By Neeti Sharma and Sumit Kumar
The sheer scale of the skills and employability crisis in India warrants a tectonic shift in how the problem is being addressed. 39% of employers say a skills shortage is the leading reason for vacancies in organizations. A large section of our graduates fails to match industry expectations. The current employability rate is at a mere 15% due to the gap between existent skill sets and required skill sets.
Soft skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving are some of the skills employers have found missing among new graduates rendering them “unemployable”. Many employers attribute the employability challenge to the flaws in our education system because employers spend the first three months training their new employees in skills that are required to meet business objectives.
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This invariably also raises concerns around the current Indian education system. One of the current challenges the education system faces is that a teacher’s mindset is simply to teach subjects theoretically, as per a defined curriculum. It is important to acknowledge that an educator’s role goes beyond teaching subjects – producing employable students is as much an academic objective is building domain knowledge. Consider this – how many educators are themselves exposed to the industry? To acquire the relevant understanding of the requirements of the industry, every teacher can be part of an industrial training program for a period of 3 – 6 months.
So where does the needle need to move? The answer lies in innovating at the intersection of employability and employment. It is imperative to define how we deliver and finance employability in the coming years. The task at hand is quite tough, also getting expensive and exhaustive occasionally. However, adopting a multi-pronged approach at both the micro and macro levels of learning and skilling is the only ideal way forward.
Recognizing and accepting that there is a mismatch between education 4.0 and industry 4.0 will be the first step towards resolving the employability crisis in India. And the only way to facilitate employability is to change the entire ecosystem – perception, attitude, government policies, and the approach to education as well as employer’s investment in employees.
Many believe that as long as structured, university dictated programs continue to be delivered in classrooms; the challenge will continue to persist. Students learn subjects in college that are irrelevant to their future corporate work life. So when they transition from subject to function in the workforce they are ill-equipped to handle their roles. One of the key solutions is using policy interventions to redefine the learning outcome of academic programs. Employability should become a key parameter. For example, not a single ITI teaches industrial painting whereas industrial painting is a crucial function in the manufacturing segment.
Another crucial step will be to revolutionize the classroom and make education learner-centric. The process can be made engaging through chunked microlearning modules and also by providing curated, personalized and relevant content to learners. Additionally, classroom training at higher education levels can be credit-based with options to choose from a combination of subjects rather than the traditional approach of choosing a single field of study.
However, while it is easy to design curriculum and programs, the challenge lies is delivering them successfully. Since learning is ultimately a personal and voluntary venture, only 10% of education can be delivered in classrooms. 70% of one’s employability can be developed if he or she is put in industry-focused situations where one can further hone their skills. The remaining 20% of learning is possible through interaction between peers.
Hence, integrating life skills in education degrees, facilitating on the job training, internships and apprenticeships are the front-foot steps in resolving the employability crisis. Additionally, every institution can get creative and personalized about how they facilitate academia-industry interaction to enhance the employability of their students. They have the freedom to create an industry-ready syllabus and think out of the box on their assignments and projects – can an MBA project be a socially responsible project?
Simultaneously, the onus is on the student to understand that education is not simply a means to higher wages or packages. It should be sown into the minds of students that being employed is about contributing to the workforce, community and even to the economy of the country.
As a final thought, if a country’s GDP is a significant measure of the productivity of its people then one has to ponder how a smaller population of 66 million individuals in the UK achieves a higher GDP than the 1.3 billion Indians and why only half our population produces 12% of the existing GDP. Can things be turned around for the youngest workforce of the globe and can we achieve the nation’s goal of becoming a 5 trillion economy by 2025 by enhancing our population’s employability?
(By Neeti Sharma is Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services and Sumit Kumar is Vice President, TeamLease Skills University. Views expressed are personal.)