By 2020, the country will receive a “demographic dividend” — 65% of the population will be under the age of 35. It would give the country a huge advantage, provided certain measures are taken. At present, statistics about unemployment rate among youth in India paint a dismal picture. According to the International Labour Organisation, in 2016, the global unemployment rate for youth stood at 13.1%. Data by the Labour Bureau suggest that, during that period, India was on par with the global average —13.2% of those between 18 and 29 years of age who were seeking a job in 2015-2016 remained unemployed.
Over the years, industry experts have argued that ‘lack of opportunities’ is a concern. But, there is a greater concern — lack of skills. According to the National Sample Survey, out of the 470 million people of working age in India, only 10% receive any kind of training or access to skilled employment opportunities.
Clearly, there’s a huge mismatch between demand and supply when it comes to skilled workforce and employment opportunities, which could place a strain on the economy in the long run. Though recent initiatives such as “Skill India Mission” aim to train and create an employable skilled talent pool of 500 million people by 2020, there still is a long way to go.
Besides the Government, Indian corporates have a huge responsibility in this area. Through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives (CSR), they can improve the scale, quality and sustainability of youth skills development programmes. Here are a few of the things corporates should be doing.
Catch them young
For any strategic long-term plan to work, change needs to begin early. Indian companies have to work with high schools and colleges to upgrade the current education system with the latest technology and know-how. There is a need to invest in research and analysis which will help build relevant training modules and syllabi as per the changing industry requirements.
Be their career guide
Many youngsters are clueless about their strengths and the career they should pursue. Inability to choose the right course impacts their career adversely. So, the process of guiding youngsters along the right career path should begin early -- at school. Peer pressure or what the parents/teachers deem right for the student often drives career choice. Experienced career counsellors can help the students understand their potential and interests and on the basis of industry trends, guide them to choose the right course and form of training.
Train the students
Develop a culture of ‘corporate training’. Traditionally, India is a culture focused on academic learning and professional qualifications. But today, due to volatile nature of the business environment, formal educational qualifications are not enough. Therefore, companies have to identify and work with individuals in communities, where they operate to build and run specialised personality and soft skills development programmes that focus on body language, work ethics, time management, team management and communication skills. Companies can also offer career counselling, vocational training and guidance through apprenticeships to high school graduates.
While the government and allied institutions have launched programmes and have set up frameworks to boost entrepreneurship in India, corporates can contribute to the success of these programmes by ensuring last-mile connectivity of government schemes and initiatives. By acting as a conduit between the government, financial institutions and the ambitious youth, corporates can bridge the gap between these stakeholders.
Investing CSR funds, adopting philanthropic models or conducting isolated trainings alone will not ensure long-term impact in the area of skills development. Companies have to create a robust audit framework and processes to monitor regulation of sustainable community programmes and their impact –- both short-term and long-term. Corporates have to map the success rate, review and modify existing programmes and initiatives so as to address the new challenges faced by the community with changing times. Beyond that, being the major beneficiary of the eventual skilled workforce that would be created, corporates have to offer their expertise and advise the government on shaping curriculum and policies that are aligned with market needs.
( Ashoke Joshi is Chairman of Srinivasan Services Trust, the social arm of TVS Motor Company. )