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When Core Industry gives our College Campuses a miss….

May 22, 2014

http://www.thehindu.com/search/advanced.do

When core industry gives our college campuses a miss…. now that is a bad sign…

Absence of Core Industry in On-campus recruitment drive is a clear indicator of

1. fall in industrial output in the country or perhaps a brewing recession

2. lack of capacity to absorb fresh workforce,

3. lack of expansion programs

4. lack of fresh investments in manufacturing sector

5. and who knows even a quiet downsizing as in the case of Nokia Plant in Chennai very recently.

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UNFAIR CAMPUS INTERVIEW PRACTICES IN ANNA UNIVERSITY AFFILIATED ENGINEERING COLLEGES

 

Son opted out of campus interviews in his engineering college this year, being his third.  It was a conscientious decision says he, for in his college the catch is that, should he opt for the interview, his management would not issue him NOC in case he would like to pursue his masters program either in India or abroad on graduation.  He rues still the core industries gave his college a big miss, as the top guns went silent by way of abstention for a second consecutive year not only in his campus but even in prestigious institutions like IIT and NIT.  (My son’s is a Anna University affiliated one which must come in third tier as per listed rankings). (Unlike the IT industry, the Core industry presence in our campuses has never been impressive to speak the truth. Whatever token representation was there until now is also gone missing in last two years.)

‘What is the matter with issuance of NOC if you opt for campus thing?’  I ask my son, me being the typical persistent Indian parent (for the benefit of my ward).  Son is staunchly in favour of working for core industry and none other, just like his father, not even side-tracked by some of his friends who want to change gear and shift over to management on graduation. ‘Have had enough of technology’ swears a sweet boy, a close friend of my son.  A smart engineering brain going to waste (!) bothers me.  Some of the other boys do want to work for the core industry for a year or two before they can take up MBA in a reputed institution.  Inwardly I am relieved and happy that my boy is a hardcore engineering material like my husband who won’t be swayed by the  lure of comfortable life in plush, swanky glassed-in cabin with air-con running 24 hours.  It needs courage to stand in the thick of things, down the production line, in the nerve center of activity, with a sense of purpose. We never pushed our son towards anything but it so happens he seems to have developed healthy respect for challenging outdoor career that many might want to give a pass.  Very few of his classmates share his views already which is disappointing.  The lure of the easy and comfortable software sector and HR in management are getting to be too tempting to many over the grisly field work where you have to start from the scratch on your hands and knees.

‘No NOC because you need to sit through orientation for preparation of campus routine for a couple of months after college hours.  You will need to brush up C, C++ etc etc and you need to attend a series of counselling sessions.  Finally you go through stages of interviews, your promotion to the next level incumbent on your accomplishing successfully the previous level of test or viva.  After all this you may effectively be placed in a software giant, an MNC, which is quite a process.  So if you opt for campus, you won’t get NOC.’ clarifies my son.  ‘This is to discourage those who use up the campus interviews but do not join as trainees when they graduate, opting for higher studies.  In which case, the chances for other potential candidates get blocked forever.’

Sounds reasonable but I wanted to cross-check anyway.  But won’t they still be having a waiting list? I feel it is fair that one and all of the third year students must be able to try their chances in campus recruitment drives.  It has to be their choice whether to take up employment or not on graduation.  Even those who do not want to stray out of core industrial engineering still want a placement letter in their portfolio from MNCs in IT industry, to boost their self-confidence and gain some experience with the interview grind.  And is that a crime?

I consulted with some of my friends whose sons and daughters are attending deemed universities like SRM for instance.  My friends assure me, there is no such crap as refusal of issuance of NOC for Masters or Phd aspirants if they succeed in getting campus placements in most institutions in the state.

In any case it is only the software industry that is camping vigourously in my son’s college for campus interviews as well as in others.  Last year his immediate seniors – some 200 of them got selected as trainees for a multinational which is in top 10 listing in the industry.  This year is a lean season and the figures have fallen drastically. The core industries are conspicuous by their absence.  I am in a fix.  If Info’ Tech is what you want to get into, then why do these boys and girls have to join an engineering college in the first place? Answer is simple:  both the Indian multinationals and the foreign software companies prefer candidates with engineering background because they believe their math and science quotient must be strong and so they can make better workers. (never bother there is a separate IT dept in most colleges.  the preferred candidates for MNCs are usually the core industry students still who toil it out rough and tough).

My friend whose daughter attends a deemed university says, if a candidate is to apply for masters or Phd overseas, his/her profile will look best if he/she has an impressive placement letter on records from campus interviews. Ever since i am upset because even if as such my son has not decided on whether to opt for masters or not overseas, he has plans to go ahead with higher studies .  He will be only 21 when he completes his degree next June.  My son’s friends who want to go abroad for higher studies feel the same way let down by their college.  Only Anna University affiliated colleges practice such strict and heartless tactics to our knowledge.

