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As placements drop, engg colleges equip aspirants with sharper skills

As placements drop, engg colleges equip aspirants with sharper skills

TNN | Updated: Jan 22, 2018, 23:45 IST
A couple of years ago, when top tier engineering campuses went back to basics with planned changes in the curriculum and content and inputs from industry, there was a sense of despondency with experts bemoaning the missing bombastic engineering terminologies. Two years hence, campuses which adopted these changes are heaving a sigh a relief as more than 70% of their students have been selected in campus placement, in one of the worst seasons seen from traditional metrics. Enthused by this, many more colleges are pressing the change button.
Courses on automation tools like Pega and Salesforce were seen as responsibilities of the tech companies. But now, they have moved into campuses. Hackathons and coding contests have become a mainstay at most campuses. Besides acting as a preliminary filter for corporates, these help students work on their coding skills and solve practical problems.

At Rajalakshmi College of Engineering, students are being trained on automation tools like Pega and Salesforce. "We are partnering with corporates like TCS, Wipro, Dell and VMware in areas like IT infrastructure services and big data," said Phillip Praveen, director, training and placement at the college. What used to be four days of training has been doubled to eight intensive sessions over weekends. The result: Around 700 offers from 48 companies have been made at the college. "We have placed close to 75% now," said Praveen.

This year's placement season saw a dramatic shift with bulk hirers, mainly software services companies, either freezing visits or truncating the recruitment needs as today they spend more on mechanised code writing than techies. Most companies have hired fewer freshers, rather focussing on senior talent. The rough winds faced by IT players combined with niche requirements from startups and product companies have pushed colleges and students to match up.

A major reason why students are taking to these additional courses is because corporates are mandating it as part of placement. For instance, Microsoft offers a structured course and only students who complete it are eligible for placements at the company.

At Sastra University, new age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, cyber security, Internet of Things (IoT) and digital manufacturing have been integrated with the courseware. "We have centres of excellence set up in partnership with corporates in areas like advanced computing and information processing and nanotechnology. These become feeders for students with a research aptitude," said S Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean, planning and development, Sastra University.

The pressure is also mounting on the faculty to up their game. "We have faculty development programmes that are either industry-led or through peer initiatives. Faculty members from our college undergo training as part of the Global India Academic Network. Many professors are taking to massive open online courses (MOOCs) on platforms like Coursera," said Vaidhyasubramaniam. Companies including TCS, Stratasys, National Instruments, L&T, Tata Power and IBM are among those which work with Sastra University.

Top colleges getting their act together has pushed several others to move in that direction. At Velammal Engineering College, besides courses like product lifecycle management, full stack programming and Japanese language, an industry advisory board has been set up. "Professionals who are a part of the industry advise skills that are in demand so that we can dynamically change our course. We have also realised that programing has become a basic requirement so we will have a 10-day event for non-IT streams to pick up basics," said Arun Ramaswami, head, training and placement at the college.

With several startup success stories, students in colleges are also showing interest to venture out on their own. Most colleges have an entrepreneurship cell and an active entrepreneurship club. Sastra University is partnering with Kochi-based Startup Village, offering three courses on entrepreneurship of 12 credits.

Industry observers say the dynamics of hiring have changed substantially. While earlier, corporates were happy to hire students who passed the basic tests, today, they are looking for core tech skills. "Students can't be coached to ace at the test alone. Today, our students can solve most problems thrown at them," said Samuel Rajkumar of VIT University.

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