Few of us in leadership roles would disagree with the premise that our nation's leadership in technology is critical to our long-term competitiveness and prosperity. Innovations in hardware, software and services continue to fuel a significant and growing segment of our economy, and the future seems boundless. Yet our nation's educational foundation continues to weaken, and by neglecting this trend we are limiting our own futures. In fact, the greatest opportunities in the 21st century for young people are: in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as "STEM" fields. We have missed chances to arm tens of thousands of graduates with the critical, hands on STEM skills and experiences that we all need to successfully compete in a global economy.
Growing number of reports suggests that the graduates being churned out every year from most Indian universities are not industry ready, widening the gap between skills needed and skill pool available. National Association of Software and Services Companies' (NASSCOM) survey showcased that over 75 percent of IT graduates are not ready for jobs. The survey also reveals that India's $60 billion outsourcing industry is spending almost $1 billion a year training them to be fit for jobs.
Most of these studies point out that apart from technical knowledge, Indian graduates lack communication skills and interpersonal skills, and the inability to speak fluent English is another major cause of concern. While most students have theoretical cognizance, when it boils down to practical hands-on knowledge, our graduates tend to struggle.
To cater to the need for quality workforce, universities need to have flexible curriculums, better and more contemporary teaching methods and encourage experiential learning outside the classroom to keep up with the dynamic industry environment. Institutions and governments must invest in high quality research and innovation; career-focused institutions offering a wide range of technical and professional courses that produce industry-ready graduates are the need of the hour. The corporate and academia collaboration is thus very central to building and preparing the STEM workforce for the future. Building in an eco-system, where in STEM Graduates at an early stage are exposed to working standards and requirements and work culture of Corporate through a systemic framework of internships, research projects, or other consistent engagements is very much needed.
We need to take a holistic approach to building a vibrant 21st century STEM workforce. We should expose young people to the vast range of exciting STEM careers. We must connect today’s successful scientists and engineers with youth who may not otherwise have exposure to such mentors, to nurture the talents technology companies need to drive innovation. Advancing STEM education is truly a game-changer - a moral obligation of our society and an economic imperative. Students also must personally cater to their overall skill development by participating in industry trainings, symposiums and other related activities to enhance their technical expertise. How to build long term careers and not simply look for a job, should also be an area where young engineers are coached early on and encouraged to build skills for ensuring continued employability.
Working together, we can bolster our workforce, strengthen our nation's competitiveness for the future, and truly change the world.
She is currently the Director HR at SanDisk India and has over 17 years of experience in the industry. Supria Dhanda has a MBA in Human Resources from Goa Institute of Management and a PhD in Organizational Behavior from XLRI. She has worked with companies such as General Electric, Genpact and Alcatel Lucent.