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Engineers, are you industry-ready?
Vicky Nanjappa
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June 21, 2007

The IT boom is not new to India -- although it did provide for vast employment opportunities, somewhere down the line several IT companies realised that a lot of money and time was being spent training graduates to become full-fledged IT professionals.

Kiran Karnik, president of NASSCOM, predicts that the IT sector will need at least 5,00,000 professionals in the next five years. He states that there is a gap in the 'soft skills' area, and that finishing schools will be able to bridge this gap.

Keeping this requirement in mind, India's first IT finishing school, the  Raman International Institute of Information Technology, has come up in Mysore, 120 kilometres from Karnataka's capital Bangalore. The finishing school is aiming at transforming fresh graduates into readily employable professionals. The school will also provide training to candidates who are unable to get through corporate interviews.

RiiiT is affiliated to the University of Mysore, and the capabilities of all students enrolled here is assessed by MeritTrac, one of the country's largest skills assessment companies.

Training programme

RiiiT's course is open to BSc, BE and computer graduates, and is expected to help those intending to join the IT sector prepare themselves accordingly. The 12 month course is divided into four semesters -- 'Foundation Track', 'Tech Track', 'Project Track' and 'Internship Track' -- each of three months' duration.

Tech Track: The emphasis is on programming and technical knowledge in this semester. Students can specialise either in Java or in .Net. The syllabus is updated every year to suit industry requirements.

Project Track: Students are assigned live projects based on actual case studies, which require them to visit IT organisations frequently. As a result, they are exposed to the corporate world and its demands. This helps them apply the skills and theoretical knowledge they have acquired in previous semesters to real-life experience.

Internship Track: Students intern at software companies, and are assigned projects that have to be completed within the semester's three month duration. The practical knowledge and intensive training helps transform them into full-fledged professionals.

Apart from semester-wise activities, guest lectures are frequently organised with a view to promote industry-institute interaction.

Mr S V Venkatesh, CEO and managing director, RiiiT, believes that after completing this course, students come to possess a combination of academic and practical knowledge that will prove invaluable when they join the software industry. 

Post-course career opportunities

Mr Venkatesh states that those who complete RiiiT's course will have jobs lined up in the software industry, as software programmers, quality assurance analysts, project managers, enterprise systems architects, business requirements analysts, technical writers, application integration specialists, and user interface analysts.

Although several institutions offer similar courses of three to six months' duration, it is claimed that those passing out of a finishing school stand a better chance of placements within an IT firm.

If one is to draw a comparison, the full-time IT finishing schools are very different from institutions offering a part-time course. An individual enrolled in a part-time course can only expect to be trained, whereas an individual completing a full-time course from an IT finishing school can also expect a job. This is thanks to tie-ups with skill assessment firms -- in the case of RiiiT, as previously mentioned, the firm in question is MeritTrac. Students receive a certificate from MeritTrac upon completing the course, which Mr Venkatesh claims is as good as a ticket into an IT firm.

The process of admissions is ongoing at RiiiT, and the management intends to accomodate 1000 students this year.

Fees: The fee for this course has been structured on the basis of what the average IT professional earns per month -- the cost of the whole course comes to Rs 75,000. The cost also includes the use of a wi-fi enabled laptop, which has to be returned to the institute at the end of the course.

The management says that students need not worry about the fees, as bank loan facilities are available to those facing financial difficulty. Mr Venkatesh has also stated that the school has a tie up with the Syndicate Bank [Get Quote], and that students can avail of a 100 percent loan.

Boarding: The finishing school is not a residential institute, but has made provisions to accomodate its students at several PG facilities in the city. The management says that students can be put up at the PG accomodations depending upon individual spending capacity.

Other centres

Apart from Mysore, there are IT finishing schools both in Bangalore and Kochi.  The school at Bangalore is expected to conduct its entrance tests on July 26, and commence operations for its first batch in the first week of August. The course offered here is similar to RiiiT, and the aim is likewise, to turn graduates into readily employable professionals for the IT sector.

The school at Kochi, on the other hand, has already started functioning; it is an initiative of the Kerala [Images] State IT Mission. The management here claims that it aims at career development programmes, which will have IT graduates job-ready by the time they have completed their respective courses. The training involves a blend of technical and soft skills, as well as a focus on a candidate's personality -- the management claims this last criterion is the key to a successful interview.

So is there really a need for such school s,or is it just that the IT industry's boom is being hyped?

According to experts in the IT sector, the need for these institutes is immense. The IT industry which saw a Rs 6,750 crore turnover last year, has around 25,000 direct vacancies at present. However, the need of the hour is a trained professional,a product experts feel only an IT finishing school will be able to turn out.

There are 4,00,000 engineers graduating in the country every year, but only one in four is employable in the IT sector. IT and BT secretary of Karnataka Mr Vidyashankar states that finishing schools are the need of the hour -- a recent survey showed that nearly 30 percent of the engineering graduates aspiring to enter the IT sector are not in employable positions, as they need to upgrade their skills.

IT pundits also point out that the huge demand for IT professionals means that more schools need to be set up. The curriculum this kind of institute offers will fill in the gaps left by the formal education system. These schools will analyse a student's aptitude, and provide short-term courses to improve his/ her capabilities.

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