CHENNAI: There is a slow, but growing trend of corporate companies tying up with educational institutions for training, in order to reap students who will be ready to join their company after graduation.While some experts believe that such professional courses have helped students find economic empowerment, others opine that such courses limit the skill-set of students according to corporate needs, curbs them from challenging conventional practices and doesn’t let them see a public and democratic purpose for knowledge.
Tata Consultancy Services, one of the largest software companies in the world, will be launching a four-year engineering programme —BTech in Computer Science and Business Systems —at the Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology in Coimbatore. “Students who complete the course successfully will be preferred for recruitment in the company,” TCS vice-president Ranjan Bandyopadhyay was quoted as saying. He added it would focus on management and soft skills.
Two years ago, TCS had partnered four colleges across the country to run courses on Big Data. “We are partnering with these colleges on the curriculum and the faculty will also be trained by us,” Bandyopadhyay said adding that these students will have an edge when it comes to employment.
Education to be hired
According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) published in 2016, there were over 39,000 colleges in India. The survey said that since 2003, India has been adding more than 1,000 colleges per year. The peak was the period between 2007 and 2009, when the country added 7,206 colleges, about one-fifth of the total. As a result, over 83 lakh students were enrolled in professional courses at the undergraduate level —almost half the total enrollment of students in higher education. The figures also show that more than half the students in private colleges preferred taking up professional courses.
The big boom and lay-offs
“There are more than 10 different engineering programmes in our college. Despite the variety, students across streams usually take up software jobs at large companies. They see higher education as simply a ticket to any white-collar job and the college is okay with that as long as they can show a high placement percentage,” said the career cell head of one of the largest private engineering colleges in the city.
These colleges are a source for entry-level recruitments by the information technology (IT) industry. While there was a significant boom in the IT industry until about 2010, employment opportunities have come down of late. The dull hiring outlook that pervades the industry in recent years has not only resulted in decreased recruitment activity, but also stagnant compensation packages. Automation is taking away infotech jobs, but to make bots work, you need human intervention. Companies now need more innovative candidates with innovative technical abilities.
This also means that employees are constantly vulnerable to lay-offs, said M Sathiesh from Forum of IT Employees. “Big companies try to maintain a pyramid structure of employment packages. They ensure that the highest number of employees are kept at the lowest wage-group. Fresh college students are promised a strong future but when the number of employees at mid-level increases, they lay off employees who don’t show versatility. Instead they hire newbies,” said Sathiesh.
This trend, where students are trained to be employees of a particular firm from the start of their higher education, may make them more employable to that company, but makes them less ready to adapt to changing markets, evolving technology and public needs.A Narayanan from Change India, a non-profit organisation, said that the rising trend of corporate interference in colleges are indicative of the gap between academic and industrial standards. “Since industrialisation began in India, big companies have picked up poor school students or dropouts and trained them to be mechanics or factory workers through courses like ITI. This trend is moving even to white-collared jobs,” he said, while adding that such courses have the potential to economically alleviate students who are in need of money.
The more colleges train their wards exclusively for corporate jobs, the less wholesome they become as students, said M Ananthakrishnan, former vice-chancellor of Anna University. “As far as employability is considered, such courses are good for the companies. But these people who are trained for a particular role and a particular job will lose value if they go somewhere else. Colleges are meant to create a wholesome person who can cope with a changing market and not to restrict them to a limited role,” he said. He further claimed that only about a third of all universities in the country prepare students who can grow with the market.
Higher education designed for hiring impacts three major things, according to Joel Westheimer, who holds the research chair in Democracy and Education, at the University of Ottawa. In the Journal of Academic Matters, he wrote that such programes “lower critical thinking, weaken intellectual independence and democratic faculty governance, and enhances the corporate benefits of the meritocracy myth.”
“If universities hope to strengthen democratic society, they must resist focusing curriculum and research on skills-training, workforce preparation, and commercialisation of knowledge to the benefit of private industry. They must instead participate in the rebuilding of a public purpose for education. How to do so is a matter of professorial imagination,” he said in the journal.
Be prepared, report warns techies
According to a 2017 study conducted by EY, FICCI and Nasscom, in the year 2022, about 9 per cent of the workforce would be deployed in jobs that do not exist today
37 per cent would be deployed in jobs that have radically changed skill sets, and only about 54 per cent would fall under unchanged job category
Demographic changes will have the highest impact on the future of jobs by 2022