Placing the Placement Policy
25% Attendance in PPTs
The Placement rules state that every student registered for placements is expected to compulsorily attend a minimum of 25% of all the Pre-Placement Talks (PPTs) conducted per week. We find out why students are being made to spend upwards of 5–6 hours every week in PPTs – even those, they aren’t eligible to apply to.
Placement Cell’s Take
Corporate Exposure: Over the last few years, companies have often been very critical about the lack of basic communication skills and corporate etiquette amongst candidates, even though they are fairly sound in their technical knowledge. There have been many instances of companies taking fewer students than they had intended to, for the same reason. It was to address this issue, that Prof Ravi Sinha, Placement In-Charge (PIC) instated this rule with the belief that an exposure to corporate culture and better communication skills which students would get at such PPTs would help them overcome this. While students might argue about the potency of PPTs in enhancing a students’ communication skills, Prof. Ravi Sinha believes that in an institute wherein the current curriculum doesn’t go out of its way to develop students’ skills in this aspect-either by personality development classes or work visits, this is a carefully thought-out experiment. This is also the reason why this rule expects students for whom these JAFs don’t open, to attend PPTs of other companies. While he conceded that such a move is highly onerous from the student perspective, it does have its merits that will be evident in the placement feedback from companies this year.
Measly voluntary attendance in PPTs: Another major contributor to this move has been the repeated occurrence of measly attendance (at times lesser than 20 in the LT) at company PPTs. In one such episode, recalls Ritika Goyal, Placement Manager, Dual Degree Program, the company was embarrassed enough to consider withdrawing from the Placement process entirely. The 25% rule was then established to avoid such incidents that might lead to loss of jobs for students.
While the actual efficacy of the rule in improving student communication skills remains doubtful, the Placement team does seem justified in taking this measure of compulsory attendance to protect the interests of the larger student body; students even though they do not attend PPTs do mostly end up signing JAFs, if we recognise that attendance in PPTs is linked to companies’ willingness to come for recruitment, this becomes an issue that needs solving. However, in either case, we are still skeptical as to how seriously the student will take a PPT which he is not eligible to apply to. Perhaps, if the PPTs one had to attend, was linked to the JAFs he could sign- by making students attend maybe more than 25% of PPTs of companies whose JAFs they are eligible to sign, it would be an alternative that could be considered that would mitigate the concerns of both the students and the PT – students would only attend the relevant PPTs and companies would only expect a response as large as its target pool of candidates.
Incentive Points for Paid Services
Incentive points are a policy introduced by the PT wherein students are rewarded for participating in preparatory activities and fined points for violation of the policy. These incentive points enable students securing jobs in categ ories 3,4 and 5 to sign extra JAFs even after they have been placed. One of these activities includes participating in a paid programme by the management examination coaching body, T.I.M.E. costing students Rs.1200 for 6 sessions for specified incentive points. Although, students who did participate in this gave rave reviews to the actual workshop, they did find it unfair on 2 grounds:
1. The very principal on which the PT is awarding incentive points for a paid service is something that irks a majority of the students
2. Secondarily , awarding incentive points for an activity conducted by a coaching class could be misconstrued as the institute legitimizing and endorsing coaching classes. This, especially at a time when the JEE is being restructured to discourage coaching classes and closer home; previously sponsorship from coaching classes has been discouraged for fests on campus
Placement Cell’s Take
In response, the placement team told InsIghT, that they felt these services went a long way in helping students sharpen their communication and interview skills. Hence, it was important to incentivize them so that students consider this option seriously and avail of it as far as possible. The principal of paid incentive points has been carefully balanced in the placement policy by ensuring that there are enough placement activities conducted the year round to easily reach the upper limit of incentive points without having to attend these sessions. Thus the student is presented with a very real and balanced choice, in taking up this service, although the institute would very much encourage all students to benefit from it.
As far as the endorsement of coaching centres goes, Prof. Ravi Sinha commented that these services had very little to do with the coaching these institutes otherwise offer. The reviews from the student community regarding their quality have been extremely positive and hence the placement team felt that their decision was justified.
The value-for-money that this service has provided has been unequivocally appreciated by the students sitting for placements this year. Since the placement cell has taken care to ensure that the student can achieve the maximum number of incentive points without ever having taken this service, it doesn’t necessarily qualify as having to ‘pay’ for incentive points, yet principally it still presents an ethical dilemma. Also, whether this doesn’t qualify as coaching classes using the institute for subliminal promotion, is something we leave the reader to ponder over.
