For management graduates, public sector companies might not figure in the list of best employers, but engineering and science students are lapping up these opportunities.
And, in doing so, they have favoured the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), which saw a record 12,10,000 registrations this year, the highest ever. Last year, about 7,50,000 had registered for GATE.
The large number of applicants led Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-Bombay) to sign a memorandum of understanding with 15 public sector undertakings (PSUs) to accept GATE scores, compared with only four PSUs last year. "The PSUs have brought this change. GATE was basically used as a qualifying examination for MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) assistantships. But since PSUs began shortlisting candidates through GATE, the numbers have swelled," said Umesh Bellur, organising chairman, GATE 2013, IIT-Bombay.
"Conducting exams is an academic exercise and given GATE is a fairly standardised test and is conducted on an all-India scale, it brings economies of scale to PSUs," he added.
"It helps us outsource the examination process to GATE and concentrate on interviews and selecting students," said the human resource head at a PSU.
GATE is administered and conducted by the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institutes of Technology. Those passing this examination are eligible for admission to postgraduate programmes with government scholarships or assistantships in engineering colleges and universities.
After 2010, when an aptitude test was introduced in GATE, PSUs began shortlisting students appearing for the examination. About 4,60,000 candidates had registered for GATE in 2010.
About 1,700 jobs are up for grabs at 15 PSUs, which would recruit through GATE. These companies include Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), PowerGrid, NTPC, GAIL and National Aluminium Company Limited.
Through advertisements issued last year, Bhel said it planned to fill about 500 vacancies - 300 in the mechanical segment, 150 in electrical and 50 in electronics. HPCL said it planned to recruit 250 candidates for the mechanical, civil, electrical, instrumentation and electronics & telecommunication segments. NTPC would recruit 209 engineers through GATE. The pay structures for these jobs (graduate engineers to trainee engineers and management trainees) are between Rs 7,00,000 and Rs 10,00,000 a year.
"Till 2009, these companies had their own examination, similar to GATE. In 2011, Indian Oil Corporation began accepting candidates with GATE scores on an experimental basis. Other PSUs followed. Besides, for companies, the access to talent pool is much bigger this way," said Prudhvi Reddy, course director (GATE) at Triumphant Institute of Management Education.
Reddy added the rise in the number of GATE candidates was partly due to the recession, as students had decided to broad-base their job search. "The recession made people look for safer and stable jobs. Besides, with the Sixth Pay Commission in place, emoluments have become handsome."