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.
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.