Only 25 % IT graduates readily employable: Nasscom
At 25, and with a computer science degree from one of the top regional engineering colleges , Sandesh Kumar considered himself to be the luckiest among all his batch mates when he was picked by Infosys Technologies last year. But within three months, Kumar realised the initial training at Infosys' sprawling Mysore campus was getting nowhere. "I actually sucked at everything — communications, language and understanding about some of the latest development tools," Kumar says. "The company was kind enough to flag early that I might face hurdles ahead and I decided to quit," he adds.
While Kumar's unemployability is an extreme case, of the 550,000 engineering graduates passing out every year, anywhere between 10% and 25% cannot be readily employed by any technology firm in the country . Software lobby Nasscom says only 25% of graduates working in IT are readily employable, while it is roughly 15% for back-office jobs. Growing gaps in skills needed for computer science graduates to start coding at the earliest is nothing new, but India Inc's modest progress in dealing with the problem is what marks the seriousness of the issue. India's $60-billion outsourcing industry is already spending almost $1 billion a year on readying these graduates, picked up from different campuses. But only marginal headway has been made with the percentage of employable engineering graduates moving up by just a per cent over the past six years to 25%.
"I did go to a private institute in Hyderabad for a three months refresher course, but they taught us more of the same. It didn't seem to help at all," agrees Kumar who joined a multinational tech support centre in Bangalore last month. While Nasscom believes a quarter of the engineering graduates are unemployable , consulting firm Aspiring Minds paints a gloomier picture. In an employability study conducted last August, the firm found that merely 4.22% of engineering graduates are employable in product companies and only 17% in IT services. On its part, Nasscom says India's large pool of engineers makes the employability percentage look even more daunting. "Comparison of India's employability percentage with other nations is not fair.
The talent pool in those countries is much smaller, and the quality of education has been much higher. The right to education bill has just been passed in India, and it will take time for it to show results," says Nasscom vice-president Sangeeta Gupta. Nasscom has started two common assessment tests, which set a common benchmark for employability especially for students from tier 2-3 engineering colleges. "The 45-minute evaluation tests you on analytical, comprehension, writing and verbal skills. If a person is not good in voice, good analytical skills will get him a job in the BPO function in an IT firm. We have also started the train-the-trainer programme for universities," she says.
"The percentage of non-engineering graduates in the pool of IT and BPO firms is also rising steadily. Companies are not complaining of any dearth of talent, as there is a large pool of three million graduates available to them a year, of which the industry's demand is about 240,000 only per year. We don't see a dearth for talent in future as well, though there will be competition from other sectors," she adds. Tech employers such as Adobe, the world's biggest maker of graphic design software, says a stronger coordination between campuses and companies is needed. "The issue is real but not too much of a glaring problem for us as we go to the Tier I institutes where the curriculum is uptodate and our experience has been good. But in other technology schools it is a problem.
The curriculum is stuck in a time warp and there is very limited exposure to the industry," says Jaleel Abdul, senior director, HR, Adobe Asia-Pacific . "The best practice would be to let students learn from the industry and have strong university programs. Several of our senior technical team go to colleges as guest faculty and students come for internships, that helps a lot. As a result of most colleges not being in touch with the actual requirements, companies have to make a lot of additional investments in training which can be avoided," he adds. Sanyukta, an engineering student set to graduate next year, says she had tough time finding a course that taught software testing—a growing, multi-billion dollar business for Indian tech firms.
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