Value Inc., a Hyderabad based company founded by a former IITian, conducts short-interviews and sends back feedback assessing one’s English speaking skills. In 2009, in response to poor feedback from companies regarding students’ communication skills, Value Inc. was introduced as an optional service for a target group of students. In that year, focus groups which undertook this assessment gave it overwhelmingly positive reviews – 4.8 on a scale of 5. This coupled with the institute’s interest in improving student communication skills led to it being made compulsory for all students enrolled in the placement process. Students were expected to compulsorily pay Rs. 200 over above their nominal placement fees which did lead to some disgruntlement. Many students felt that they didn’t require the service or that the service wasn’t up to the mark or relevant. This year, students’ assessment, which should ideally be have been mailed to them within 2–3 weeks, was delayed by over 1.5 months. Candidates were severely disappointed; they couldn’t use the feedback even if they wanted to, as the results were given so close to placements even though the evaluations were held quite some time ago. Additionally, some students question the utility of an assessment that merely points to their deficiencies and doesn’t help them overcome them.
Placement Cell’s Take
Why it is Compulsory: Value Inc. was made compulsory in 2010 on the Director’s directive after the testing period, says Prof. Ravi Sinha. The institute is able to provide this service at a huge bargain by leveraging the volume of business it can offer. The placement team feels that imposing it on students, many of whom wouldn’t sign up for this voluntarily even if they need it, is a necessary evil and works out for the greater good . However, he conceded, that Value Inc. is only a part of the solution and the complete package in itself.
Delay: The results given by Value Inc. were delayed this year, purportedly due to their internal problems and the strikes in Telangana.
From our research with various parties, we did realize that the problem identified by the placement cell is indeed very large, pertinent and real. Many students who were informally polled, said that the feedback was very objective and more useful to candidates with fewer deficiencies which could be targeted, rather than the vast majority which by the PT’s own admission, lacks basic skills. Hence, it is important that the feedback be taken this year and if the student body chooses to discontinue Value Inc, the PT not only consider other companies but also other products, especially since it is made compulsory for students.
DEPARTMENTS TAKING PART IN THE PLACEMENT PROCESS
For the very first time, this year several departments eg: Civil, Chemical took the lead in especially preparing their students for their placements by going out of their way to conduct full-fledged refresher courses for students sitting for core companies. Such an involvement by the faculty in helping their students with the placements can truly go a long way in student welfare, said Prof. Ravi Sinha. In fact, the PT is going one step ahead, and trying to encourage departments to nominate a Faculty Advisor, who will not only help conduct such preparatory activities for students, but also guide the placement cell in approaching core companies and negotiating better profiles for students, thereby giving an impetus to students who wish to join core companies.
DEFERRAL OF PLACEMENTS
A highlight of the Placement policy this time round that even made a splash in leading newspapers was the ‘Deferral of Placements’ policy which was to be introduced this year, in line with similar policies in leading management institutes around the world. It tried to introduce an option to students who wish to start their own enterprise to defer their placement for a period of two years after graduating. This was a move to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship amongst students, and provide them with a safety net with requisite checks in place to monitor these start-ups to prevent the exploitation of this rule. However, it has faced many glitches on the way, especially with the institute’s insistence of restricting this to core start-ups alone, basic definition of core start-ups, co-ordination problems with the E-Cell on this due to certain institute policies, formation of the monitoring panel, etc. However, the PT feels optimistic that they would still be able to pass the policy by the end of this year, by the start of the second phase of placements in January.
STRUCTURE OF THE PLACEMENT TEAM
The Placement Team is structured somewhat like an IB (Independent Body) with Placement Managers (PMs) the highest student representatives and Prof Ravi Sinha as Placement In-Charge (PIC). The PMs present their views to Prof. Sinha but Prof. Sinha takes the final call on all decisions. Any problems with the placement policies can be taken up with Prof. Sinha and the Director.
As of now, the PT does hold an open house to discuss their policy (once it is released), they also take a comprehensive feedback of everything from policies to execution, near the end of the placement season; but there is no platform (apart from their email ID) which the PT provides to students to express their concerns or lodge complaints. It is not always possible nor always easy for a student to approach a professor with his grievances; if the PT were to launch a Feedback/Complaints forum wherein students could send in their problems and complaints for redressal, it would not only go a long way in improving the PT’s image but would also provide students an outlet to voice their opinion at a platform where their voices would be heard and documented, with a chance of a genuine reply.