per cent increase in tuition fees in foreign universities in 2008, coupled with decreasing job options abroad, are deterrents. Ajay Arora of T.I.M.E. says that freshers are considering pursuing higher education, both abroad and at home. “With few jobs on the anvil, the average graduate is thinking of investing time in studies. So, when the recession gets sorted out, hopefully in a year or two, he will not be stuck in the same trough,” he says.

Aviation

Uncertainty continues to loom large in this sector, even as students who have pursued very expensive courses for pilot training and air-hostess training are finding that their dreams of landing that right job have been hijacked. Those who have got their training abroad have returned home to find themselves in the middle of this big slump.

It is a similar story with technicians and engineers who have pursued courses related to this industry. “Aviation, which was perceived as a booming industry, was paying more than IT companies to its technical staff. Now, landing a job is not that simple,” says a teacher in a Bangalore-based college.

Brig (Retd.) Mohan Kunnath of Cloud9 Airhostess and Hospitality Training Institute says fresh recruitments are on hold. “Everyone is being cautious and as a damage control measure, several airliners took up cost-cutting measures. We will have to wait a few more quarters.”

Graduates are also looking for other jobs to while away the slump. Lavin C. Selvin, who recently completed training at an airhostess-training institute, is now working in the marketing department at a major airline. “There were no jobs. I could not wait endlessly. So, as a stopgap measure, I took up this job. I am keeping my eyes peeled for that dream job still,” Lavin adds.

Pharmaceutical

Analysts into HR staffing still term this as a “safe industry,” with the job market being comparatively less affected. The Indian pharmaceutical industry has been in the limelight in the past quarter, and seems to be going places. In fields such as clinical research, India has become a preferred destination due to the availability of a large pool of patients, skilled and English-speaking professionals and lower costs for conducting trials.

Sudhir Pai, Managing Director of Lotus Clinical Research Academy (LRCA), says that the economic slowdown will only push more work to countries such as India and China, as a measure of cost-cutting.

Niche sectors

The “booming economy” has fuelled the growth of several sectors on the periphery, most of which are seeing a downturn. The media industry, which has been on a crest for sometime now, is seeing a stagnation. Several media houses have declared a recruitment freeze and are even looking at downsizing. Production houses, TV channels and networks have been affected, and journalism schools and media courses are also witnessing a low.

Kanchan Kaur, Vice-Dean of IIJNM, a journalism institute in Bangalore, points out that it may be too early to predict trends. “Compared to the past years, the madness to recruit has reduced and not as many companies have come forward. Since our placement season is in March, we are hoping things will get better.”



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