Building Fortunes : Deciphering the  Placement Season 2020-21

Building Fortunes : Deciphering the Placement Season 2020-21

Placements are one of the major driving factors that make the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, one of the most preferred colleges in India. This, in addition to the finest professors and research culture, safely puts the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, in one of the best colleges in the nation.

As the academic year of 2020-21 comes to an end, yet another placement and internship season went by. Unlike previous years, the process of hiring was conducted in online mode. However, the experience was similar as well as unconventional on many fronts. The exhilarating anxiety and pressure a student goes through are the same, but the whole experience of being online brought forth its own share of privileges and shortcomings. In this article, Monday Morning decodes the placement season for the session 2020-2021.

Driving Force Behind the Scenes

The Training and Placement Centre (TnP Centre) of NIT Rourkela is the medium through which the students take the primary step within the corporate world. The TnP Centre strives hard for the students so that they get a headstart in their professional life. In the face of the unique situations that the Training and Placement Centre was presented with in the form of a pandemic during the peak of the placement season, the achievements and statistics obtained seem quite remarkable. The trio of Debi Prasad Mohapatra, Swadha and Pritish Kumar Kar fulfilled the roles of Placement Secretaries for the session of 2020 -2021. Prof. Umesh C. Pati was the Head of Training and Placement Centre for the placement season 2020-21, and Prof. Anup Nandy was the Professor-in-Charge.

The following committee worked tirelessly to make this season so successful. 

Poring over the numbers

COVID-19 played spoilsport in this year’s campus recruitment drive as well, and after a lot of consideration, NIT Rourkela decided to conduct the entire process online. Despite all the hindrances, a total number of 863 full-time offers were made for the academic year 2020-21. 258 companies participated in the placement drive.

When asked about his views on the overall placement statistics during the pandemic, Head of Training and Placement Centre, Prof. Umesh C. Pati said:

Placement season 2020-21 has been a great success with 863 full time offers and 213 internship offers to date despite the pandemic situation throughout the year. There are 258 companies taking part in the online placement drive this year, out of which 101 are new companies. Though the recruitment process was fully done online for the first time, students were smart enough to adapt to the process quickly. 

Even during the pandemic, there was an increase in the minimum, average and maximum CTCs offered by the recruiters. The minimum package offered to any student increased from 2.4 lacs to 3.7 lacs (a 22% increase), the average package increased from 8.7 lacs to 9.35 lacs by 7%, while the maximum package increased from 42 lacs to 45 lacs by 7% as well.

The average CTC to Branch statistics were similar to last year, and a minute increase was observed in the average CTCs of almost all branches. This year, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering had the highest average CTC (14.92 lacs), followed by the Department of Electronics and Communication (10.82 lacs). The highest CTC offered was 45 LPA by Amazon Web Services, followed by companies like Microsoft (42 LPA)

There was a significant surge in the number of new recruiters who participated in the process as no less than 101 new companies were observed, including Amazon Web Services, Barclays, Citi Bank, Siemens Gamesa, Eli Lilly & Co. Factspan and many others. But, there were fewer recruitments for Mechanical engineering, Metallurgical and material science, and Humanities since the companies mostly required physical presence.

The placement percentage provided a bit of a grim picture for the statistics report. This year, only the Department of Chemical Engineering secured a 100% placement percentage record. There were 3 other branches with 90% and greater placement percentage. 6 other branches were able to have an 80% and higher percentage. With regards to this decrease in placement percentage and offers in some core branches, Pritish Kumar Kar, one of the Placement Secretaries, said,

The effects of the pandemic are palpable. Apart from this, this year, the companies evidently had fewer openings as the number of recruits itself was lesser than the previous year. Additionally, many companies HLS Asia, ITC Limited, Halliburton, AMNS, TATA Steel UISL from the core branches visited us for the first time. But still, the numbers were quite lesser than the regular recruiters. 

The Software and IT sector topped the sector division with 352 offers (around 42%), followed by the Electrical and Electronics sector with 104 offers (12.4%). The Education sector saw a dip with only 50 offers (5.9%) compared to last year’s 19% of the total offers. The Analytics/Consultancy sector and the BFSI sector saw a rise with 15% of the total offers. The core Engineering sector saw a dip in the total offers (72) and the Manufacturing industry (45) compared to the last year.

