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How to boost IT Graduate’s Employability?

How to boost IT Graduate’s Employability?

We have been talking a lot about employability of students who complete professional courses. It is nothing but their preparedness & time to transition from education to employment.

I would like to take IT industry for a case study to understand the current situation and what can be done to improve employability of students.

Nowadays, there are various professional & science courses available to students to educate and qualify themselves to serve in the IT industry. They are Bachelor of Engineering (BE), BSc (IT), BCA, Diploma in IT, etc. Even non-IT/CSc students too aspire to get into IT industry. Number of engineering colleges have increased over the past decades due to which the number of students aspiring to get into IT industry has increased substantially.

The real problem in hand is the low employability among the students and IT companies find difficult to get right candidate and also spend months of time & money to bring them up to the speed to deliver.

This is an important issue to be addressed for the benefit of students as well as the industry. To improve the employability, students should adopt the below-mentioned four aspects when they perform their final year project.

Instead of taking up a small theoretical project on their own, they should take-up a challenging project to gain industry exposure. Many students buy projects outside and submit it to complete the formalities.

1. Deliberate Practice Method:

They will need to follow a deliberate method while doing a project. Deliberate practice is not a regular practice. It is a purposeful, systematic training with constant feedback part of it. Many of us know Sri Lankan fast bowler Malinga is so accurate with bowling yorker at his will even under tremendous pressure. Do you know how he became so good at it? He used to keep only a pair of shoes in front of the stumps when he practices yorker. His focus is to hit the shoes. This is called a purposeful training. It is not a regular one where we practice aimlessly or play with friends just for fun. His coach and cameras would monitor his actions and the feedback on his bowling for every ball is taken seriously to improve the accuracy of the bowling.

Similarly, Sachin Tendulkar used to play in domestics Ranji Trophy matches after coming from injury or when want to return to his form. He need not play any domestic matches to prove his talent. But he used to play these matches to simulate a real match scenario without an international level pressure into it. He used to get into good form by following this practice. Here, the key is to practice under a real-life environment.

Same thing can be done in our college projects as well. It is all about bringing purpose and seriousness into our learning & final year projects. Instead of submitting a project just for the sake, our students should take up a real-life scenario-based project and deliver. The data with which they test their project should be real with reasonable volume. Bad data should be part of the input which is expected in a real-life scenario. The project done by Students needs to be presented and tested with industry experts for assessment and feedback. The projects done by students are to be used by cross college students and public. Since anyone can publish Apps to public these days, their Apps are to be made public. This would give a real end-to-end project experience to student community.

2. Critique Mindset:

Nowadays, we are becoming better in acting as critiques in everything. Be it movie, sports or any product, we analyse every aspect of it and talk in detail. For example, we started analysing a movie if the story is good, whether the comedy has worked out or not, etc. They are nothing but the characteristics of a movie. Similarly, as an end user we clearly understand the Apps and rate it in terms of stability, security, usability. These form the characteristics of the software/App.

We need to let the students think through and assess the characteristics of their project at every stage. They need to weigh its usage, targeted end user, security aspects, scalability, usability, etc. at requirement, design, coding and testing phase. They will need to develop having the critique mindset to question themselves and others. This is an important mindset of the engineer the IT industry expects.

3. Collaborative Mindset

Till they complete their graduation, students are not exposed with someone else reviewing their work other than professors/lecturers. Students propose a project and come up with their own requirement, design choices, coding and perform basic testing and call it as project completion. It is not what is being followed in the IT Industry.

Requirements are given by someone else (i.e., customer or product manager) and the design & development are done by totally different teams. Similarly, testing is done by QA team members. Finally, the software/application is delivered to a customer user who validates whether it meets all their need.

Whereas, in a college project environment, everything is done by same person or same team of students. Instead, we should have at least three teams to deliver a project. One team should think and provide requirements, and the second team should perform design and development and finally the third team should prepare test scenarios & execute test cases. This way students are exposed to delegate work and to take responsibilities of the team work. This will induce collaboration between teams.

If every student wants to go through all three functions (PM, Dev and QA), then he/she can complete 3 projects in the final year with each of them in 3-4 months duration. This way every student would have done all the three primary functions of an IT Industry. I am intentionally ignoring other important functions like support, etc. for ease of understanding.

4. Personal Banding

Nowadays, everyone wants to buy branded products. Many students dream to work in a well-known MNC company. Likewise, companies also expect to hire outstanding freshers. So, personal branding has become an important factor even to individuals.

How can students brand themselves?

  • By creating profiles and being active on professional networking websites
  • By actively writing Blogs and participating in other knowledge sharing online forums
  • By actively participating in online/-offline competitions
  • By having good academic marks in their studies
  • By having a crisp and clear 2-3 pages short Resume
  • By presenting themselves well-groomed with self confidence in the interviews
  • By preparing well for interviews taking rigorous mock interview drills
  • By practicing to answer the interview questions with practical real-life examples
  • By having internship experience
  • By having additional certificates in the area of expertise/field

Based on my interactions with college students, freshers and working professionals, students, my recommendation is that employability can be increased by practicing the above four aspects in their final year project. To me, final year should look like a Model IT company.

Let us see one last aspect of how IT Industry can involve here to support the student community to achieve this.

Industry Involvement:

Interested and experienced IT employees can be given opportunity to act as a project guide. This will help students to work on real-life scenarios and start learning design & coding best practices from the IT professionals. Further, they will get guidance on the SDLC/STLC process followed in the industry, such as, source control, design/code reviews, design document, unit test cases, test plan, test cases, etc.

Those IT employees who get to guide college students can take monthly ½ day OR 1 day to perform this activity. Or else IT companies can provide a time-off or comp-off kind of rewarding mechanism to these employees.

This should be considered as an extension of CSR initiative. Currently, funds & webinars and few one-day activities are being done as part of CSR initiative. If we include the project guidance as part of CSR initiative, it would benefit the IT industry as well as students to come prepared when they join the IT companies. Also, project guides will get better chance to interact with the talented students and identify their potential employees.

Reward employees & companies who contribute in early student engagement and uplifting them.           

I strongly believe that if colleges, and IT industry starts practicing the above points detailed out in this article, the employability of students would increase substantially.

About the Author

Ravishanker Muniasamy is a disciple of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He has over 23+ years of experience in the Software Industry and has worked in companies like Microsoft, Oracle. He is an Author and has written 3 novels in Tamil. He has recently released ‘Kanavu Siragugal’ motivational novel to inspire youth to discover their dream and pursue. He is the founder of Jeyikkalam Foundation whose vision is to ‘empower students to fulfil their dreams’. He is focused on to serve the student’s community to create a positive impact.