By the end of the year, Kuzhali*, an MA student at the International Relations department of a reputed institution in Chennai, had dreamt of working at her own desk in the international trade wing of a private bank or in a human rights organisation. But the lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis stalled placements, spilling water on her plans.
In addition to the tuition fee of her college, Kuzhali, had paid ₹2,000 for placement. She says the students were trained to give aptitude test as part of campus placements, but before they could take it, the lockdown was enforced, closing all educational institutions.
Anxious about her future, Kuzhali, now eagerly awaits the lockdown to get over and for the campus placements to start.
She shares her apprehension with hundreds of final year students pursuing non-professional courses, whose placements have been put on hold due to the lockdown, jeopardizing their prospects of landing a job.
Placements for professional courses like engineering, commerce, business administration and architecture mostly happen during December or January, four or five months before the completion of the course. Students pursuing non-professional courses, ranging from humanities, social work, tourism to multimedia and music, however, have to wait till the completion of the academic (usually until April or May) year to get a job.
An HR professional who works for a company that hires engineering students says they will complete recruitments as early as possible to pick the best student for their organisation. Companies hiring students pursuing courses like Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA), Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com), and master’s degrees in these programmes are likely to follow suit.
In many cases, a chunk of the recruitment for professional courses was over before the lockdown.
Rohit, a final year B.Com student of Loyola College says their placements ended well before the lockdown started. It began around November and the last round was over by end of February. All four companies—Deloitte, KPMG, EY and PwC—that we had been waiting for came for the campus placements. Almost half of the 450 students in our department attended the recruitment drive, he says.
“Of them, almost 70 per cent got placed. We did not witness any reduction in the offers compared to previous years. In fact, Deloitte increased the annual package from 3.4 lakh to 4.4 lakh this time around. But we have still not heard a word about when would we start working,” he added.
But, students of non-professional courses weren’t as lucky.
Vasanthi* is one among them. A postgraduate student of the Public Relations department of Stella Maris College in Chennai, she says only two students from her department got placed after professors had to literally, plead with recruiters.
“It’s designation—customer relations manager—was fancy, but it was a call-centre job,” says Vasanthi describing the job profiles of the recruited students.
“We have no other option but to depend on campus placements and are clueless about our careers,” she says.
The desperation is the same in the communications department of several other colleges.
“We don’t conduct campus placements, but ensure that our students get jobs in the film or the media industry. But, since the film industry has come to a standstill, we could not find jobs for our students,” says C Prabhanand, a professor in the visual communication department of DG Vaishnav College, Chennai.
“Many students usually join graphic designing and animation companies, but the latter have stopped recruitments due to the COVID-19 crisis,” he adds. The college expects to conduct exams in July, after which the professor hopes recruitments will resume.
Some students have also begun trying out new ideas, which would not fetch them an income, but enrich them with some experience. A group of six students from the Asian College of Journalism have started an Instagram page, called Slyd News, to post news updates. “We started it to kill time. But after seeing the response, we have planned to invest in it,” says Ramya, a member of the group.