Meanwhile a girl who is my son’s friend got selected for a semester abroad in Europe on basis of merit last year.  After 6 months of surviving in tough climatic conditions the girl returned topping the foreign university, only to find that she will be able to graduate 6 months later only and not with her batch next year.  Her VC is adamant about granting her the leave even though it was a government sponsored student-exchange programme and she went on formal leave.  The sudden change in the university attitude reversing its earlier stance has got the girl worried.  The battle is on and the girl is very gritty with determination, and may win eventually hopefully but how discouraging this can be for students who want to exercise this once-in-a-life-time chance.  From now on, they will think twice before taking this liberty of opting for a semester abroad.

Umpteenth time I wonder to myself whether I must have asked my son to join any esteemed deemed university.  The truth is, he was ready first of all taken by the quality of student enrollment, but we parents wanted ‘the anna university tag.’  Now my friends are avowing how good the private universities are with superb infra especially lab facilities, semester abroad option, relevant curriculum over vast unnecessary appendage that is Anna university’s, and excellent faculty.  The peers are multi-cultural, multi-lingual from all states of India and from a handful of foreign countries.  The exposure is great, the seminars are good and worthwhile and cultural activities are enviable.  Education is not limited to campus, Industrial tour is part and parcel of every semester.  Internships are taken seriously.  Worthy projects. Grooming for higher studies like MS/MTech is top priority and there are personality building sessions.  In short, the students come out well-shaped and well-equipped to take on the world with confidence.  Standing examples are SRM group of institutions, VIT etc.  Two friends have daughters studying for architechture – one at Anna University affiliated college and another at SRM.  Very impressive the latter is even though both started around the same time with almost similar board exam grades.  The university makes all the difference.

(Son will be doing an internship in an engineering firm shortly. Did an industry visit in last sem holidays and will be doing his project in the last sem).

Next year will be final year for the boys and girls.  How fast time gallops.  I feel as if only yesterday my boy finished with standard 12 board exams!  (Meanwhile board exam results are filing in one by one for both class 10 and class 12 – fresh sets of boys and girls, rows and rows of them, all eager to make their mark in academics as well as career in an extremely competitive atmosphere.  and i feel a surge of pity for the tough life that waits ahead of them).

So all campus interviews in the city for the third year students proceeding on to final year of engineering courses are already over.  The city boasts of over a dozen Anna university affiliated colleges in the outskirts.  The depressing thought is that, the core industry WAS totally absent not only in my son’s college but in most other institutions as well.  Not sure about the deemed universities and Guindy Engineering college.  Even here my son moans the major employers are the MNCs from IT field.  So what for we have disciplines such as Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, Electronics, Instrumentation, Civil, Automobile etc etc.  The student morale is very low is all I can say.

A friend’s son is passing out of IIT Madras with flying colours.  Although he has won full aid for Phd programmes in a couple of ‘top 20’ US universities I believe he has chosen to work for an year or two in an MNC in finance sector which comes as a shocker to many.  I understand even his professor cried out in pain that his best student is not taking up research.  As for me I asked my friend if he shifting to management but my friend assures me this MNC has a technical wing where the boy is joining (obviously with a great offer).  So even the IITs and NITs are scouted mostly by the IT giants and hardly by core industries which is a sad reality today.

Personally it does sadden me when I see engineering graduates move over to management or hesitate to take up research.  Which is why I strongly feel that our core industries have to improve their production capacity and must be able to welcome interested candidates in their bosom thereby shaping up finest engineers in the country.  India is home to a vast and immensely talented pool of manpower, most sought-after by multinationals around the globe.  The crux of the problem lies in how that remains mostly untapped and under-exploited in our own country. 

(What is the reason for creamy layer of students in tier 1, tier 2 engineering institutions in the country to think about employment instead of research these days.  The more you specialize, the more is the chance that your CV will be rejected for ‘over-qualifications’ says a friend. My friend says, they had access to MS syllabus from a top US university in which they found to their amazement that it fell short of IIT B.Tech standards!  However not the same can be true of our tier-3 engineering colleges.  I am sure these boys and girls from the third tier will have to work harder for MS anywhere outside India.)

(My friend disagrees with me and asks how can we classify colleges as tier1, tier 2, tier 3.  I say it is obvious.  She says even rankings are manipulated with the help of media.  I will dismiss it outright if anyone else would give me that.  But this is someone whose two sons are IIT material and husband is an IIT alumnus and who has done extensive research in the field of education.  I respect her views on everything and want to take my son to career counselling in their house so he can talk to the boys and her husband).