With regards to the decreased number of placements for the core sectors, Debi Prasad Mohapatra, one of the Placement Secretaries, said,

The decrease in the number of core job offers was almost inevitable last year due to the pandemic. Another point to keep in mind is the number of people opting for core jobs might differ from what it was last year. For instance, if a core branch let's say X had 50% students interested in core Placements last year then there might be chances that the number may rise up to 65 or 70% this year and the students might not opt for a job in software or IT sector which is absolutely fine and understandable. But yes, the major contributing factor is the pandemic.

But looking at it from the other side, it's good to see that despite the decrease in core jobs we have managed to get good results which shows the efforts that have been put to hunt for more in the sectors that were booming in the pandemic (Software/IT, BFSI etc.)

The Red Numbers

Although, in hindsight, the overall numbers were very encouraging, some numbers had significant scope for improvement. The Placement Centre members offered their insights into these numbers and hoped for a more optimistic outcome the next year.

When it came to the School of Management, which is relatively new compared to the already established B.Tech courses, the booming statistics in previous years showed a negative growth as it decreased substantially compared to the previous years. Shibani Sahoo, the placement coordinator of the School of Management, spoke about the main problem that hindered the placements of the MBA students,

Due to the pandemic, many companies froze their requirements. Even regular companies hiring MBA candidates didn't have hiring plans. 

Prof. Umesh C. Pati expressed his opinions for the same on the negative growth numbers of MBA and PG placements,

This year many core jobs have been affected due to the pandemic. I hope PG and MBA placements will improve next year. Many Start-up companies have come up in recent times which need specialists. In addition to regular companies, we shall approach these Start-up companies which we hope will improve the PG placements. Students should also do hard work to get selected for the available job opportunities.

With regards to the lesser number of placement of M. Tech students, Shivasish Sahu dived into the major reasons and hoped for brighter statistics for upcoming years,

The M. Tech Placements have always been tricky, especially for non-Circuital branches like Chemical Engineering, Ceramic Engineering etc., which have a very narrow field of application in the Indian industries, and it mostly gets filled up with the students from IITs. With the limited number of opportunities, the call for more significant efforts and luck becomes crucial. Moreover, the students face a dilemma between industry and further research; they somehow miss out on various golden opportunities, including non-core sectors. As the industries are opening up, I feel the number of opportunities may increase gradually in the coming days. But the onus is on the students to take the placement process seriously and give their best efforts with a clear mind. The stats won’t change in a year, but they may in the coming years.

To address the decrease in the placement percentage of Industrial Design, Shekhar Kumar, the placement coordinator for the Department said,

A portfolio for an Industrial Designer is an essential prerequisite for applying to any Design based company. This year, very few students had prepared their Portfolios, resulting in slightly poor placement statistics for the Industrial Design department. For this year's final year students, I'll suggest that you start preparing your portfolios as early as possible (if not started already) so that the concerned Placement Coordinator will have enough portfolios to convert the maximum number of design companies. I'll also suggest everyone prepare for an alternate sector for placements as a backup.

Stumbling blocks along the placement season

COVID-19 brought forth a plethora of problems for the entire nation. Due to a series of lockdowns across different parts of the country, many companies decided not to recruit students or recruit in a lesser amount compared to before, and the National Institute of Rourkela was no such expectation. Thus, some familiar names were missing from the list of recruiters this year.

With the whole COVID- 19 pandemic going on and the placement of the students deemed as of critical importance, the institute had decided to organise the placement season online. Although there were some ideas from the previous year, this was the first time the campus had decided to do it from the beginning. This brought a series of challenges to the Training and Placement Committee. 

Due to virtual hiring, the companies hired at a different time of the placement season than before. The entire placement process took place online this year, and one of the significant problems the students faced was the lack of a good internet connection. Many students couldn’t get past the online round as they got disconnected and couldn't rejoin. Swadha, one of the placement secretaries, concluded,

One of the significant challenges we faced was scheduling the companies because due to sudden change to virtual hiring, the hiring trends of many companies changed, and they didn't recruit in the early phases of our placement season, like other years. Even though we had a lot of high paying companies this year, their time varied a lot. Secondly, few sectors were affected more than others, which is why some of our regular recruiters didn't hire this season or recruited fewer than other years. And, certain companies and PSU's were not ready to hire virtually because of their policies. Lastly, a big challenge for us was conducting the online tests, as there were times when students faced network issues, and their tests got disconnected in between. But, there wasn't any provision for retests from the company's side.

