Introduction I had written a series of articles on the leading Arts and Science Colleges in Tamil Nadu. Am now in the process of writing a series of articles on the leading branded colleges of Anna University in different cities, starting with Chennai. Thus far, nineteen articles, covering 38 engineering colleges have been published. It has been an exciting journey. The process of data collection from industry sources, made possible through several contacts, has to lead to several learning experiences with the placement process. On the one hand, I have heard fabulous stories of how effective the placement works in leading colleges, where placement is a good event. I have also had some good insights into colleges where there is a scope for improvement.
It should be noted that even the thirty-eight branded colleges of Anna Univesity in Chennai, covered thus far, are those colleges where the placement record is at least fifty percent. Yes, there are some colleges where only the BPO/KPO companies visit the campus and select students. However, even here, the concerned organizations have regularly complained that it is an uphill task to find good students in the second-tier colleges. ( that is, colleges that do not find a place among the top thirty colleges of Anna Univesity, spread all over the State and not just Chennai). We have also covered such colleges, as there are some colleges where there is some effort being made to make the placement process better, year on year.
Nevertheless, what is required is a total, 360-degree change in orientation of placement efforts. In this connection, it makes sense to a) Develop training packages for placement officers through industry experts b) Get accurate feedback about the latest concepts and actual needs of the industry c) Provide placement training from day one d) Network with the benchmark colleges e) Get the University authorities involved and f) Make continuous improvements in industry-oriented training.
Whatever is being discussed in the following paragraphs, is not restricted to the engineering colleges. It is as relevant to the arts and science colleges as well.
Develop training packages for placement officers through industry expertsHR experts and functional experts from the real-world of the industry will be happy to spare their time for a day or two, every six months. There should be a full-fledged training program where the experts will be giving them accurate information on their requirements, the skill-sets required, the changing technologies and so on. The industry experts can also possibly visit a few campuses where the infrastructure needs to be improved, for placement efforts. For example, there are too many colleges where there are no adequate halls for group discussion and personal interviews. And even for conducting the written tests. All things need to be changed. The industry experts are those who always work in air-conditioned comfort and it is essential that the colleges that aim to have effective campus placement, should have good facilities for the placement process. Otherwise, the companies will not give a high rating and will tend to neglect such colleges. The one or two-day training program for placement officers may be sponsored by the best-placed college and the cost could be shared with the participating colleges. This training program will also provide a good platform for the placement officers to rub shoulders with each other and share their experiences.
Get accurate feedback about the latest concepts and actual needs of the industryAn emerging but good deemed University like the Sathyabama University in Chennai has several value-added courses that supplement the regular courses. Such examples should be emulated across the country. We also need the involvement of experts from the industry to teach the students. Unless this sort of orientation happens, nothing will change. The already existing gap in terms of industry expectations and the preparedness of students can be closed through frequent visits to the industries and follow-up on assignments, research projects, and so on. The general and functional exposure of the students ought to be improved manifold.
Provide placement training from day oneIt has been widely noticed that there are many colleges where the placement training is done only in the last semester and for a few days only. This is a narrow-minded and meaningless approach. An illustration of how a particular Chennai-based Arts and Science college works to give the right orientation, from real life, will be in order. My daughter was admitted to the B.Com degree course in the MOP Vaishnav College, widely recognized as the best college among the Arts and Science colleges of Chennai city for women. It was not even close on the first day. My daughter sent me a message that she needed my help -- she needed to make a presentation on globalization and the 2008 global financial crisis in the USA. I did give her some hints and some data but forced her to get prepared with the PowerPoint presentation on her own.
Imagine the kind of exposure compulsorily given to the students from day one. There are written tests, project work, role plays, group discussions, compulsory PowerPoint presentations by students, and so on. The most important point is to give the students ample opportunities to develop their personalities and self-confidence, from day one. This is exactly what is meant by placement training. There are thousands of companies where the soft skills are given more than one hundred percent importance and it does pay for colleges to enable the students to acquire such skills as a matter of routine. Merely teaching the syllabus does not help at all.
