IGNOU&rsquo:s Finishing School Employability Initiative

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The shortage of skilled labour and employable talent pool led to IGNOU's Finishing School Initiative where attempts have been made to address the issue by collaborating with country's best training partners

Aglobally acclaimed fact today is that scientific and technological capability of human resources is the major source of strength for all round economic growth and nation building. Consequently, success of an industry would depend on the quality of its work force. Currently, though India is brimming with employment opportunities across industry domains and verticals, there is a tremendous shortage in terms of skilled manpower. It is also euphoric about its demographic dividend since its working-age population (15-59 years) largely consists of youth (15-34 years) who can contribute as potential economic drivers of our country. As per an ILO report, in the next 20 years, only 19 percent Indians will be above 65yrs compared to 39 percent in the US, 53 percent in Germany and 67 percent in Japan with an estimated manpower increase of 135 million by 2050, according to United Nations; India will enjoy this demographic sweet spot only up to 2035. Hence converting this demographic dividend into a development dividend is inevitable and possible only by linking education to employability, aptly supported by 270 million appropriate jobs and placement opportunities.  

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India's rich demographic dividend is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge. By 2026, our country is estimated to harbor a working population of 800 million youth of which, only 30-35 percent is expected to be employed by the agriculture sector with the remaining to be absorbed by other emerging market driven sectors. The direction and pace at which education and formal skills training is imparted to our growing young population, will define whether it is an opportunity or a bane. In other words, 'Education for Employability' will be the key indicator and growth enabler.

Indian economy is going through a growth spurt with several sectors posting large manpower requirements at entry-level and lateral-levels. Supply of employable human resources to certain high growth sectors such as IT,  Banking, Finance and Insurance sectors is happening at a much slower rate resulting in demand-supply challenges to meet recruitment targets due to mismatch between skills acquired by job aspirants and skills required in that sector.

While domain-specific employable skills require continuous upgrading, they differ across industries. Generic employable skills on the other hand are though common to all industries, require continuous practice and refinement. 

One of the major objectives of higher educational institutes of today is therefore to provide learners an enabling environment to mature and transit from learning to workplace scenarios. In other words, education must make available an ecosystem that offers ample opportunities for its learners to practice and transform themselves by translating their knowledge into skills and competencies as per industry demands and expectations. A recent survey among students has shown that 75 percent of students study for employment (that is learning is for earning) without being aware of their aptitude and the need to be skilled in generic and domain specific skills. English communication skills and soft skills for workplace integration are critical yet lacking in most students. Efforts are being made by 17 different government departments and agencies to address this issue in accordance with PM's National Skills Mission that mandates 500 million skilled labors by 2022 through convergence of education world with the job world.

IGNOU is nurturing a talent pool of three million learners, a significant contribution to our workforce. In tune with widely accepted fact that current education system is incapable of equipping its learners with generic skills, IGNOU decided to achieve the 'Dearing Objective' of exposing our learners to key transferable skills during the course of their academic association with us to become a part of the knowledge society and Lifelong Learning.

IGNOU believes that students who understand the difference between Employment and employability have the best chance to succeed in life particularly at their workplace. Lifetime employability means possessing domain knowledge along with soft skills emphasising on an attitude that seeks continuous improvement in personal performance for all round productivity. Companies are ready to dole out performance- linked monitory incentives to a workforce that has a quest for continuous improvement of their skill sets. This scenario coupled with shortage of skilled labor and employable talent pool led to IGNOU's Finishing School Initiative where attempts have been made to address the issue by collaborating with country's best training partners to impart industry endorsed employable skills to our graduating students. The partnership has resulted in adopting a bouquet of eight programmes under the Finishing School Initiative.

Recruiters and employers assess the employable skills of each job aspirant against a template set by the industry, with stated competencies/performance indicators for various job profiles

Out of these eight, two programs offer employable skills in the IT Domain, one in BPO Skills and the remaining five are Generic, Professional and Soft Skills for all types of work places be it Corporate Office, Back office or Customer Facing set ups. The delivery mode is flexible and modular, in- sync with the philosophy of ODL system, but unlike it in terms of transaction of teaching learning process since it is offered in a blended manner with Face to Face (ILT), Print and Computer based. (On-Line).The programs are standalone backed with 100 percent Placement Assistance and can be pursued along with regular under graduate and post Graduate programs. Placement opportunities are available to students who have completed their graduation or any higher degree as per eligibility criteria. Besides instructor-led programmes from NIIT, Finishing School programmes are offered through virtual as well as mobile platforms too.

“The IGNOU-VMock online platform enables candidates to practice for job interviews and improve via feedback. The virtual platform strategy enables learners to know themselves, create their own video persona, answer career specific mock questions and take feedback from friends, alumni and IGNOU mentors already available on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. It is a boon for all job seekers since it effectively takes care of their last-mile to employability”

To sharpen interview skills with effective spoken English communication skills through mobile technology enabled platform we have collaborated with HK Webguru that has pioneered the use of mobile phone and land phone as a medium for live instructor led training for employability enhancement and career counseling. This innovation allows us to cater to the training needs of learners across the country irrespective of their location as long as they have access to a phone. Today the penetration of phone in the country has crossed 50 percent which means that 500 million Indians have easy access to a phone. A vast majority of them use mobile phones as mobile phones have become extremely affordable with India having one of the lowest call charges worldwide and the largest variety of low cost handsets.

Therefore with this understanding of employability and industry demands, IGNOU has made a foray into the country's skills scenario with its Finishing School Initiative where all programmes are designed to improve English language skills, handle job interview with ease coupled with essentials like business etiquette, importance of core corporate values and handling conflict to be offered through intensively planned delivery modes of short durations to enable its learner population get transformed into job ready  candidates for varied industry sectors.

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