With placement season almost over in Delhi University, I can’t help but question the state of placements for most students. Yes, we do have certain companies offering competitive positions and packages to some colleges in DU, but by and large the scene is dismal. It then becomes important to see why the situation is such, and what the University as a whole, is currently doing about it. To clarify, I don’t think of colleges solely as employee-producing grounds. Of course, the idea behind a higher education is to foster academic curiosity, but who says it can’t aim to achieve both? Moreover, the University should strive to connect its students with as many opportunities as possible, and a good learning environment through a job out of college is one of them.
The current situation of DU’s Central Placement Cell
Delhi University does have a Central Placement Cell, which works at bringing companies for recruitment for the University as a whole, instead of specific colleges. While the profiles might not satisfy all students on campus, it does prove to be a good option for students whose respective colleges do not have strong placement cells. Every year, the CPC does its bit to put students in front of companies (primarily mass recruiters) like Wipro, HCL Technologies, Genpact, State Bank of India and Tata Motors. However, there are no training sessions to brief students about personal interviews, group discussions and aptitude tests–the most basic rounds every recruitment process includes.
A classmate of mine recently got placed at the start up Zostel through the CPC. When I talked to him about his experience, it was disheartening to hear that many students seemed unable to interact during group discussions, and some of them didn’t even know how to write a resume! A few of them had submitted hand-written resumes and unprofessional ones with coloured fonts, large text sizes and so on. Out of the 1000 odd students who had applied, my friend approximated that only 300 or so seemed to have decent presentation skills.
It’s not as though the other students were intellectually inferior, they just didn’t know how to present themselves, simply because no one had ever shown them how! Most students are involved in some campus activity, research project or internship during their three years, but are not able to muster the confidence to talk about them in front of a prospective employer.
Employers might just sympathise with such students, but are they not justified in expecting a certain degree of professionalism from students graduating from the so-called most sought after university in the country? I think they are. Surely, even a couple of sessions on resume writing, mock GD and PI classes could’ve better equipped those remaining students.
What employers expect from DU pass outs/freshers
My friend Soumya, whose Innovation Cell research project revolved around increasing student-corporate exposure was telling me about the expectations that employers usually have from freshers. Since our University mainly offers non technical courses, the number of “transferable skills” a fresher can bring to his or her first job is rather low. Most companies have on boarding and training programs in place; what they’re mainly looking at is a decent level of communication skills, comprehension skills and industry knowledge. Even when it comes to grades, employers can settle for an average record, if the other factors are met.
However, these do not magically appear overnight. You can cram for a paper at the last minute and pass the subject without even attending its classes during the semester, but hey, where’s the “Last 10 years solved papers” book on communication skills? DU constitutes of students who have stellar communication skills due to exposure during school years along with those who are much more reserved and unsure of their skills. It’s unfortunate that the University does little to bring all its students to a common level, in the three years that the average undergrad spends on its grounds.
The wide gap between students in the top DU colleges and the rest of the University
On one hand, you have the Big 4 consulting and audit firms recruiting from “best” colleges individually and on the other, you see students grappling at even making resumes when it comes to the remaining colleges. So what do these colleges do to ensure that students are ready to face corporate professionals? Swati, from the placement cell at College of Business Studies, shared that for second year students, ESS or Employability Skill Sessions are organised for mock GD and PIs.
Additionally, employees from various companies hold sessions with the students to talk about their experience. A docket, compiling case studies, frequently asked questions (broken down company wise) and other tips, is shared with all students ahead of the placement season. They also authenticate resumes to ensure uniformity and credibility, for which they’ve received good feedback from employers.
Sanchi, from LSR’s placement cell stressed on the importance of the case study workshops they organise for students hoping to crack the consulting industry. Apart from those, a lot of CV writing, and GRE, GMAT prep sessions are held.
SRCC, surprisingly, does not have an overt training session in place. However, given the intensity of its societies (which leads to stronger ties with seniors and the alumnus), and level of industry exposure through seminars, workshops and conferences, students are probably confident in their skills before placements begin.
If the supposed best colleges in DU, who get the “cream” of students right from day one of college, do so much to enhance the skills of students, then it is speaks volumes about the importance of such training programs. Apart from a handful of colleges, training sessions are ignored, even if the college has a relatively active placement cell. It’s important for such cells to understand that their work is not limited to simply getting recruiters on board, but also to make students feel prepared for the on campus recruitment process.
What other institutes in India are doing to train their students
When asked about the internship and placement process at IIT Bombay, a source told us about the compulsory personality development sessions that are organised for final year students sitting for placements following a few complaints made by companies some years back about some students having unsatisfactory or poor soft skills. Even for internships for second and third year students, resume writing workshops and information sessions explaining the recruitment process are held.
Another friend from school shared the idea of “The Buddy Program” in NMIMS where the placement cell linked groups of 5 students to an alumni member who could share personal advice on placements, industry inputs and so on. The introductory session was organised by the cell, after which it was the students’ responsibility to follow up and keep in touch.
What DU can do through its Central Placement Cell
The basic moves include resume writing sessions, presentation and communication training. If the University has the infrastructure to organise a placement drive with thousands of students, it can hold these sessions too. The officials recently launched a MOOC on “India in the 2st century”; if it can use such forms of teaching, why can’t we have such workshops through a MOOC?
Why can’t we have compulsory communication building classes across all courses for first year students, like the Environmental Studies subject we have right now? Why can’t summer vacations be used to regularly hold sessions with DU alumnus, many of whom are now CEOs in large companies? Why couldn’t the laptops distributed during the FYUP come preloaded with videos on such areas? If absolutely nothing else, the CPC site should at least list resources online on these topics.
What students can do on an individual basis
While this piece primarily states that the University should be taking more responsibility to train its students and make them workforce-ready, it is not solely the duty of the officials. I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for one’s college life and that includes making oneself more “employable”. So what can students do to prepare themselves for placements? For starters, there is a wealth of knowledge online covering resume formats, dos and don’ts during interviews and so on.
A simple Google search does the trick! Then, one can harness the power of peer support. Imagine a group of students who stay back an hour after their classes every week to hold a mock GD among themselves. Or interview each other and observe areas of improvement. Or maybe share articles they found online and discuss news events. By the end of the semester, they are far more confident and prepared.
In conclusion, there is a lot that needs to be done on a consistent and regular basis by students, the college placement cells and the Central Placement Cell. Maybe one day we can get a Big 4 company signing up for placements through the CPC and find itself spoilt for choice with the level of preparedness shown by students, but there’s a long way to go before that happens. The current situation for a majority of students is disheartening at best. The question that we started off with initially, about whether or not the University is doing enough to make its students employable, should perhaps be reframed to ask whether the University is doing anything at all.
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