“Learners join ITIs in the Northeast with the sole objective of eventually landing a job in Oil India Limited, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), and the Railways,” says Rajeeb on the general employment trends in the Northeast.
Rajeeb claims that while this is a lofty ideal to pursue with starting salaries as high as Rs.30,000 and job security for life, merely a handful actually crack the government exams.
“A student who passes out in 2022 will sit at home for an average of two years, preparing for these exams. Now, we have close to 1,400 students in our ITI across 22 trades. What are the chances that all of them will get placed in a government job?”
— Rajeeb Saikia, Placement Officer, Government. ITI, Jorhat in Assam
Rajeeb, otherwise employed as a supervisor, a job involving maintaining supplies for 2-3 trades, was given the additional responsibility as the PO only recently. Rajeeb was chosen for the role as once an employee in the private sector, he already had the employer connections pivotal for this role. But despite having the industry connect, Rajeeb realized the real challenge in the ITIs was not convincing employers to hire students but for the students to take up their job offer or apprenticeships.
“Oddly students from Jorhat, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh don’t want to leave Assam. In Tinsukia and Dibrugarh you at least have industry like BPCL and Hindustan Lever hiring candidates but in Jorhat there is no industry. Students have to leave the district for jobs,” he adds.
Rajeeb credits the two-day placement officers training organized by Quest Alliance last November in helping him address some of the challenges related to placement in the ITI.
“The biggest takeaway was the need to motivate students to look beyond a government job. The training emphasized on employing guest lectures as a tool to change long-held beliefs. An authoritative voice from the industry can really make a difference,” he adds.
Post-training Rajeeb conducted his first job drive. “We were taught this activity Market Scan to help students ascertain market realities. Students are required to shortlist local employment opportunities and talk to employers about their needs. I conducted the very first market scan even before the students did and urged three industries to come to our campus,” he adds.
Out of the 59 students, who participated in the job drive, 41 were offered jobs. According to a Tracer Study conducted by GoI, the Govt. ITI Jorhat already boasts of close to 70% placements between the period 2018-2021.
“We have had a placement cell since 2011. But breaking this trend towards government jobs will be the real challenge,” he adds.
Rajeeb has also conducted two apprenticeship melas as close to 30% of the students do opt for apprenticeship training in the ITI. “We have had a company come from Goa looking for candidates which was also providing accommodation. Goa felt very aspirational to many students and some of the students have agreed to give the apprenticeship a shot,” he adds, citing as an exception to the otherwise norm of not leaving the home state.
For the upcoming batches, Rajeeb hopes to conduct career preparedness activities like market scan, mock interviews, and resume preparation to be able to convince students to give jobs in the private sector a shot and understand market realities.
“There exists a mismatch now between student aspirations and what Industry gives freshers. But we cannot blame industry, students need to build a realistic understanding of the job market. If I am able to convince students to work while they are preparing for government jobs, it is half the battle won.”
— Rajeeb Saikia
Quest Alliance conducts Placement Officers Training across India to help POs build a network of peers within the state and address challenges collaboratively. The training offers guidance on setting up a placement cell at the institute and for organizing placement related activities in a systematic manner to prepare young people for the industry.