You can't send a Duck to Eagle School – Mac Anderson, Author
Gone are the days when securing a degree was the main requirement for landing a job. Today, though it still holds value, it is not the ultimate ticket to enter the corporate world. The dynamics of the business world are changing rapidly, giving rise to new demands in terms of individual capabilities and skill sets. As India Inc has carved a niche in the global market, it has raised the bar of education, skills and competency that is needed to succeed at a global level. And for India to maintain a competitive edge internationally, the onus lies on educational institutions to produce industry-ready talent who can make a difference to the development and growth of our economy.
The ground reality however, tells a different story. The 'First India Skills Report 2014' released at the third CII National Conference on Skill Development reveals that it is not the lack of job opportunities that is plaguing the market, but lack of availability of skilled manpower that is causing concern. The joint study by CII, PeopleStrong and Wheebox suggests that two out of three job seekers do not meet a job provider’s requirements and hence are not considered 'fit' for the jobs available.
Looking at specific job sectors, The National Employability study of the IT and ITeS sectors conducted by Aspiring Minds shows that employability of candidates in IT product companies is as low as 4.22 percent, whereas employability in IT services companies is 17.84 percent (taking into account that the companies provide 3-6 months of in-house training). In stark contrast, research shows that a staggering 13.3 percent of India’s population in the age group of 15-29 years is currently unemployed.
So while there is no obvious shortage of manpower in India, why is there such a wide gap between demand and supply of talent? What are the missing skills that render a majority of our working population unemployable? This has become a subject of grave concern to the industry as well as educational institutes and the graduate community, giving rise to a lot of debate and discussion on how to solve this abysmal mismatch.
A global economic meltdown is only making the situation worse. Industries are changing their hiring strategies to reduce their losses and increase productivity and at the end of the day the work force takes the maximum hit. They are forced to take up jobs for which they are overqualified and underpaid, giving rise to stress and other disorders.
Graduates need to align themselves with current business requirements if they want to be eligible for a job. One of the challenges faced by fresh graduates is the lack of finishing schools in India. The technical knowledge that they are equipped with is not sufficient to make them good managers or team players, where interpersonal, communication and other soft skills define the complete role. Faced with their own constraints of time and money, companies are also wary of taking up additional training costs for new employees. However, in the current scenario, they are left with little or no choice. So in order to reduce their costs and ensure quality and consistency, companies nowadays prefer to outsource employee training and assessment to experts. According to a report by IDFC- SSKI, corporate training in India is estimated to be a $50 million market and will expand by 25 percent in the coming year. To stay competitive, companies have to invest on internal training and development of employees, which they are willing to do to some extent. But to circumvent this problem entirely, they prefer hiring candidates who are already equipped with the pertinent skill sets to match the job requirements.
Industry experts believe that in addition to core domain knowledge, eligible candidates must possess skills related to problem solving, relationship management, communication, analytical ability and business development. Companies look for go-getters who are also out-of-the-box thinkers. Unfortunately, the Indian education system does not prepare students for these workplace requirements. Faced with this reality, students are seeking different ways to enhance their careers and increase their chances of finding a job, by looking for temporary jobs or internships which will give them a fair amount of industry exposure and experience.
The gap in demand for jobs and the availability of skills is growing steadily over the years and the need of the hour is for the industry and educational institutions to come together and integrate their specialisations to enhance the eligibility of talent. The private sector must be actively involved with educational institutions to evolve a common strategy for talent development and hiring and through a strategic partnership, explore the possibilities of customising the education curriculum to suit the current needs of the industry. Industry mentoring is also a way to facilitate the development of skills and training at the undergraduate level and alleviate the problem of not being able to source the right talent. Partnerships between industry and educational institutes will go a long way in plugging the talent gap and impacting the economy as a whole.
Ketan Kapoor is an alumnus of IIT- Roorkee (1997-2001) and IIM Calcutta (2002-2004). Ketan co-founded Mettl , an online assessment and testing platform in 2010, with Tonmoy Shingal.