These colleges are also diversifying courses on offer and their skill development programmes to look beyond IT and align students’ qualifications with current job demands.
Hiring by IT firms has fallen by 24% in the last one year, as per the latest report by online job portal Naukri.com. Tough business conditions across the globe and increasing automation have led to a decline in recruitment by most software companies.
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According to human resource consultants and placement representatives, the so-called tier II and III engineering colleges which depend heavily on IT firms for campus placement will be affected for the next few years by the slowdown.
The impact on tier I colleges would be less as they continue to be the first choice for campus recruitment by big IT companies, experts said.
“There is a major dent on IT campus hiring. Hiring of freshers by IT firms has reduced by half in the last one year. However, demand for new sets of skills is emerging. Most engineering colleges are struggling and looking for new emerging sectors," Pankaj Bansal, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), PeopleStrong HR Services Pvt. Ltd said.
However, there are immense challenges ahead for engineering institutes as most are used to large IT firms snapping up the bulk of their students, he said.
“Across all campuses, there has been a dip of around 25-30% (in the intake by large IT firms). The emerging sectors should be able to take some of the engineers. People have to re-skill themselves and universities are trying to tweak their courses," said a former placement representative with a large engineering college, who asked not to be identified.
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Some institutes such as the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) in Behrampur, Odisha, and SRM University which has four campuses in Chennai and the National Capital Region, are increasing the number of companies they invite for campus placements with a special focus on mid- and small-size internet-based firms, start-ups and non-IT firms.
“We cannot heavily rely on these three-four big companies under these circumstances. We have to somehow compensate the slash by increasing the number of partner companies," said Atanu Dutta, associate professor (computer science) and placement manager, NIST.
The institute, which has over 900 students graduating each year, has started focusing on consultancy, research and development companies, start-ups and IT product firms. For the 2016-17 batch, around 47 companies turned up for campus recruitment. The placement cell plans to add at least 8-9 firms more for the next year (2017-18) .
“Earlier, we were focused only on Bengaluru-based technology firms. Now, we have broadened our base and shifted our focus to Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, National Capital Region and even manufacturing companies based out of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh," Dutta said.
As part of its mandatory summer certification programme, the institute has also incorporated courses on data science, data analytics or other computer-related skills which are in demand among emerging internet-based companies, he added.
At SRM University, the strategy to deal with the slowdown is to reach out to a larger number of newer companies both in the IT and non-IT space. The institute has a total of around 5,000 students graduating each year.
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“The record number of companies which came this year is a direct result of our effort to try to broaden and widen the base," said Sriram Padmanabhan, director, career services, SRM University. The institute saw around 400 companies turn up at the recently concluded campus placements.
Besides, the institute is upgrading its skill training programmes to give students more options.
“We have to constantly fine-tune whatever we are already doing. We will continue tweaking them (courses) in line with industry requirements. We have always done soft skill training. Now, we are upgrading it and making it align with the market expectations," Padmanabhan said.
Similarly, Bengaluru-based BMS College of Engineering plans to add a few more courses and modules with a focus on preparing its students on how to look beyond traditional IT jobs.
“We are soon starting a few additional programmes and modules alongside the academic courses. The main objective of this is to bridge the gap with the industry requirements.. Another aspect of the course is to help students to explore careers outside the box," said Pradeepa S., associate professor (electrical and electronics engineering), BMS College of Engineering.
At present, around 60% of the students in the institute are being absorbed by IT and IT services firms.