A Step Forward- Internships

In today’s age, internships have a significant meaning. Along with providing much-needed experience in applying the knowledge from the classroom, it also allows the person to gain further insights into their chosen career. This experience, in turn, gives the students an edge over other applicants during placement meanwhile, also increasing their knowledge base and confidence. These opportunities would help the students grow their professional network to have an easier time in the future.

Due to the pandemic, internships were mostly ‘work from home’ held online. The number of internships offered also saw an increase of 26% to 213. Of these, nearly 70% belonged to the software, IT and Banking/Financial sectors, while the rest were related to the core sector. Forty-five companies provided these internships, and around 211 student recruits were invited for their internships. The highest stipend was 1 Lac per month offered by Barclays

N Manyata, Placement Coordinator of the Biotechnology department, advocated utilising these internship opportunities for the students interested in core biotechnology companies to convert afterwards. She said,

We should try to contact more companies for internships instead of full-time opportunities. Even if the pay-scale is less, a bachelor fresher can do a lot of non-specific lab work during the internship to become job ready. As most of these core companies in this field have requirements that span beyond the lab work in college (as they focus more on work done on an industrial scale), they don't generally hire freshers. So, the focus should be more on converting companies that offer internships but eventually offer PPOs on completion. It is also imperative to make the students industry-ready by incorporating courses in the curriculum that involve more practical aspects of this field. Many times companies do visit, but don't find freshers fit for the role due to the lack of industry skills. So, we need to address the issues on both the sides of the coin to increase the number of core companies in this field.

Last year, one of the major problems was the rigidity of curricula for the institute's students. There was no provision for the students to pursue six-month internships at different major companies. On making this possible for the current season, Anusha Goel, the Placement Co-ordinator for M. Tech. Electronics and Instrumentation department conveyed,

Our institute was one of the few institutes in which this rule was still not applicable. Keeping all these in mind, our institute's M. Tech's placement was not great due to the covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, many companies reduced their hiring, or even some of them freeze their hiring. We drafted a letter and presented it in a senate meeting, and our senate members also understood its importance and helped us make six months possible from our batch. We are sure that this will help many students get into the core industry and fulfil their dreams.

The long internships were essential because many core companies like Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Western Digital, and many more started taking students as interns first and followed conversion on a performance basis. With regards to the matter, Prof. Umesh C. Pati further added,

Realizing the importance of these internships, the Fast Pace Program for UG students was considered by a committee under the leadership of the former Dean (AC) Prof SK Patel  and thus, students should contact respective HODs to take up suitable courses.

Another problem the students faced doing their internships in various companies and research centres was when their internship period coincided with the examination schedule. Regarding this, Prof. Umesh C. Pati commented,

The examination schedule which coincided with the internship season has not hampered the pre-placement offer opportunities of pre-final year students in any manner. Companies were cooperative and considered the present academic situation favourably. 

THE DORMANCY OF TRAINING COMMITTEE

The Training and Placement Centre of the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, has always strived to create a better placement environment. In the Academic year 2019-20, they came up with an initiative: Training Committee whose sole aim would be to groom the students to meet against the gruelling placement season. Due to the pandemic, it wasn’t fully functional, but it shall be fully operational this year, Prof. Umesh C. Pati surmised,

Formation of the Training committee was a new idea implemented from 2019-20. The job of the TnP Centre is mainly twofold: Training and Placement. Over the years, the Placement committee was looking after both domains. It was felt that emphasis was more upon placement, and as a result, the training part was taking a backseat. Moreover, the Placement committee was overloaded. Hence, the new Training committee came into the picture exclusively for training the students. Like the Placement committee, the selection process for the members of the Training Committee is a gruelling one. We have inducted the brightest mind among the lot for the job. The committee has done a good job in 2019-20. Due to the pandemic situation and more stress on the placements, we could not form the Training committee in 2020-21. It will be formed this year. I am pretty sure that the Training Committee will discharge its duties with utmost sincerity over the years to come and add a new dimension to the TnP cell.

