“There is a definite disconnect between the skills and aptitude of the majority of graduates and the needs of industry.”
Against the backdrop that India has one of the world's youngest population and unprecedented opportunity to accelerate growth, it is necessary to equip the youth with the right set of skills critical to make them employable. Though increasing employment opportunities are available, yet organisations are facing a shortage of skilled and competent manpower because the pool of 'qualified' candidates which is available is not 'skilled' enough to meet the requirements of industry. This paper with the help of insights of different research studies tries to identify the importance of incorporating skills and competencies in the educational framework to enhance chances of employability.
Significance of the study
India's key strength is its favorable demography - the average age of its population will be 29 years in 2020. The demographic dividend translates into growth in several ways. It holds the promise of an expanding middle class, affordable labor force, productivity growth, and thereby giving rise to greater economic growth. However, the same demographics can prove to be a curse: where educated youth fail to find jobs and this unemployment can lead to social unrest and have a destabilizing effect on an economy. Employers ranging from software service providers to retail chains have been complaining about how difficult it is to find fresh graduates with the skills their industries require—whether the technical acumen to trouble-shoot business processes and systems or inter-personal and conversational skills to deal with customers and colleagues. So it is imperative to bridge the employability-skill gap by incorporating employability skills in the curriculum.
Objective of the study
There is a need to integrate employment enhancing skills in the mainstream core curriculum of students pursuing a graduation course, be it the three years Bachelors/Masters degree course or professional graduate/post graduate course so as to make them employable in the private sector.
This paper is a conceptual paper incorporating the findings and suggestions based on secondary data mentioned in different research studies on the topic. The period of study is from the year 2010-2015. Given the paradox that higher the education, higher the rate of unemployment, an imperative need has been identified to incorporate employability enhancing skills in the academic course structure.
In less than a decade, India is strategically poised to emerge as the world's largest human capital provider. Our demographics point to a clear advantage — we are the world's second most populous country, with over 50% of the population less than 25 years of age. However, unemployment rate in India shot up to a five-year high of 5 per cent in 2015-16 says a report by Labor Bureau. And though the country has a gross enrollment ratio of 20% in higher education, various reports have highlighted that only a fraction of our professional graduates are employable.
India turns out about 350,000 engineers and 2.5 million other university graduates annually, yet at any given time five million graduates are unemployed, according to industry lobby Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The data of Census 2011 analyzed by The Hindu shows that of the 116 million Indians who were either seeking or available for work, 32 million were illiterate and 84 literate. Among literates, unemployment rates were higher among the better qualified, highest of all among the 7.2 million people with a technical diploma or certificate other than a degree. Overall, India's unemployment rate grew from 6.8 p.c. in 2001 to 9.6 p.c. in 2011, based on official Census data. A challenge for the country is driving change that will ensure a competitive, skilled workforce well-equipped for the vagaries of a knowledge economy.
Identifying the Employability-Skills Gap
Employability skills are general skills that are needed to get most jobs, but they also help you to stay in a job and work your way to the top. While there will always be some job specific skills that an employer is looking for, most employers will also want you to have some general skills. It talks about two areas - one being the job specific skills and the second general skills. Students lack job-specific skills because our education system is more academic oriented. It gives more thrust on acquiring bookish knowledge rather that understanding and using its application; while the key skills areas for employers are: Effective oral and written communication skills; IT literacy; flexibility; ability to work independently; resourcefulness; research, investigative and intellectual skills and good interpersonal skills like teamwork, people skills, etc.
As per India Skills Report 2015, it was found out that of all the students entering the job market across the country, hardly 1/3rd meet the criteria of the employment set by the employers. Corporates are spending huge amounts of money to retrain fresh graduates just to make them employable. According to Nasscom, the information technology (IT) industry spends $0.75 billion on training fresh campus graduates annually. Imagine how many new jobs can be created if this amount is invested in business?
The pie chart above is a graphical representation of the skill needs in terms of absolute numbers of frequency of response. The chart clearly indicates that employers are looking for non-cognitive skills, which are pre-dominantly generic skills and promote long term success of the employees. The difference between the 'qualified' and 'skilled' talent pool is a common problem across sectors. While every year one lakh of qualified candidates get added to the talent pool, the one's with required skills is very low. Therefore a challenge for the country is driving change that will ensure a competitive, skilled workforce well-equipped for the vagaries of a knowledge economy. To achieve this, there is a common agreement that both the quality and quantity of university graduates matter.It is estimated that there will be 104.62 million fresh entrants to the workforce by 2022 who will need to be skilled.
Source: India Skills Report – 2016
Bridging the Gap
Each job with different work environment and team dynamics required different abilities to meet the objectives of the job. Employers prefer to employ persons with both degree and professional qualifications clearly indicating better career prospects for university students if supplemented with professional qualifications. It is recommended that the curriculum should include more opportunities to integrate class-room instructions with actual working environment. Academic institutions need to work towards making students ready for industry. The ultimate purpose of these institutions is to produce employable talented work force to meet the growing needs of the industry. There needs to be more industry-academia interface to make the available skill pool more competent, like the ways mentioned below:
Considering the enormity of the impact, the skill – job gap is going to have in the socio-economic environment of the country, it needs immediate attention. Communication skills need highest focus during academic times for youth in order to bridge this 'gap' from industries perspective followed by Life Skills and Fundamental Skills. Academic fraternity and industries need to join hands and contribute towards this mission. More soft skills interventions at college level on communication skills, social skills and life skills would help in reducing this gap and make the graduates employable. So the study with ascertained facts concludes that to enhance employability, a blend of education and skills is essential to reap our demographic dividend, before it turns into a disaster.