Believe it or not but the economic slowdown has created an opportunity for companies quick enough to spot it. The business model: Training college graduates to make them more employable.
Predictably, it is the IT companies -- the industry that is inherently people-driven -- that have led the trend, but other corporations have also cashed in.
Among them are UBICS Inc, a provider of integrated IT and BPO services and an affiliate of the liquor-to-airline UB Group, HCL Infosystems, SEED Infotech, Pune, and Global Talent Track, Pune, a vocational education firm, to name a few.
Pune-based SEED, which was set up in 1994, launched a new initiative called Software Professionals' Incubation Centre early this month to provide IT-related training (in, .net, Java and so on) to make freshers more project-ready before they join a company. Twenty students are taking training in this initiative which calls itself a finishing school.
The idea behind this move is to reduce training time and costs that companies incur in training a candidate. In the IT and BPO sectors, for instance, a company spends Rs 1.5 lakh (Rs 150,000) to Rs 5 lakh (Rs 500,000) per candidate on training and other activities.
"Such courses could save companies Rs 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) to Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) a candidate so it's a 'win-win-win' situation for us, clients and students," said Narendra Barhate, managing director and CEO, SEED Infotech.
A SPIC training programme costs between Rs 40,000 and Rs 80,000 and includes a three to four-month session followed by a four or five-month long internship with one of SEED's clients or projects.
After the course is completed, candidates are recruited either by the company or a group company as a software trainee engineer.
GTT was set up towards the end of 2008 in Pune as a joint investment by Intel Capital and private equity firm Helion Ventures, and plans to have its training centres across the country. The cost of courses in GTT varies from Rs 4,500 to Rs 10,000.
GTT grants a paid internship in most cases at Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 a month and offers training in areas such as BPO, banking and retail.
"Organisations set up large facilities and spend huge amounts of time and money on freshers. Now, due to the slowdown, companies are trying to cut costs at entry levels. Most graduates who take professional courses are not equipped with the necessary skills and that is where we step in," says Uma Ganesh, CEO, GTT which has a partnership with University of Pune and aims to train 30,000 students in one year in a variety of sectors.
SPIC and GTT target graduates from colleges and universities. UB Group's 'campus to corporate' initiative has tied up with one institution -- Pune's Yashaswi Education Society which is a trust -- to create knowledge teams and address the changing needs in recruitment.
Manoj Mone, general manager, operations and technology, UBICS, points out, "A typical fresher takes up to three months to come to speed. Our research showed that managers were finding it difficult to train new recruits, not to mention the time and money loss. So, we started looking out for partners and incorporated our training programme in the Yashaswi syllabus."
UBICS works with Yashaswi to design the syllabus in such a way that when a student finishes his education, he already has an idea of how things work. "Currently, we train only in human resource and related subjects but plan to move to other sectors, cities and institutions too," Mone said.
The programme, which began in January this year, has around 110 full-time students and 60 part-time students.
So how useful are these courses for companies?
Recruiters are ambivalent. "Even if we get a trained candidate, some preliminary project-specific training still has to be given. Plus, we don't get enough trained candidates to make separate batches for them," said Sanket Sakpal, a hiring manager with a BPO.
"Designing independent training programmes exclusively for such candidates is out of question for simple cost reasons," Sakpal added.
Whether candidates are pre-trained or experienced, the key for those looking for a job in this environment is to acquire some kind of know-how that enhances their employability. As long as the twain can meet in these hard times, no one will complain.