Shibani Sahoo, the placement coordinator for MBA, felt the absence of the Training committee this year as she said,

The institute should provide some mandatory programs through TnP for MBA candidate for grooming them for campus drive. As we had 20-21 companies visited the placement season but candidates were not able to qualify written round.

Advice for the students

Although the number of offers and CTC statistics increased across almost every branch, the placement percentage, except a few, saw a dip. This shows that many students were unable to convert the placement opportunity.

Swadha advised the students to be more far-sighted and provided uplifting words for the students. 

For the 2022 batch, we are expecting a good number of recruiters that have shown interest in hiring this year. So, my message to the graduating students is: Channel your preparation sector-specific, but do not stick to one particular sector, as you should always have a Plan B in case Plan A fails. After the number of placements, we saw during the end of our placement season, I'll suggest you; Do not lose hope throughout the year. For those who do not get placed in the initial days, know that your competition is also decreasing with every next company, so keep trying till the end. And, do not lose out on good opportunities in hope for any dream company.

Finally, Prof. Umesh C. Pati also gave some valuable advice for the students appearing for the placement season,

The pre-final year students have reached a stage to materialize their dreams. The students must be well versed with the fundamentals of their branch and should also stay updated with the latest developments in their respective domains. Many recruiters have expressed their reservations on this front. One should highlight different acquired skills, extracurricular activities, internships etc. to broaden the job prospect. Another domain the recruiters have expressed their concern is about the poor communication skills of the candidates. Due to the pandemic, the hiring process of this year will be mostly through online platforms. It is advisable for all students to learn the etiquette of presenting themselves properly on these platforms.

REFLECTING BACK

It was largely successful, reflecting on the season, with almost every placement statistic going up. Although the concept of virtual hiring was new for the National Institute of Technology Rourkela, it was very well managed thanks to the tireless efforts of the Training and Placement Team and the resolution of all the students as a whole. 

Shivasish Sahu, the placement coordinator of Chemical engineering whose department had a 100% placement rate and a significant increase in the number of offers, shared how this occurred.

The numbers were always encouraging, but my department had never seen a 100% placement statistics. This motivated me to bring in as many offers as possible for the students so that this milestone could be achieved. I feel the grim scenario, along with the unfortunate job offers revocation fuelled the students to grab whatever opportunity comes their way by giving it their best shot. I constantly nagged and pushed them with this fact. The virtual hiring process had its fair share of pros and cons. Still, I feel it helped ease the logistical issues faced by the companies, which may have been the driving factor in the increase of offers, despite the torrid phase.

I was lucky enough to have continued on the good efforts put in by my senior PCs, especially Rahul Mohanty and Swagat Mohanty, who have guided me with their experience at many junctures of my tenure. A significant token of gratitude also goes to my fellow PCs, who have helped me get about 45% of my branch placed by bringing in opportunities from various sectors. Our faculty coordinator, Prof. Pradeep Chowdhury, was a constant source of motivation and a pillar of strength during these unprecedented times. 

Debi Prasad Mohapatra, one of the placement secretaries, reflected on the journey of bringing in the companies and commented on the placement season 2020-2021

I am really happy about how things went in our Placement season. I am grateful to be a part of the team that had the right intent and attitude right from day one. Not to forget the time when we took over the charge of the Placement committee where no one really had an idea of what's there in the store for us and the situation was very gloomy. Almost 70-80% of the companies that we contacted during May-July had their hiring frozen and the responses from the companies weren't good either. We started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and now if you ask me about the overall statistics having 850 odd offers, I couldn't have asked for anything more. Reiterating again, I am proud to be part of such a team. Without the team effort, it wouldn't have been possible.

In the face of the pandemic, being responsible for the placement of so many students was a tall order. Although some challenges persist, looking at the improvements made, the next year seems brighter. The Training and Placement Centre pulled through and did their job splendidly.

Team Monday Morning congratulates the Training and Placement Centre for all their achievements, thanks to them for all the hard work they put and wishes them the best for achieving even better placement numbers for the upcoming year!

Design Credits:- Cyrus Roy, Sambit Sankalp

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