“Learning-by-Doing and Learning-while-Earning are the Ways to Bridge the Gap,”

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Neeti Sharma, Vice President, TeamLease – IIJT

Although India’s higher education system contributes about 350,000 engineers and 2.5 million university graduates annually to our workforce, yet, at any given time, about five million graduates remain unemployed. A survey done by the McKinsey Global Institute shows multinationals find only 25 percent of Indian engineers employable, and according to NASSCOM, there are over three million graduates and post-graduates added every year to the Indian workforce. However, 58 percent of our graduates suffer some degree of unemployability and formal on-the-job- exposure is absent.
Industry, on the other hand, has had its share of challenges in getting its positions filled. Not only has it lowered its hiring standards at the bottom of the pyramid in order to be fully staffed, but it has also established training programmes to make hires productive. But this situation is unsustainable because it wrecks productivity and there is not viable model for employers to ‘manufacture’ their own employees.
This shortage of appropriately skilled labour across industries is being termed as the most significant challenge India will have to find solutions to.
We cannot predict the kind of jobs that would be available in the future, however, there is no stopping us from preparing for them. In the short term, we can create models that would work for job creation in industries such as Healthcare, Education, Hospitality, Sales, IT/ITeS, etc. However, in the long run, we need an ecosystem that effectively blends education, employability and employment frameworks. There are few ways we can develop skilled labour through our education system.

Increase the enrolment ratios in higher education: Part of the skills gap problem is that only a very small percentage of India’s youth go on to higher education. No more than seven percent of Indian youths between the age group of 18-25 go to college. Also, 40 percent of the people over the age of 15 are illiterate. On the other hand, we have universities not being able to keep up to the demand in hand. The best and the most selective universities generate too few graduates, and new private colleges are producing graduates of uneven quality.

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“Employers would be happy to contribute to developing a shared model with teaching institutions for jobs and their requirements”

Curriculum to match industry requirements: The current pace of industry and labour market changes mean that some curriculum is outdated much before a student completes his/her education. Besides the domain skills, industry also looks at soft skills, team building, values and attitude of an individual at the time of hiring. Upgrading curriculum and keeping up with the changes is required of the institutes. Also, the curriculum needs to be made in collaboration with the industry, and if possible, joint certifications/degrees between the academic institutes and industry.

Apprentices that give workplace exposure: Students would benefit greatly if higher education faculty either had prior work experience or would be required to spend some time on short-term assignments with employers. But students would also hit the ground running with employers if part of their programme had apprenticeships with employers. Even if these apprenticeships are not in the industry or function where the students find permanent jobs, these stints will give them an appreciation for the realities of the workplace. The lack of organised apprenticeships in India (we have only three lakh apprentices relative to Germany’s six million and Japan’s 10 million) sabotages employability by undermining an effective vehicle of learning-by-doing and learning-while-earning.

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