In spite of offering mostly conventional undergraduate courses, Patna Women’s College is helping its graduates find meaningful employment in different sectors and helping them to relocate to other cities
A decade ago, Patna Women’s College did not offer its students any placement services as most of its students are enrolled for undergraduate courses in arts, science, commerce and vocational streams. It recently started a post graduate programme in computer applications and its only other post graduate programme was one in home science, hence it saw limited scope for placements.
But wanting to impact the lives of young women passing out from its campus, changed the outlook of Dr Sister Doris D’Souza, principal of the Christian minority college a constituent unit of Patna University, Patna and a National Assessment and Accreditation Council accredited (A grade) institution.
When the University Grants Commission accorded College with Potential for Excellence status to Patna Women’s College in 2004, Principal Dr D’Souza had to think of new ways to help its students. She identified placement services as the one thing missing in the college. So that very year, Patna Women’s College took a conscious decision to prioritise placements.
Principal Dr D’Souza tells us why: “Graduates with some work experience are better prepared for higher studies. We saw it as our responsibility to help students acquire such experiences. We also realised that it was our duty to help students who cannot take up higher studies, due to constraints, to get meaningfully absorbed in industries and to pursue their careers.”
There were only a few coveted local employment avenues which made the new priority a tall order. Neither did it help that the college’s pass outs are graduates in conventional streams, of which ther eare plenty in all Indian cities, nor is Patna a usual stop for multinational corporations based out of other cities in India. The placement officers had another dilemma should they actively liaise with concerned human resource departments or approach companies through agents? So a steep learning curve lay ahead of the college.
Another important thing was that communication and soft skills of students needed pulling up. Women from conservative backgrounds also wanted the faculty to help convince their parents to let them take up jobs in other cities. Would the college be able to achieve that?
Patna Women’s College’s holistic approach that focused on preparing students for placements as well as on attracting companies to the campus worked well. Here’s what the college did:
SET UP A PLACEMENTS CELL: At the outset, a Placement Cell was created and Professor Sahar Rahman of the Department of English and Professor Debjani Sarkar of the Department of Geography were asked to take up the additional duty as placement officers. Their mandate is to boost quality placements at Patna Women’s College.
LIAISE WITH INDUSTRY: To kick start placements, the officers connected with Ma Foi Consultants. The agency conducted campus interviews for HSBC. As a result, three students got placed in 2005 and four in the following year. At this point, the placement officers realised the need to directly liaise with representatives of companies. Professor Sahar Rahman explains why—“We did not want any agency between our students and their employers. Direct dealings would save us from the hassle of checking the credentials of the consultants. It would also ensure that the privacy and safety of our girls are not compromised because their CVs and other personal details are accessed by the consultants.”
So the placement officers started to make contact with human resource heads of companies in the information technology, BPO, media and banking sectors, and invited them to their campus for placement drives. They chose these sectors seeing scope for their graduates to get placed.
“Bachelors in computer applications and in science can get placed in the information technology industry, graduates in mass communication and in communicative English with media studies can be employed in media, commerce and economics graduates can find jobs in banking and any graduate can get jobs in BPOs,” says Placement Officer Professor Debjani Sarkar.
After the word got around, the placement officers were pleasantly surprised to be approached by a few companies. “We responded positively to such calls,” says Professor Sarkar.
PLACEMENT CELL REPRESENTATIVES:
Every year, the placement officers train 30 final year students from each department as Placement Cell Representatives. These students are briefed about the functions of the Cell and are made responsible to ensure the participation of their classmates in placement activities.
According to Dr Rahman, “This has worked well especially in the beginning when footfalls used to be very low.”
PREPARE STUDENTS: The placement officers periodically hold workshops and interactive sessions on communication and soft skills for students. Students are encouraged to become more proactive about finding employment. Vacancy notices and tips to enhance employability are put up on the Placement Cell notice board.
COUNSEL PARENTS: An early placement hiccup was the challenge that young some women from conservative families faced in convincing their parents to let them relocate to other cities. “Most of the selected students are from middle class backgrounds. In the early years, a lot of their parents did not support the idea of their daughters taking up jobs elsewhere. It was embarrassing because even after girls were appointed in large numbers many could not join the jobs,” shares Professor Sarkar.
To address this issue, IBM Daksh (Gurgaon) conducted interactive sessions for parents of young women selected by the company. On a couple of occasions, the IBM Daksh recruitment team was accompanied by former college students working with the company. This worked very well It inspired girls to join the company and parents could learn from the first-hand experiences from former students.
Placements started to look up in 2007. That year, TCS picked up 75 students, IBM Daksh selected 120 students, Wipro BPO selected 29 students, and Wipro Tech six students. Infosys BPO joined the fray in 2008. Star TV started to recruit a few college students in 2010. In 2009 IBM Daksh awarded Patna Women’s mCollege collected for achieving the highest number in campus joinees. The company has consistently recruited young women from the college — 72 in 2008, 73 in 2009, 118 in 2010, 102 in 2011, 36 in 2012 after the company became IBM GPS and 68 in 2013. According to Professor Rahman, “It has helped that our girls have performed well after joining. That keeps up the interest in Patna Women’s College.”
A few companies which Patna Women’s College counts as its placement partners today are IBM GPS (previously called IBM Daksh), Wipro BPO, Wipro Tech, TCS and Star TV. Of the approximately 1,700 students passing out every year, 30 to 40% are keen to get placed and participate in the campus placements drive. Last year, 20% of the participating students got placed.
Principal Dr D’Souza observes that the college’s current crop of graduates is far more confident about launching themselves in careers than those of a decade ago. “They flaunt their selection letters,” she shares.
Applicants for enrolment in the college have gone up by about 30% because of the placement cell (and other) facilities introduced in the last decade.