A 2016 ASSOCHAM study revealed an alarming statistics, “Only 7 percent of the MBA graduates passing out from various business schools in India are employable.” Falling standards of the business schools and increasing gap between what recruiters want in MBA graduates and what skills they actually possess are behind this worrisome trend. Essentially, it represents an employability gap.
Another study done globally on the MBA graduates by Bloomberg articulates this gap with much more clarity. This study presented a matrix between common (skills) possessed by the business graduates and the desired skillets by the companies. The less common (among graduates) and more desired skills (by companies) quadrant depicts the nature of the employability gap. Among the less common, more desired skills are strategic thinking, creative problem solving skills, leadership skills and communication skills. These are the rare skills among graduates that companies desire most.
A Case for Change?
Traditionally most MBA pedagogy has relied on case studies that present a real life problem and enables the students to think from the perspective of the protagonist and evaluate the context and the problem. Then use the theoretical constructs to come up with solutions or possible strategies to deal with the problem.
While case method remains as one of the most preferred pedagogical tool in business schools they have not always been equally effective. The problem stems from certain facts – one it will not be wrong to say there is over-reliance on case method to infuse practical learning skills among students; second the kind of cases used are not really consistent across B-schools. So there are Harvard Ivey league business cases being used in some schools while others rely on those that are freely available on Google. Not all of these free ones are of good quality. Finally, case administering methods are also not very consistent. While good schools and professors use case as a way to stimulate critical thinking among students and search for realistic solutions, the more common method of case administration relies on student groups making presentations on the case with few comments from the professor. The latter approach does little to impart critical thinking skills among students.
Case studies, if properly used, can definitely stimulate a lot of thought. But even with the best of case application methods, it still essentially remains a classroom phenomenon. Innovating MBA pedagogy is the need of the hour to enable the students with employability skills.
One such innovative pedagogical tool that takes students not closer to practice but to the practice itself is the use of Live Company Projects undertaken during coursework. Students undertake these projects as a part of their coursework. The live projects differ from other projects with respect to the fact that these are real work assigned by the company to the students. These projects are most of the times linked to a particular course that these students are currently studying in the class. The professor who teaches the course also essentially guides them through these projects. The students generally spend the morning studying the course and afternoons and evening working with the company on the assigned project. Hence, the students get a unique opportunity to apply the learned knowledge in the class in real life projects.
The students initially face many challenges in the project but as the course work proceeds, their application level improves and over a period, they become extremely confident. Since these projects are based on real problems or challenges faced by the company it also exposes the students to potentially new technology or practice.
Live projects takes the thirsty to the well and makes them learn how to draw water and drink it too! In short, exposing students to practice and actual problems is a good idea along with exposing them to course work. And use of multiple live projects in organizations such as Time Inc., Capgemini, Cloudnine Hospitals, Vaidyagrama, Tesco, Edutech and even non-profits like Bangalore Scottish School have been very enriching tied to various courses that are taught in the semesters could definitely play a huge role in bridging the employability gap among MBA students.
Business schools cannot just simply keep churning out graduates. If they are not employable they will hit the brand equity of the program as well as of the schools, no wonder over 200 B-schools have been closed over the last couple of years in India. Graduating industry-ready competent MBAs can only be a win-win solution for the schools, students and for the corporate world. Innovative pedagogy can go a long way in ensuring the same.