IT cos tie up with small-city campuses to save cost


12 Jan 2012
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IT cos tie up with small-city campuses to save cost

Shikha Sharma, a second-year engineering student from Sachdeva College, near Chandigarh, earns from her institute while she learns. The college pays her Rs 5,000 every month for developing applications for local information technology firm, Drona Edutronics. Besides her 'salary', Sharma will also earn a share of the IT company's net profit.

Her institute has signed an MoU with the company, wherein 20% of the revenues generated by projects on campus goes to the college. Small and mid-sized technology and manufacturing firms are entering into similar arrangements with engineering colleges across tier-I and II towns in an attempt to bridge the yawning skill gap.

"Such projects help companies to identify bright talent, give them exposure to their culture, train them and then hopefully attract them," says Nimesh Mehta, a researcher at Indian School of Business' Dr Reddy's Cell for Employability and Skill Development.

It's a win-win for students and companies. While students get to work on cutting-edge technologies and are exposed to responsibility at an early age, companies have access to a ready and willing talent pool. The skill shortage is acute: Of the nearly 2 million graduates each year, just 20-25% are employable, according to the ministry of labour and employment's report on employment for 2009-10. "The skill gap in 22 sectors would be close to 347 million by 2022," says Dileep Chenoy, CEO and managing director of National Skill Development Council, a not-for- profit company started by the finance ministry.

Companies in information technology (IT) and financial services, particularly, find it difficult to get trained talent and have started to engage extensively with engineering institutes. IT and IT-enabled sector companies look for talent from remote locations in order to remain competitive, says ISB's Mehta. With the economic crisis getting worse, companies will no longer be able to pay exorbitant salaries to freshers, he adds.

Mumbai-based animation and visual effects training company Frameboxx, for instance, has entered into a tie-up with Sachdeva College, while the local unit of Canadian Dulcimer Technologies is in the intial phase of negotiations with GCRG Lucknow. "Under the arrangement, a student will get trained in technologies relevant to the company. It's easy to retain such a student," says Dulcimer managing director TPS Jassal.

Colleges like Gurukul Vidyapeeth and Indo Global near Chandigarh, are in talks with an IT firm and a top automobile manufacturer. Both campuses will soon have a plant and software in a separate building for imparting niche skills to not only engineering students but also school students.

An added advantage for the companies is that talent from smaller cities is often willing to work harder than their counterparts in the metros, and without unrealistic salary expectations. "Aspiration levels in tier-II cities have risen noticeably and rapidly. In absolute terms, there are pockets of high quality talent in such cities and therefore, organisations are now looking at hiring from tier-II cities as a strategic advantage. Also, data shows higher retention levels in such cities, provided location of work is near home base," says Aquil Busrai, CEO of Aquil Busrai Consulting.

Trained students have a greater acceptance in industry, as they have worked on the latest technology, says Vishal Sood, managing director of Indus Innovation Consultants, an advisory services company run by IIM Ahmedabad alumni, which acts as a facilitator between colleges and companies. "Students work in a corporate environment from the second year of college itself and graduate with a salary and an experience certificate," he adds.

But more than employment, it's about "skilling and bringing in an attitudinal change" in students in tier- I and II towns, says Manmohan Garg, CEO of Gurukul Vidyapeeth. "Students in smaller cities have a technical edge, but lack in interpersonal skills," he adds.

The manufacturing industry is also latching on to such tie-ups. Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, for instance, has established three automobile laboratories at institutes in Mysore, Ahmedabad and Mohali. Its most recent, MCKVIE-Eicher Centre for AutomobileTechnology, commenced operations at the MCKV Institute of Engineering, Howrah on May 10.

The centres provide industry-oriented diploma, graduate and post-graduate courses to students on the latest automobile technology and prepare students to meet industry needs. "We are keen to establish more such centres in other parts of the country in collaboration with prominent educational institutions," says A Nandakumar, head -- customer service, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles. Like the IT industry, the manufacturing sector too hopes such efforts will set the skill balance right.

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