After a period of slowdown, recruitments are in full swing once again. College campuses are not completely open, nevertheless, engineering students are busy attending virtual interviews and entrance exams. Placement committees are busy coordinating with corporates. ‘The talent wars’ are getting more aggressive with everyone competing for the first slot. Sadly, small and medium-sized companies can hardly win these wars and are usually offered only to fish from an already depleted talent pool.
Still, most of the students face a huge dilemma, they can’t choose the company they want to apply for. Their college decides what interviews they can attend and in which order. Failing to comply means risking their employment opportunities. While some students struggle to get into their dream job, some others find it hard to land in any job that can make them at least financially independent.
Even so, corporates and students need not accept the status quo. There is a way out of it. Corporate-student relationships can extend beyond recruitments to better address the needs of the industry and the aspirations of students.
The search for meaning and purpose of engineering education.
Engineering degrees once had a greater value. It used to assure students a good job. However, it is not true anymore for most engineering graduates. Reports suggest that an alarming number of engineering graduates are unemployed. Some even take up low-paying, dissatisfactory jobs or jobs unrelated to their specializations. Though many blame it on the outdated education system, the elephant in the room is an ‘outdated mindset’ – of both recruiters and educators.
Most companies prefer recruiting from metros falsely assuming that students who studied in metros have better skills and are more aware of the things happening in the world today. Even in their final year, students are selected based not on their skills or knowledge but on the location or popularity of their college, which means they are evaluated based on their engineering entrance exams scores and are not given enough opportunities to succeed despite all of them clearing similar level exams.
The search for the right talent
There however is a bigger problem. Some of the freshly-out-of-college-recruits are so disconnected with the industry that they find it impossible to accept their work realities. This problem adds up to other dilemmas youngsters face in their personal lives. Unprepared youth tend to stay lazy, dejected, and less productive. They lose a positive outlook towards not just work but life itself.
Recruiter’s / employers are struggling to connect student’s aspirations and industry needs. The problem is more prominent for smaller / mid-size companies that can’t reach talent. They are offered a chance to recruit after the bigger corporates have filled their talent needs. So, even if start-ups are encouraged with incentives and capital-funding, this unjust and systemic lack of access to fresh talent works against them and in favor of the bigger players.
Connecting Aspirations with Industry Needs
Sadly, our higher education curriculum is not being updated as frequently as needed to keep up with the changes in the fast-paced digital world. Most teachers are not connected to the industry and are not aware of how the stuff they teach is currently being implemented in the real world. Colleges do not have enough research facilities. In fact, students can collaborate and come up with creative and new ideas in college, and with a little help and guidance, many new startup ideas can pop up. We have hard-working and ambitious students. Yet, in India, unlike in the west, conditions in most colleges do not foster innovation.
Another issue is that students are many times busy competing with others in a rat race, running behind learning cutting-edge technologies. Instead, they need to focus on understanding how the technologies are fast-changing and how they fit in the current innovative trends. Students usually compare pay packages and seem to think worthy of only those companies that pay higher salaries. Some may think that they should quickly shift jobs for higher pay. But in the initial stages of their career, it is important to focus on learning software craft and teamwork.
Though the pandemic has affected many businesses, the software industry is thriving, and this shows in the job openings that are coming up. Thanks to the contributions of the industry, despite lockdowns and movement restrictions to curtail the spread of COVID-19, we could still stay connected with others and get on with our lives. The industry is also changing fast and innovating to solve the new-age critical challenges. Such new possible futures need new ideas radically different from the existing and traditional ones.
For the benefit of students and the software industry and to create a better future and world, all the three teams, the college, the students, and the industry should work together. Instead of blaming our education systems, corporates should take the responsibility of filling these aspiration gaps. We need not evaluate students based on an entrance test that they cleared four years ago or on their skills that may not be relevant to present-day jobs. Needless to say, corporates need not always consider the college’s reputation or its location while recruiting freshers. They should instead evaluate students’ ‘learnability’.
Learning Beyond Classroom.
Learning is not mugging up concepts to clear college exams. Rather it is about understanding concepts as well as applying them to design the solutions needed. Our digitally connected world provides great opportunities to learn, pursue hobbies, find like-minded groups, discuss ideas with people connected across the globe, keep themselves updated with news and advancements in any chosen field. A simple way to test a student’s learnability is to estimate how well they utilize the web to pursue their interests.
3 new ways Corporate and Colleges can build relationships beyond Recruitments
As prominent players in the digital ecosystem, corporates also have a bigger responsibility of equalizing and making more career options available for students left out by the conventional recruitment process. Here are three ways to do it.
- Explaining industry conditions with students takes time. Corporates can step in and stay in touch with students from the colleges they choose from the first year of college itself. Grooming them in softskills and updating them with developments in the industry will help them in contributing work from the very first day of joining a company. Internships during vacations or as a part of their project work are known to be helpful for both students and employers.
- Corporates need to collaborate with teaching staff in molding the students and making them industry ready. Inviting lecturers to their companies occasionally is beneficial to both. The lecturers will get a better view of the industry, the current research, and its implementations. Corporates can use educator’s knowledge to innovate new technical solutions.
- The concept of IT finishing school for engineering graduates is fast catching up. Students can attend virtual classes, learn and contribute to the companies they admire. Companies can assign young employees the task of preparing students for the industry. They can tell them about some of the challenges they faced at work and inform students on what skills or topics outside their curriculum are necessary. This opens up new opportunities of growth for students and they can contribute right from the first day of joining the company.
The world is changing fast. To keep up with it, let us update not just our gadgets, but our mindsets too. Instead of lamenting about the lapses in our education system or excluding the youngsters for being different, it is time to build essential bridges. New aspirants should be clear that Software Development is not just a job, but a profession, a craft that commands great skills and passionate work. If companies follow some of the new ways of connecting with the young talent we discussed in this blog, they offer new hope to millions of engineering students struggling to find jobs.
In the highly disrupted digital ecosystem, software jobs are beyond programming. They provide solutions to critical problems in diverse domains like healthcare, electronics, space science, insurance, banking, communications, agriculture, arts, media, etc. Engineers from various streams bring with them the essential knowledge of diverse domains. To foster innovation, the industry should find better ways of utilizing their knowledge and understanding.