So what does this reflect?  Only days earlier we were all hooting to the news of Sensex crossing 25,000 points with Modi wave but does a bull run always necessarily indicate the true health of our industries or economy?  This to me is mere paper victory, superficial and farce, and not a physical one.  A physical victory is won for the economy not in our capital markets but in capital intensive industries queuing up in line for campus interviews in our engineering colleges.  Without that happening if we are seeing a boom in our stock markets, then it must be the speculation work of clever manipulators in Dalal Street, nothing more.  This bullrun is not reflective or representative of healthy industrial output or index by any chance.  It is this kind of growth in India, I precisely dread for obvious reasons. Today India boasts of a high rate of employment of engineers, but is it not shameful that it is the IT sector that is absorbing over a whopping 80% of our annual turn-out of engineers?  Compute the cost of educating an engineer.  This is ridiculous.

On retrospect, I am grateful as well for the IT industry that is able to absorb such an excess supply or the bulk of our engineers in not only my home state Tamil Nad but in this entire nation of 1.2 billion.  We need to engage our fresh graduates in productive employment and IT seems to have to come to our rescue at a critical juncture without which we will be at loss to know what to do with the young and the brash.  Widespread unemployment of the urban educated could lead to restlessness in our midst and riots.

As the new government swears in next week, my wish is that there is more impetus on growth, in employment generation in manufacturing sector for our masses both semi-skilled and skilled, with industrial output multiplied manifold, more coming by way of investments and capacity expansions in capital goods industries and infra so that there is gainful employment of our engineers in our core industries.

A healthy nation will anyday boast of a strong base of manufacturing that forever thirsts for more and more hands to propel its engine of production and growth.  India is a basket case, with the quirky evolving of the tertiary sector over the founding basis called manufacturing sector. a model like none other.  What reason can be attributed for this lopsided kind of growth in our economy?  As a desi I am aware, we are a physically weak, mentally strong lot.  Our IQ is good but our stamina is ever floundering in philosophical sense.  Ours will be an exclusive story of a nation bending back from tertiary sector of finance, banking and IT, ploughing in capital to the secondary, manufacturing sector whereas in all developed or first world nations, the story is the converse.  We missed the bus once, but let us not again.

It will be frustrating otherwise for the educated unemployed of this country.  Without campus interviews, the boys and girls are left with no clue as to how to begin and where to begin in case they are not opting for higher studies.  (But my husband chuckles and terms campus recruitment drive as spoon-feeding.  He who has worked his way up from bottom levels fighting it out vigorously all the way, says core industry guys will not have a cake walk like IT guys but theirs will be a consistent and much more fruitful and self-satisfying career, which will never be monotonous but diversified and enriching with sheer experience.  He is someone who is against even the principles of consultancy which he says must be the option open for experienced men on verge of retirement.  Not at all for the young and hot-blooded.  Today’s engineers lack the initiative to get their hands soiled in dirty work, he says, which is a worrying sign.)

Another friend’s boy who graduated from Anna University secured Phd in US universities with full aid.  But he had also simultaneously prepared for CAT etc in India and is now completing his MBA from one of the leading, prestigious IIMs.  Yes he has been offered a super placement by an MNC already in campus interview.

This shift in our boys’ thinking is also a surprise element.   Why write GRE if you are ready to work/do MBA in India?  Says my son, GMAT and CAT in India are much more tougher that GRE is peanuts for these guys.  Or boys do it to just prove a point to their peers and parents, who knows?  Actually girls get highest scores in all these exams.  Some of my son’s friends who are girls already have excellent GRE and TOEFL scores in their hands, raring to go abroad for their masters/Phd.  Girls are much more independent and confident than boys today.  (A girl came driving her car in briefest shorts and tightest tee to my house.  Sitting cross-legged in my son’s bed, both were studying one whole day for exams.  I muttered ‘Ram Ram’ under my breath and downed a glass of ice water, what to do.  Girl is a genius.  Being a mother is not an easy job, don’t ask me!)

We are meeting with a quite a few inspiring people, my husband’s friends and colleagues all of whom have impressed on our son to an extent, influencing his thought process. We want to leave the ultimate decision to our boy.  We will respect his choice whatever be it.  I do not say an average life is bad.  You don’t need to make a mark.  All I ultimately want for my boy is a happy life everything else is secondary.

With the new financial year kicking in this April and with a new ‘pro-business’ government taking over in Delhi this May month, let me see if atleast my son’s juniors are lucky enough to get campus placements in core industries by this year end.  If that happens it will be a harbinger of better times to come our way: of a robust economy that we will bloom into.

 

 

 

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