In view of the prevailing health situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are dark clouds on either those looking for jobs or those seeking a job change for better opportunities. Moreover, students who have almost finished their academic/professional courses and were already preparing for placements are more worried, as companies across the textile value chain are not enthusiastic to hire fresh talent for at least next three months.
Global retailer PVH, the company behind brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, Izod, Arrow, Warner’s and many others, officially announced that it has put all hiring on hold and will not make any merit increases to salaries in 2020. Similarly, in India, various surveys show that companies are planning for 20-40 per cent layoff, as they see it as a major way to reduce cost. In this scenario, various fashion colleges are also worried about the placement of their students. As the overall impact of coronavirus will be there in the market for around 8 to 9 months, jobs for freshers is a big concern.
Some HR heads of various companies confirm to Apparel Resources that fresh hiring is their least priority for at least next 5 to 6 months. Whatever hiring was in process is now on hold. Apparel Resources has seen the mails of HR professionals of leading vertical giants of India (from manufacturers of yarn to well-known brands and stores) communicating, “Right now, we aren’t hiring for any position organisation-wide due to the financial low that the economy has faced.”
Timing proved a crucial factor in the entire current scenario, as the institutes who had placements before the pandemic are less impacted. Though majority of their students got placed, their joinings have been deferred. Prestigious institutes like Pearl Academy and DKTE remained lucky, as their placements got almost completed before the industry faced COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
At the same time, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) is feeling the heat, for they have placement sessions normally in April and May. India’s most respected institute for fashion technology, NIFT is indeed worried in this situation, and thus, has postponed its placement process across the country. Its campus placement 2020 schedule for UG and PG courses was originally scheduled to take place from 20 April to 1 May. The revised dates are yet to be announced.
“Our placement will be down by at least 30 to 35 per cent, as the situation is very grim at the industry’s end. At NIFT, each faculty member has been told to reach out to industry mentors of their mentees with a request of pre-placement offers wherever is possible. Most of the industry partners, who have replied, have communicated that presently they are not in a situation to make a pre-placement offer,” a senior most official at NIFT Delhi tells, requesting anonymity. NIFT didn’t not respond to our e-mails and phone calls regarding this issue. Another official of the Bangalore centre shares that placements can now happen by July-end or first week of August, depending on the situation.
Prof. (Dr.) Pradeep Joshi, heading various departments/courses as DG, Dean and Director, Amity University, UP, agrees that placements will definitely get affected, as companies will review the requirements as per the industry’s current situation. “Since our students pass out in May and June, there is still time. The placement drive has got affected everywhere though. However, I am optimistic that things will improve soon and the apparel industry will overcome the challenges with the government support, and manpower requirement or placement will not get affected much,” he comments.
Amity School of Fashion Technology (ASFT) has also already placed many students and rest are also going to get placed as soon as the industry and market re-open. “Our school is in touch with the companies and confident that placement drive of the companies will resume after a short span of time. However, we have to wait for a while and I am confident not much negative impact will be felt as industry will bounce back,” it adds.
On the other hand, Pearl Academy claims that 292 students from the 2020 batch who are seeking employment have already been placed and have witnessed a 20 per cent increase in average salaries. “We also have in pipeline 170 plus companies who have confirmed to hire our students and we expect hiring to resume once things normalise,” it maintains.
Similarly, DKTE’s Textile & Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, also shares that more than 80 per cent students of final year (various courses) have already got final placement offers with good packages through PPO and campus interviews conducted by leading national and international companies. “From the last many years, we are trying to place our students in emerging fields like technical textile, nonwoven manufacturing, medical textiles, home textiles, and e-commerce. So the impact of COVID-19 on placements of textile students will be limited. Lockdown has led to deferred dates of joining though,” informs S B Akiwate, Training & Placement Officer of this prestigious institute.
Not only mid-level professionals like designers, merchandisers and assistant production managers, etc. are worried due to all this, but even trained workers, supervisors and such professionals are in troubled waters. Though Apparel Training & Design Centre (ATDC), the biggest training network for apparel manufacturing across India, expects an even higher rate of entry level employment opportunities for its candidates, as lots of migrant workers have returned to their home towns causing large-scale attrition in the apparel manufacturing industry, and considering prolonged lockdown, may not return anytime soon.
Whenever and whatever jobs will be there, it is sure that freshers will not receive even the last year’s packages. ATDC is of the opinion that initially the wage structure may be 20-30 per cent lower than current levels, the industry would still have to offer sustainable wage structure above the minimum wage levels to attract the workforce to join the mainstream apparel industry.
Anup Sasidharan, Director – Strategic Alliances and International Partnerships, Pearl Academy, feels that while most companies may reduce the number of vacancies and still retain the same deserving packages for the right candidates, this may not be the same when it comes to MSMEs and start-ups. “I expect the overall packages to reduce by around 10-15 per cent, however, potential employees/students who are talented, with the right attitude, are multi-skilled, and adaptable to the changing industry scenarios, will continue to receive higher salaries,” he informs.
Prof. (Dr.) Pradeep feels that packages for new recruitments are decided by the company in advance and “I don’t think that leading companies will go for making downward changes in the packages and salary structure, however, manpower requirement as such may vary.”
At the same time, there are rays of hope also, as Anup believes, “Looking at the overall scenario, once things start coming back on track, we expect the industry will look forward to hiring fresh talent from institutes boasting of students good at digital marketing, photography, content writing, graphic designing, creating social media hype, logistics, visual merchandising, merchandising, client servicing, sales, etc. Such profiles will be in high demand.” There are enough chances that hiring of designers as freelancers or for specific projects will increase.
Students struggling with their projects
Poonam Peswani, an ex-NIFTian who is working with a leading fashion retailer, raised this issue and was supported by hundreds of working professionals and students. “This year, a lot of students will not be able to complete their graduation projects, as most of the companies have asked them to discontinue the projects in the interest of health and safety. Because of this, the students are panicking a lot, for they don’t know how NIFT and jobs will react to it. We, as industry mentors, are also guiding them over project completions and future paths,” she shares.
Amity has taken initiative of completion of course curriculum with online teaching – which has been very successful. It also has a series of webinars, FDPs being conducted by senior industry members and academicians for students.
Anup believes that it’s true that many businesses have postponed or cancelled internships and graduation projects. However, Pearl has not been adversely impacted by this, as most of these projects have been converted to online projects and are expected to be completed on time.
Efforts of institutes
ATDC would have to certainly enhance the skill-sets of its candidates to be trained for multi-skilling to take up various job roles available in the industry. Dr. Darlie Koshy, DG & CEO, ATDC, highlights “In the next two years’ time frame, we do expect technology adoption and automation to accelerate as a result of a reset following in the current displacement, etc., and therefore, ATDC’s RUN programme (Reskilling, Upskilling, New skilling) that focuses through various hybrid programmes including RPL, TOT, CSR-based special programmes will acquire even more relevance and importance. Thus, adoption of available technologies to be used for online training delivery for theory and soft-life skills, etc. would further strengthen the skill eco-system.”
Pearl Academy is investing more time in its final year graduates to hone their skills and ensure that learning continues in the “New Reality”. Its faculty is conducting classes online and intends to complete this semester as planned by the end of May.
Suggestions by professionals
“Professionals should be ready to face the challenge, accept the ground realities and must control self-expectations,” opines Gaurav Mahajan, President – Group Apparel, Raymond Ltd.
“Students should not to be choosy in jobs, but in case they are, they should sit, try interviews only with those companies where they are sure of the work profiles,” underlines Poonam Peswani.
“The candidates would have to be counselled to forego attitudes and egos, and take up available opportunities,” suggests ATDC.