What would it take for making IT graduates employable?
This is that time of the year when graduating students gear up to learn about their fate in the job market, having invested three or four years in acquiring appropriate educational qualifications. With the digital technology businesses booming and over 75% of the global needs being sourced from India, IT graduates and their alma maters should not have a cause for concern. However, in reality, the industry continues to experience a shortage of right talent and only 20% of the talent pool of IT graduates is employable.
In view of the challenges faced in sourcing the right talent, large organisations which recruit 15,000-20,000 freshers each year, have developed a robust talent sourcing and development system, including well-established partnerships with a network of colleges that are willing to adhere to their guidelines on academic and grooming requirements. Mid-sized companies manage to tap into the available talent pool from the academic institutions or from the market as and when required for their relatively smaller numbers.
Startups and smaller companies do face challenges to attract the right talent as some of them may need high calibre talent for whom they may be prepared to pay above the market rates and some others would have the challenge to attract the right talent prepared to work with relatively unknown brands and even willing to work at salaries lower than the market rates. Therefore, the question rises about the 80% of the students who do not make the cut: What happens to them? In most cases, they are left to find their own destiny.
Academic institutions even today mostly focus on placement with large and well placed companies as their key metrics for success. Academic processes and students and parents are also aligned with this objective. By and large, the current academic system is not geared to opening up the minds of the students to other available opportunities. In fact, students who do not manage to get campus offers require more focused training on acquiring relevant skills that would fetch them meaningful jobs.
In today’s context, almost every job has an IT or digital component and therefore students need to be counselled and groomed to understand the requirements of different domains and be able to take up roles that require a blend of functional skills and digital fluency for performing such roles. What should also be recognised is that the demand for coders is for those with exceptional skills and in the near future, the demand for coders in large numbers would be dwindling because of automation, repurposing of software libraries and smart tools being designed to handle coding in large parts. The demand for professionally trained personnel to handle data is growing and this could be an alternate path.
Therefore there is a need to rethink the academic focus on producing computer science specialists in large numbers and instead redefine the streams to support the needs of businesses for data engineers, data managers and data visualisers with a foundation level knowledge of computer science and coding along with a sound understanding of handling large and diverse types of data. Students should be encouraged to seek opportunities to work with MSMEs in implementation and adaptation of systems. This would help students understand business problems from close quarters. This may even make some of them to consider entrepreneurship as an alternative.
In summary, reorientation of curriculum, counselling for making the right choice of learning paths and implementation of apprenticeships as recommended by the government are some of the ways by which employability of talent could be maximised.
The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company