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When Rajat Pal got his engineering degree from a top private college in Kolkata, he thought he had it made. It was a shock when he started started getting sidelined at job interviews. With great difficulty, he got a job with a construction major to sweat it out on the sites. But he prefers the grime of the field to a desk job when he would have to interact on a daily basis with his superiors in English.

He dreads the day when he is promoted as he soon will and have to work on the desk. A desperate Pal rushes from the field to an English speaking course twice a week.

“I had good marks in college. I come from North Dinajpur and English and Hindi were not a priority in our school days. In my college, there were many from English-medium schools. That wasn’t a problem. I got better marks than them,” Pal said. “I hadn’t faced the real world’ till then.”

The real test came when he had to appear in interviews for a job. At least 40-50% of those who passed out of private engineering colleges in Bengal have faced rejection at placement interviews in the last few years, say sources. The economic slowdown has made things worse.

Some institutes have set up language laboratories to improve the communication skills of their students. In some places, the experiment seems to have worked. In others, it is yet to be tested.

“Knowing English is important when it comes to getting jobs. But it is not the responsibility of engineering colleges to teach their students English. Students come to learn technical skills here, not language,” said Jadavpur University pro-vice chancellor Siddhartha Dutta.

Lack of communication skills is something that has long been bothering engineers passing out from tech colleges in and around the city. More than 50% of the engineers find it difficult to express themselves clearly, despite being thorough in their disciplines, say industry sources. While those coming from state-run institutes are somewhat better, those from private institutes are left in the lurch.

“Working on shop floors is relatively easy. Nowadays, most can understand as well as speak little bit of Hindi. Once a move is made to marketing, or any managerial position, communicating properly becomes very important. That is when the problems arise. Getting a job is not a problem, keeping it becomes tough,” said B Sardar, an engineer from Jadavpur university now working in Delhi.

Educators say that the problem is not just with language.

“Compared to youths from other states and also nationalities, those from this part of the country have low self confidence and exposure. It is not just jobs, even in higher education they find it difficult to compete at the national level. Those who make it big depend on their inherent talent and acquire skills,” said a teacher of a private engineering college.

Those involved with placement services feel that half of those who pass out from Bengal’s engineering colleges are short on communication skills. “There are many who need to improve upon their soft skills. It’s not just communication that they lack. There are other areas, like interaction with people, leadership, time management and many other aspects,” said Tushar Basu, director Analytic Consultant.

Stress is now being given on making presentations, framing responses in a structured manner and interacting with people.

Satyajit Chakraborty, director of the Salt Lake-based Institute of Engineering and Management, a private institute, says that students coming from the districts face the maximum problems. “They lack confidence, communication skills and are inhibited. They face problems before interview boards. We are holding classes to improve their skills in communication. Special teachers have been roped in for improving soft skills,” said Chakraborty.


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