Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Times are A-Changing

(I had written this article for Education Times, Pune in 2003. Here it is with a few changes... but the facts are still outdated.)

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

-From Bob Dylan's 'The Times They are A-Changing'

Gone are the days when parents used to say, “My son is going to become an engineer or a doctor”. With
India’s population increasing at an alarming rate and given our “hyper-creativity”, competition has increased in all spheres of life. This increase in competition is reflected in all walks of life - from the task of getting school admissions to getting jobs in various sectors.

Until very recently, the ‘I-want-to-be-an-engineer/doctor dream’ was very popular. Consequently, there was a great demand for seats in professional colleges and engineering colleges have mushroomed everywhere. This in turn has led to a slew of engineers – each year Karnataka, which has about 108 engineering colleges, one of the highest in India, alone churns out thousands of engineers every year. But as Murphy’s Law would have suggested, there hasn’t been a similar increase in the number of jobs for engineers. Finally, it is a case of engineers, engineers everywhere but not enough jobs to go around. This is where the postgraduate courses come into the scene. Those who are eager to rise above the rest and increase their chances of acquiring a job with a postgra duate degree are eagerly taking up CAT and other management entrance exams with hopes of getting into reputed B-schools and coming out as much sought after management graduates. Some management graduates from IIM’s are being given jobs with salaries around 5 lakh per annum. The number of people taking CAT has increased from about 60,000 to 65,000 in 2000 to about 80,000 in the 2002. Courses in Management have become more sought after than ever. Call it the “CAT-race” if you want!

Similarly, the number of graduates writing GATE had increased tremendously from 2001 to 2002. Apparently, the slowdown in the software industry and the consequent decrease in availability of software jobs may also have contributed to this. Campus placements in engineering colleges had reached an all time low during the software slowdown prompting many students to consider studying further.

Another parallel trend is the increase in demand for graduates in fields such as Biotechnology. Until recently, many students did not consider studying B.Sc. a good option. However, the sudden growth in the Biotech industry has led to a spurt in demand for graduates of biotech and related disciplines. Similarly, the growth in entertainment industry, service industry, etc. has led to many new jobs being created. And with the advent of the information age, people have become more aware about the job opportunities in fields such as media, advertising, fashion etc. Now, at the click of a mouse one can know almost everything from what kind of institution offers what kind of courses to the chances of being recruited after finishing the course. Gone are those days when we had to order application forms for certain courses by post; now we can be simply download them from the web sites of respective institutes.

All these new waves of change are bringing in new opportunities and challenges. At the same time, we can say that many more tough choices are to be made by those in search of their dream job. And regarding competition, there maybe newer pastures but there are more cows than ever!

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