Anirban Sen, 22, knew his electronics and communications engineering degree from Anna University wouldn’t get him a software job easily. Instead of running from pillar to post for one, he enrolled at a software “finishing school” for a high-end course that would grab the attention of employers. The course fees burned a hole in his parents’ pockets but he walked out with a job. So did several of his classmates at the finishing school. In contrast, most of his engineering friends had to rough it out for months before landing a job.
For a lot of fresh engineering graduates, these finishing schools have become the hottest new destination. Last year, nearly 100 engineering graduates from Calcutta’s Jadavpur University enrolled at many of these schools.
So what’s drawing these students to the finishing schools' Jobs, of course, and also the “training, to apply knowledge in a professional environment”.
We need to distinguish between a career market and a job market, says Bikram Dasgupta, CEO of Globsyn, which runs a finishing school for engineers in Calcutta. “Strictly speaking, people might get a job based on demand and supply after doing engineering. But research shows that in the knowledge market, applying knowledge and managing it are both equally important for career enhancement. If a person doesn’t go to a knowledge finishing school after graduation, he or she might still land a job but his movement will be restricted and this might affect career growth,” says Dasgupta.
The outcome is one-stop shops like the Usha Martin Academy of Communication Technology (UACT) which is a finishing school established as a joint venture between the Usha Martin group and the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and is located within the IIT Chennai campus. It specialises in IT and telecom and runs two distinct academic programmes.
The first is the finishing school programme, which consists of a set of carefully designed course modules in telecom and telecom-related information technology for fresh engineers. There’s also a sponsored finishing school programme which is an induction training programme for fresh engineers who are joining the telecom and IT industries.
“Finishing schools have made a difference. They give students a lot of confidence and the technical expertise to apply their knowledge. An engineering course is vast, so they help to make it more hands-on and apply it better. These courses are more specific,” says Prof. Manoj Mitra, dean of engineering at Jadavpur University. He adds that he would like to see more engineering graduates join such courses.
At present, the fresh engineering graduates hired by telecom and IT companies are trained when they’re inducted, either through product-oriented training programmes offered by the major equipment manufactures or through in-house training programmes. At most places, in-house training is limited to a basic orientation as vendor-based training is expensive and equipment specific. “What is needed is to impart an additional training to these engineers through a well-planned curriculum consisting of the right mix of courses in telecommunication, networking and software,” says Mitra.
UACT’s programmes, for instance, are more learning-oriented than teaching-oriented. The stress is on hands-on experience through carefully designed laboratory exercises and experiments. Course modules are designed by faculty members from the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Science and from leading companies.
Globsyn’s Young Software Manager (YSM) course focuses on acquiring, managing and applying critical software skills. YSM is now in its 22nd batch and receives hundreds of applications every year for just 38 seats. You can’t apply unless you have an aggregate of 65 per cent in your engineering degree.
Then you have the NIS Academy, a division of NIS Sparta Ltd (a Reliance group company) that has launched a “School of Employability” to provide Indian companies “with trained and skilled students ready to work in any industry.” With branches in Calcutta, Jaipur and Delhi, it “aims at preparing students to deal with challenges posed by today’s fast-changing business environment”.
But not all are optimistic about the future of these courses. The better students can do without them, say some experts. “The top students either get absorbed or join the best B-schools. These courses are just additonal feathers to somehow survive in the job market,” says Hemant Kumar, director, global HR, Ushacom Pvt Ltd.
Mitra counters the argument. “There is a growing demand for engineers with additional technical qualifications,” he says.