The information technology industry continues to charm new entrants in engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu, despite reduced hiring by the sector this year. Early admission trends show that new entrants in engineering colleges in the state are opting for Computer Science (CS) as their first choice.

The admission process started last week, with nearly 2 lakh seats available in 446 engineering colleges.

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Students are under great pressure from their parents and peers to take CS as the first choice, says a college faculty member. This is not a good sign as core programmes such as Mechanical, Civil and Electrical Engineering, are being ignored. The Civil department in some colleges has been closed due to the poor response, said a faculty member of a leading engineering college in Chennai.

“The ground reality is not known to parents and students opting for engineering courses,” says KK Sivagnana Prabhu, Dean, Career Development Centre, RMK Group of Institutions.

Students with a strong fundamental knowledge of core engineering subjects and good computer programming skills will have good employment opportunities. Civil engineering students are trained on GIS technologies and mechanical engineering students on PLM technology. Rather than train CS students on core technology skills, companies prefer core engineering students with additional programming skills, he said.

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Students need interdisciplinary knowledge to produce new innovative products. For example, development of electric cars would require students with skills in mechanical, electrical, electronics and computer science engineering, besides knowledge of chemistry for battery design, he adds.

Shanmuga Sundaram, Director, Centre for University Industry Collaboration, Anna University, says all colleges are in the same boat as far as choice of specialisation goes, and it’s not a good sign.

Students must understand that course selection should be based on the college/ institution’s performance (Quality of Education, Placements, Infrastructure, Teaching Learning Standards) and not merely on passing trends. For instance, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, which may be trending at the moment, are mandatory skills for engineers that are easy to augment. Students should be made aware of this so that they do not fall for advertisements and peer pressure, he said.

Students with core engineering knowledge (Mechanical, Electrical Engineering, EIE Civil), and additional coding skills are the most talented, which they (IT professionals) themselves vouch for, he said.

As the admission process has just started, it is too early to give any numbers, the faculty members said.

However, C Sunil, CEO, TeamLease Digital, a technology staffing company, differs when he says graduation in CS provides aspiring students and parents the best opportunity to land that dream job in the technology space. The software services industry, even though it employs only 0.8 per cent of the labour workforce, contributes 8 per cent of GDP as it offers better compensation to entrants after the initial training period.

Historically, the IT sector has given students a ticket to the West. It has fulfilled many dreams and it is, therefore, not surprising that CS remains the preferred choice among students, said Sunil.