Three years ago Bhavin Turakhia, founder and Cheif Executive Officer of Direct-i Internet Solutions, launched a case study contest for management graduates. He was overwhelmed with the response: An unexpected participation from close to 1,500 students from the top 19 B-schools in India.
The competition helps identify talent so that they can be trained by Turakhia's company. “When people can’t find the quality workforce with specialized skills, it is then, that they collaborate with academics to bridge the demand-supply gap. Corporate-academia associations help ensure that the students stay up-to-date with the industry requirements and be job-ready,” explains Turakhia.
The contest, he says, gives him access to the vast student pool who are ready to be tapped. Last year, the competition attracted nearly 1,800 participants.
HCL Technologies was thinking along the same lines when the company collaborated with Madras University in May (giving it access to 120 non-technical colleges) to create a pool of skilled, job-ready professionals. As part of the program called Lakshyam, HCL has taken on board 300 students. In the first phase of the tie-up, it has touched 40 colleges and identified another 1,000 students who will be trained.
“We were trying to find out a way to partner with academic institutes. The objective was two fold. One, on how to increase the funnel of skilled employees not only from institutes in tier-I cities but also from the regions. Two, on how to partner and structure a curriculum where skill development is not entirely the responsibility of the industry, after students are hired," says Subrat Chakravarty, HR head- business services, HCL Technologies.
The list of technology companies forging tie-ups with education institutes to tap talent early, is growing. Infosys Technologies, Wipro Technologies, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Ericsson are among the other top names in the IT sector which are increasingly focusing on mentoring college graduates and their faculty members across engineering campuses in India.
Infosys Technologies' campus connect programme targets up-skilling of faculty members so that they can train their students better. Similarly, Wipro Technologies runs Mission 10X to help colleges train their students better. Over the last three years, Mission10X has been able to reach out to over 10,000 faculty members from over 700 engineering colleges across 20 states in India. Many universities are actively supporting in this initiative.
“These programmes are a hit with the campuses as companies run them parallel to their recruitment drives. These programmes help students become a lot more confident and get a reality check on what is happening in the industry," says Himanshu Aggarwal, director, Aspiring Minds, which carries out scientific assessments and talent benchmarking for graduates.
While some companies do engage with institutions as part of their corporate social responsibility, many say that an early association with the students help them build their brand. In many cases, say industry players, a few private organisations are also tying up with institutes to train students. This, however, is done in exchange for a fee. Institutes pay the organisations on per student basis.
The companies run short-term programmes to train students largely in soft and core skills. The drawback of the programme, however, is that companies do not have the time to address fundamental issues like core domain skills.
"Though these relationships help companies get talent at an early stage, a key challenge is scalability of these programmes. As IT companies are not training organisaitons and their object is not to impart education but to impart software," adds Aggarwal.
Electronic design automation company Cadence, runs a Cadence University Partner Programme that aims to develop trained manpower who can readily be employed by the electronic design industry.
In India, over 250 institutes train their students allowing them to use the technologies and develop the skill sets required in the real world. Industry leaders concur that mentoring programmes puts a student in touch with working professionals who can give them insights into their working lives and the type of tasks and challenges they face in a particular line of work.
NXP Semiconductors India is another company hat has associations with a number of prestigious institutions, including the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Bombay, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore and Manipal University, through initiatives such as student sponsorships, research projects and appointment of chair professors.
ST Microelectronics, $10-billion semiconductor company, has had over a decade-old relationship with some of the Indian institutes. ST has established On-Institute Joint Labs with institutes, including the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi; Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani; Delhi Technological University and Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore.
"In today's talent war situation, whereas engineers are offered various career opportunities and sometimes as wide as financial careers are offered to engineers, it becomes important for industry to expose them to opportunities and challenges that are industry relevant. This is in order to keep them motivated to contribute to the industry where their skills can be most utilised and hence possibly have a more meaningful and satisfying career," says Vivek Sharma, Vice President EMR and Director India Design Centre ST India.
With the global economy in a state of recession, jobs for fresher’s to the US and UK-headquartered companies are expected to become harder to secure. College students thus need every advantage they can find in order to raise their chances of being employed.