India’s best IIT says it’s unable to find jobs for its students because of a cyclone

Image: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
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The Indian Institutes of Technology, the country’s elite engineering schools, are finding it difficult to shepherd their graduates into good jobs.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras in Chennai, which was last month ranked the top engineering institution in the country, saw its placement rate fall to 62% in 2016-17 from around 65% in 2015-16. The other IITs in the country showed similar numbers, with placement rates falling year-on-year, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.

“Out of 9,104 students in 17 IITs who applied this year, only 6,013 got jobs,” the report said, citing data from the human resource development (HRD) ministry. In other words, about 66% of those who participated in campus placements secured jobs compared with 79% in 2015-16.

The fall in placement rates have been attributed to everything from natural disasters to global uncertainty in the IT sector, and only add to all the job-related negativity. In recent weeks, news of probable layoffs in many of the country’s IT firms has been making rounds, and HR firm Head Hunters India has estimated that nearly two lakh IT engineers will lose jobs annually over the next three years.

At IIT-Madras, the weather gods are being blamed. Cyclone Vardah, which hit Tamil Nadu last December took a lot of jobs with it, according to Manu Santhanam, IIT-Madras’s advisor for training and placement. “A lot of companies that were to come to campus fulfilled their requirements with other institutions. If not for this we could have had another 40 or 50 jobs,” he said. The death of Tamil Nadu state’s chief minister J Jayalalithaa last year only added to the troubles since companies weren’t able to join the placement drive because of the political chaos that followed.

A drop in international placements from American, Taiwanese and Japanese firms have also hurt overall numbers. “Companies from these countries have set up offices in India and have hired graduates for local jobs rather than giving them international placements,” Santhanam said.

The silver lining at IITs is the involvement of public sector undertakings (PSUs). Many PSUs hired IIT students this year, according to Santhanam. ”The salaries are comparable to private firms and many pay packages are higher than those at other companies,” he said. Hiring by PSUs from IITs has been increasing over the last few years, the Hindustan Times reported, quoting an unnamed official from the HRD ministry.

But now, the one thing that was looking up might be short-lived. The supreme court is set to bar PSUs hiring from campuses, on the grounds that it amounts to discrimination, as vacancies are filled with students from these colleges, thus denying the opportunity to people who aren’t in such institutions.

Looks like, even graduating from the country’s best engineering institution will only take you so far.