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Core branches, the way to go

K. RAMACHANDRAN

Most students aspiring for engineering admission go for `circuit branches' with the hope it will put them on course to a successful career. The recent campus recruitment by some IT majors points to a different direction.

Photo: N. Sridharan

INDUSTRY-READY? Students attending a campus recruitment programme at Anna University in Chennai.

Engineering admissions can be fairly complicated a process for student aspirants. They need to select from a range of courses, electives, think of career prospects or seek to make an adventure into emerging areas of engineering sciences. But ultimately, what sways their decision is campus placement.

In the ongoing IT sector job boom, students are easily swayed into opting for the `circuit branches', which they think is the highway leading to a prosperous career.

Last week, Education Plus had elaborated on why this may be a misplaced notion and argued the factors in favour of taking up B.E/B.Tech in the core branches, including mechanical, electrical, civil, and production engineering programmes.

Industry trends only elaborate this point. Not only is the IT sector looking for people with core engineering skills; exciting opportunities are emerging in ways that combine IT-enabled core services.

An analysis of the recruitment trends in the four constituent colleges of Anna University gives a revealing picture. Infosys came headhunting to these four colleges earlier this month and offered jobs to 596 young men and women in College of Engineering-Guindy, A.C Tech, Madras Institute of Technology and the School of Architecture and Planning.

But what is unsaid as yet is the fact that nearly 140 of these came not from the predictable ECE, IT or Computer sciences branches — rather they emerged from branches including architecture, automobile, ceramic, civil, industrial engineering, leather technology, manufacturing, mechanical and production engineering, rubber and plastics technology and even textile technology. Interestingly, 13 offers for IT jobs went to students of industrial biotech branch.

Cognizant choice

This story also repeats in the case of Cognizant, which offered jobs for another record number of 572 candidates. This number included three aeronautical branch students, four B. Arch students, nine in automobile, four in ceramic, five in chemical, 12 in civil engineering, 15 in geoinformatics, 13 in mining, and 28 in mechanical engineering, among others.

Nearly 100 candidates who were offered to be taken onboard Cognizant were from the core engineering branches. (Again, Cognizant, which has a strong biotech and bioinformatics vertical offered jobs to 15 candidates from industrial biotech in A.C. Tech).

Wipro, Tata Consultancy, and Flextronics took a slightly lesser number, but the ratio between those from core and circuit branches is not significantly different.

Similar stories emerge from other affiliated colleges too. Madurai-based Thyagaraja College of Engineering found that nearly 500 of its students gained job offers from the major recruiters and these from almost all the branches. Take a college with a relatively smaller intake — Sri Sairam Engineering, near Tambaram, off Chennai: Of the 176 candidates who were offered jobs, more than 50 were from the Mechanical, EEE and Instrumentation and Control Engineering branches.

Draft design policy

This only augurs well for the future, say academics such as Prof. Chandrasekaran, Dean of a private college in Chennai. A veteran teacher, who swears by core engineering skills, points to the draft National Design Policy as elucidated by the Union Department of Industrial Production, which seeks to make India one of the premier design hubs in the world.

The draft policy sets out an agenda for achieving this over a period of time starting with the creation of regional or state-level design clusters, initiation of design awards, conducting design expos, and arriving at a strategic design initiative.

A vice-president of a major IT services company in Chennai, who recently approached an education counsellor, went on record to say that he would still swear by core industry because this is where teams for innovation would be created. A former Mechanical Engineering teacher with a Regional Engineering College, Prof. Mahadevan, says one strategy that curriculum planners could think of (to meet these initiatives) is to foster entrepreneurs among the core engineering students.

"Groups or teams of youngsters should be helped by academic activity to take up innovation (read: design) and entrepreneurship. It is not enough a few people take to enterprise. Entrepreneurship includes people with different skills such as design, marketing, sales and production. That can be done only by encouraging teams," he notes.

His voice is not in the wilderness.

Anna University Vice-Chancellor D. Viswanthan recently unveiled plans to attract big MNCs to invest in research parks in the university which will not only provide adjunct faculty for the institutions, but provide students to get trained in R and D in real time without having to move out of the confines of the institution.

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