A shared responsibility

What we require is a skills-based people strategy to bridge the education-industry divide, says Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India

November 06, 2021 03:52 pm | Updated 03:52 pm IST

Digital skills and soft skills have become the need of the hour.

Digital skills and soft skills have become the need of the hour.

The education-industry divide has been an ongoing topic of concern for all stakeholders — educational institutions, corporates and the students too. Just when the gap seemed to be closing in, newer challenges arose owing to evolving global trends and the pandemic-led extreme digitisation of education and the workplace, which accelerated the need for new workplace skills.

According to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), over 60% of the eight lakh engineers graduating every year in India remain unemployed and around 40% of the employers encounter challenges in attracting quality talent. It is estimated that India will have a skill deficit of close to 29 million by 2030.

For a country boasting of a rising number of start-up unicorns, local companies going global, and policies favouring ease of business, these numbers will be a cause of concern unless addressed immediately.

Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India on IBM Skill India mission

Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India on IBM Skill India mission

“Skilling has to be a shared responsibility of industry and society at large. Industry, educational institutions, government, and public sector leaders should join forces to build a robust global talent pool and create the ecosystem required for a conducive learning environment,” feels Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India, sharing his thoughts on the need for accelerating skilling initiatives. Excerpts from an interview:

Which of the skills required for employability is most lacking in today’s graduates?

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital skills and soft skills — also called behavioural skills. While being agile, resilient, knowing change management, and having all-rounded behavioural and good communication skills were always in demand, it would be accurate to say that, given the changes we see in the industry and society around us, these have become the need of the hour.

Executives are now tasked with continuously innovating and succeeding in this constantly evolving landscape. And they recognise that navigating it requires individuals who can: a) work in flatter organisations; b) be empowered to make decisions faster; c) work in teams with people from across geographies and cultural backgrounds; and d) innovate together to come up with disruptive ideas.

What are the challenges to upskilling specific to girls/women?

The country’s National Science Foundation predicts that 80% of jobs in the next decade will require STEM skills. This seems like a great opportunity; however, in reality, while women make up about 50% of STEM graduates, only 34% of them are part of the workforce in India’s IT industry.

Girls also face gender-specific challenges like societal stereotypes and family pressure, lack of organisational support, and the difference in abilities.

To deal with this, we need to create role models and involve career coaches who can help them navigate their career journey, integrate life skills coaching into skilling programmes, and interface with their families and communities to lend support.

How can the private sector help in bridging the skill gap?

Though it will require concerted effort, organisations must take the lead. Industry can help set up ‘centres of excellence’ at educational institutes and possibly widen the scale by providing more online education and project work to students across India. The pandemic has, in a way, helped reach deep into Tier-2/3 cities and cover a wider population of students digitally to help them be up to date with what is current.

They must move beyond hiring and traditional training initiatives and commit to the continuous, strategic exploration of new paths. They need to place skills at the centre of their people strategy and aim for deep visibility into the skills position across the enterprise.

A skills-based people strategy should include:

Personalisation: Skill and learning experiences that are tailored both to market needs and to individual goals and interests can help retain the best and brightest and build a future workforce.

New collar skills: The hiring strategies for selecting new workers involve looking beyond the information on the resume and seeking potential over experience.

Inside and out perspective: To remain competitive, culture shifts are required to welcome third parties as part of the team, embrace partners to manage specific internal functions. The organisation needs to build agile teams with heterogeneous skillsets to enable experiential peer-to-peer innovation and create a culture where learning becomes viral.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.