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The outsiders in the job market
Monday, 19 November 2018 23:53

Engineering students who do not get placed in campus recruitment drives must enhance their technical and communication skills for better job prospects.

As an ATM supervisor for a nationalised bank here, K. Senthilkumar is an important man among his co-workers because, “he is responsible for the loading and off loading of cash” at five ATM centers — all this for Rs. 6,000 that he is paid every month. However, very few of his colleagues know that he has an engineering degree in computer science with an aggregate of 62 per cent.


“I graduated in ECE in 2008. I had just about 45 per cent in class XII which barred me from the interview process of the three companies that came to my college,” he says. Three years on, Senthilkumar has not been able to find an engineering job. “I tried for a year and then I took up this job. Underemployment is any day better than unemployment,” he adds. R. Rajendran, a mechanical engineer who graduated in 2007 from an engineering college in Sriperumbudur had a similar story with a twist “After working in a firm in Guindy Industrial estate for two years, I managed to join a big construction company. The pay is much better and I am also working in an area I like,” he says.

Of the eight lakh graduates who pass out of engineering colleges in the country every year, only about 2.50 lakh get placed in the software industry, and about 20,000 in various core engineering jobs. Sources say that only about 21 per cent of the engineering graduates in Tamil Nadu get placed every year. In the 92 colleges that have their campuses in and around Chennai, only about 27 colleges had five or six big IT companies visiting their campuses. Over 60 per cent of the colleges did not have a single company in their placement drive, and about 10 per cent of the students in every discipline are without job every year.

What happens to these unemployed youth is a big question. Most of them end up in jobs at call centers, sales and marketing firms and smaller IT companies. Most colleges also are wary of sending the resumes of students who have not been recruited to companies because it might create a bad impression. “After a point, such students stop approaching the colleges too,” says B.T. Maran, director (student affairs), Meenakshi group of Institutions. Hardware networking, information security, graphics, web designing and animation are other options but they demand an extra expenditure of at least Rs.50, 000 and one year's training that many do not want to attempt.

“Also, the ratio of desktop engineers or networking engineers in the software industry is very less, just about 10 to every 1,000 software developers. And most of them end up with a salary of Rs. 6 - 7, 000 only,” says B. Anbuthambi, General Manager ICT Academy of Tamil Nadu. For manufacturing firms and companies that require field work, hiring a polytechnic student seems more financially viable than recruiting a civil or a mechanical engineer who will demand more pay and will expect a white collar job, he adds.

But there remain other options too, and with a little effort graduates can explore many such parallel fields depending on his/her own understanding of skills. From dropping a letter at the security gates of the over 100 SMEs in the city to working as a lecturer in one's own college to preparing for an MBA or joining a SAP course or an IBM mainframe module that guarantee jobs, engineers seeking an IT job seem to have a lot of options.
Off-campus placements are worth waiting for too, say many students although prospects may vary. “Infosys and TCS conducted their off campuses recently, but that is only for the immediate pass outs. While IT companies may not be that particular about college performance, there is no way they will lower the bar on school records,” says S. Dharini, a 2010 engineering graduate who is looking for an IT job , while working as a tech support personnel.

“Getting an experience in a smaller IT company is useful and the jump to a bigger one is also fairly easy. Companies value experience more than school and college records,” says S. Dhanasekharan, an IT consultant for TCS. Enhancing one skill is also a way to get into industry. “Not every body who gets an offer letter takes up the job and many smaller companies have immediate requirements. Students must keep themselves updated with the latest technology, at least one scripting language and database, so that they are roped in by companies that do not want to invest on training,” says K. Karthikeyan of Tenth Planet Open Source Foundation that trains unemployed youth. Many companies, including Polaris, Hexaware and Aricent, recruit students already trained in specific technologies from training institutes.

A fundamental issue is also the way society looks at unemployment itself, says Prof. C. Thangaraj, vice-chancellor, Anna University of Technology, Chennai. “It is a biased job market that we have. The supply is exhaustive and the industry gets to choose the best, and also demand that students know everything that is part of and outside their curriculum. There are many social and geographical reasons that go behind an engineering student's unemployment that one has to be sensitive to.”

By ,
Vasudha Venugopal