Bridge the skills gap

The employment landscape can be changed only by integrating skills with regular mainstream education in schools.

Updated - August 07, 2016 08:08 pm IST

Published - August 07, 2016 05:00 pm IST

A paradigm shift in approach to employment, from being qualification-based to skill-based is necessary. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

A paradigm shift in approach to employment, from being qualification-based to skill-based is necessary. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The resume reflected a master’s degree, but the professional status still read the same — educated but unemployed. This is a story common to a number of students in the country. With an overarching bent towards theoretical education with little or no exposure to practical know-how, this scenario has long been in the making.

With 15 million youngsters entering the workforce each year, more than 75 per cent are not job-ready. India will need 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to meet the demands of a growing economy. This glaring imbalance, due to lack of technical and soft skills, points towards the urgent and growing need to make young Indians job-ready, focusing on young graduates to augment their employability.

The young nation that we are with 62 per cent of our population in the working age group and more than 54 per cent of the total population below 25 years , there is a need to make drastic amends to solve the great Indian talent conundrum. To make the most of this demographic dividend that we, as a country possess, the maiden step towards this is to celebrate skills and accept their need and importance with an open mind, just like China.

For instance, the country currently faces a huge shortage of sales associates, computer operators, beauticians, hair stylists, medical sales representatives, mobile repair engineers, plumbers, electricians, sewing machine operators, masons, bartenders, painter-decorators. Yet, the scant regard we have for vocational training and skill development has led to decades of neglect of these skills.

Once this due regard to skills is given, there is a need to support the tech growth with investment in skills and knowledge to prepare for the future. Revamping the education system can help bridge the talent gap staring at us, especially at the college level, as it forms the first step into the professional world. Colleges need to collaborate with industries to chalk out a curriculum that entails and integrates technological education and advancements.

Technical education plays a vital role in the development of the country’s human resource by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. This will help increase the availability of better talent in the job market to be absorbed, as, in the current scenario, of the seven lakh engineering students that graduate annually, merely seven per cent are fit for core engineering jobs. What would also help is providing training in not just technical skills but also soft skills or communication skills, preparing them to transform into workers from students.

Most institutions do not prepare candidates for the new working world, making them struggle while facing the competencies of the professional realm. There is a pertinent need to equipgraduates with interpersonal communication, basic computer knowledge, the ability to speak English and work as a team.Recognising the need, efforts are being made with positive steps such as National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This will also lead to a paradigm shift in employment from being ‘qualification-based’ to ’skill-based’, making educational institutions focus on imparting skills that lead to employability, rather than merely doling out certificates and degrees. Integrating skills with regular main stream education in schools, will truly change the employment landscape at the most fundamental level in the country

A reinvention will need a vast paradigm shift to develop the tools of change needed to survive in the algorithm age. The demographic dividend if not given the treatment of skills may simply turn into a demographic disaster. The imbalance between the too few skilled workers and fewer jobs for the medium and low-skilled workforce is pointing towards impending disaster.

The author is CEO and MD, Centum Learning

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