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A million engineers in India struggling to get placed in an extremely challenging market

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Somewhere between a fifth to a third of the million students graduating out of India’s engineering colleges run the risk of being unemployed. Others will take jobs well below their technical qualifications in a market where there are few jobs for India’s overflowing technical talent pool. Beset by a flood of institutes (offering a varying degree of education) and a shrinking market for their skills, India’s engineers are struggling to subsist in an extremely challenging market.

According to multiple estimates, India trains around 1.5 million engineers, which is more than the US and China combined. However, two key industries hiring these engineers — information technology and manufacturing — are actually hiring fewer people than before.

For example, India’s IT industry, a sponge for 50-75% of these engineers will hire 50,000 fewer people this year, according to Nasscom. Manufacturing, too, is facing a similar stasis, say HR consultants and skills evaluation firms.

According to data from AICTE, the regulator for technical education in India, there were 1,511 engineering colleges across India, graduating over 550,000 students back in 2006-07. Fuelled by fast growth, especially in the $110 billion outsourcing market, a raft of new colleges sprung up — since then, the number of colleges and graduates have doubled.

Job Problems…

Jobs have, however, failed to keep pace. “The entire ecosystem has been built around feeding the IT industry,” says Kamal Karanth, managing director of Kelly Services, a global HR consultancy.

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“But, the business model of IT companies has changed…customers are asking for more. The crisis is very real today.” Placement numbers across institutes — including tier-I colleges such as IIT Bombay — have mirrored these struggles.

In 2012-13, in IIT Bombay, a total of 1,501 students opted to go through the placement process. At the time of writing, only 1,005 had been placed (placements are currently underway in the institute).

In 2011-12, 1,060 of the 1,389 students were placed. Further down the pecking order, at the Amity School of Engineering and Technology, placements are muted. The number of companies visiting is down from 86 last year to 67 in 2013 at the time of writing (placements are currently underway).

Batch sizes have reduced drastically at its Noida campus this year, with 365 students placed so far in a batch size of 459, compared to 1,032 being placed in a batch size of 1,160 last year.

“Some companies have delayed the joining dates of students who passed out last year and they are still waiting to be placed,” says Ajay Rana, director, Amity Technical Placement Centre. “We can expect joining dates of students who passed out this year to be deferred by a minimum of six months.”

…Trickle Down

This muddled equation is now showing signs of social and economic strain across the country. Frustrated engineers are taking jobs for which they are overqualified and, therefore, underpaid.

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