‘To be employed is to be at risk, to be employable is to be secure’
The Art of Building Windmills, Peter Hawkins (1999)
The biggest challenge in India’s growth and future is the shortage of the skilled employees across the industries. According to NASSCOM, each year over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, of these only 25 percent of technical graduates and 10-15 percent of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITES segments. The need of industry is knowledge and skills acquired with an eligibility to include skill-ready employees from day one. So, what we have today is a growing skills gap reflecting very small availability of high-quality college education in India and the multi-fold growth pace of the country’s service-driven economy, which is growing faster than most countries in the world. Thus, there is a need felt for the integration of job and learning, thus creating a need for customized programs for the industry.
Since businesses are planning to increase their workforce two-to-three times, India is facing challenges in maintain its position in the global marketplace. To maintain the sustenance, it has become important to have an innovative, competent and talented workforce of world-class standards.
One cannot ignore that to sustain the economic development and social presence in the knowledge society, knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness of the people is very critical. Given the current high-paced growth and dynamic investment climate in India, the demand for knowledge workers with high levels of technical and soft skills will only increase.
The spectra of a severe shortage of trained, skilled and knowledge workers is haunting India Inc. While demographics weigh in the country’s favor, quality of workforce does not. A look at the Indian education system will reveal that the number of technical schools in India, including engineering colleges, has actually more than trebled in the last decade, according to the All India Council of Technical Education. Ironically, creating a robust and continuous pipeline of talent has become even harder. The best and most selective universities generate too few graduates, and new private colleges are producing graduates of uneven quality. In this scenario, will industry-academia partnerships bridge the demand-supply gap?
Further, universities and educational institutions have been unable to update their syllabi in tune with the high speed changes taking place in the technological world. Hence, the students churned out are not equipped to meet the current industry requirements and often companies have to incur additional expenses (time and monetary) to train new hires. Corporate houses also feel the need for a stronger element of vocational training. Besides the technology aspect industries also evaluate competencies ranging soft skills, team building, overall attitude, and values. Success of countries like Japan and Germany can be attributed to the presence of a strong vocational training set-up.
Simply put, getting a degree, and putting a few letters after your name is just not enough to land you that plum job, or to launch your career. What you need is a portfolio of employability skills. Employers like to recruit graduates who have gone the ‘extra mile’, ‘joined in’, can work both individually and in a team, shown a capacity for leadership, and demonstrated a willingness to take risks by spending time travelling, and experiencing new situations and cultures. The success of individuals in a knowledge-based economy will increasingly depend upon skills, creativity and imagination. While basic literacy, numeracy, technical skills craft skills remain vital, today’s economy and society increasingly demands people with an ability to cope with change and adapt quickly to new environments and people.
Academic curriculum does not necessarily prepare individuals adequately for these workplace requirements. The ever increasing demand for skilled professionals and domain specialization has led to innovation within the academic space. The good news is that, while many soft skills are inherent, others can be learned. You can train yourself just as you can in hard skills.
There are also courses on communication skills that can not only teach you some soft skills but help you demonstrate to employers, self-awareness and initiative simply by the fact you have signed up. If you are shy, for example, get involved in debating societies and other clubs at school and university. Soft skills are what make your personal brand but you need to think about them. Instead of thinking, for example, ‘I have only worked at McDonald’s’, think ‘What did working at McDonald’s teach me?’
For employers, getting the right people means identifying people with the right skills and qualities to fulfill the role and contribute to the organization’s success. Candidates may have the qualifications and ‘hard skills’ needed to be able to manage the job role but, without a well-honed set of ‘soft skills’, employers are less inclined to hire.