Network with the benchmark collegesThere is no point in depending on the Government. There is also no point in not doing things differently. For example, if earnest attempts are made to involve the other benchmark colleges and get them to share their experiences and also help out in terms of providing training wherever applicable, the placement efforts can improve. The placement head and the entire placement team should function as change agents in this regard. It is impossible to just assume that things will be far better. Nothing happens without innovative efforts.
Get the University authorities involvedThe placement officers and the placement team need to involve the Univesity authorities as well. Unless there is a buy-in in terms of wider acceptance for the need for change, nothing will change. The number of "also-ran" colleges increasing manifold is not good for society at all. It is not that the Univesity may be able to provide financial support. However, it can even mobile funds through the Alumni network and other sources for noble purposes. To give a simple example, if there is a good project to provide continuous training in Spoken English skills for students of rural colleges, and if the Univesity is also actively involved in the process, there can be a sea change in terms of attitudes. What the students in the rural areas lack is exposure and this often leads to their poor self-confidence. This needs to urgently change and the placement officers can play a change agent role in this direction.
Make continuous improvements in industry-oriented trainingThe trick is to make continuous improvements. For example, there is an urgent need to make the students take part not only in the cultural events but also in international conferences. There is a big scope for such students to acquire a good deal of exposure by attending the international conferences held on different subjects, at the urban centres. The concerned colleges should do the required funding for the poor students who may not be able to bear the cost of such training. The placement officers need to approach local industrial organizations for some support.
There are too many other ways too. For example, if the MBA students are made to go through the Harvard Business Review, compulsorily, at least once in two months and discuss at least one good article found there, they will naturally gain the kind of exposure that is needed for a good career. The opportunities are limitless. All that needs to be put in place, is a big learning process where the placement officers undergo a different orientation and not just satisfied by bringing some companies to the campus. If the overall standard of students improves, the organizations will come calling, even if the college is not situated in the big cities. This is one big truth that needs to be recognized and understood by all placement officers and their team members.
ConclusionPlacement is not an one-off activity. It is a process that starts from day one and ends only when the students can find some job or the other, either on campus or at least off-campus. For the latter, they need to be fully equipped to face industry challenges. There needs to be a different 360-degree orientation, centred around some key steps discussed above.
A good article from the author. These days getting placement after studies have become an uphill task. There are some colleges in and around Hyderabad where no students are opting to join as they don't have any placement changes. At the same time, there are colleges where 100% of students are getting good jobs. During my work in an Industry as a Director, I used to be in touch with some good colleges and used to take some students for project work and the best students from them were absorbed. We used to go to the best colleges only.
As mentioned by the author, the placement officers play an important role in this in bringing the various organisations for conducting interviews in their campus. The way in which he represents the capabilities of their institution to the industry is very important. The HODs of all the departments should plan the training to their department students in such a way that they will face the interview confidently. They should conduct model tests, model interview, model group discussions so that the student will understand the technic of facing the selection process confidently. The colleges should identify the need of the industry and train their students in those areas so that these students will get selected. Arranging oneday workshops and encouraging students to submit papers in those seminars and inviting industry experts. Such efforts will improve the image of the college in the student circles as well with industry people.
There are many institutions in our country which have a good placement record but that is not generally seen in all the institutions. Industries are also selective and they also have their own assessment of institutions by the experts and therefore they restrict the campus recruitment process only to the select few of them. It means that ultimately what matters is the reputation of an institution and performance of its student in the industry after getting a job. So every institution should try to enhance their academic and professional achievements of the students by suitable syllabus and rigorous academic exercises so that the final student product from the institution has a worth to be attracted by the industry. Placement is not an easy thing that every student will be placed in a suitable position as much competition is there for the coveted jobs.