Bridging India’s skill gap

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In today’s economy which is predominantly driven by knowledge, quality talent and advanced skills have become the most critical competitive advantage for organizations, write Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services and Sumit Kumar, Vice President, NETAP, TeamLease Services, for Elets News Network (ENN).

Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services

Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services

The dearth of skilled manpower has pushed companies to spend a lot of time and money in talent acquisition, training, skill development and talent retention. However, with 12.8 million job seekers entering the job market every year in India, is it possible for the companies to nurture talents continuously? The answer is obviously no. The challenge then revolves around how companies can get skilled manpower for their jobs? In India, unemployability is a bigger problem than unemployment.  90 percent of what we learn at our academic institutes is knowledge, where as 90 percent of jobs today require skills.  58 percent of India’s youth face some form of skill deprivation. In fact even the ones that get employed are hired on salaries far lower than what their scale should be. 45 percent of post graduates today make less than Rs 6500 per month.

India’s economy is expected to create “enough” employment opportunities for the equivalent skilled job seekers. And for this, our traditional approach needs to be redefined. India has been facing the problem of skill gap and we need a different approach to resolve this. Post Right to Education (RTE) Act, we have successfully increased the number of students attending school, yet, schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity. To stay ahead of the skill curve, it is imperative that our education system is aligned to industry expectations. Learning and training should take precedence in our education ecosystem. This will enable us to strengthen the skill base of our talent pool and help India bridge the existing skill gap.

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Some of the key elements in bridging this gap are:

Sumit Kumar, Vice President, NETAP, TeamLease Services

Sumit Kumar, Vice President, NETAP, TeamLease Services

Putting ‘Context’ in learning – We need to prepare context for learning and not just content. In today’s information driven era, content is easily accessible. We need to move from pouring content into people to create context as this is what will make them unique and improve the scope of employment. Today a learners’ attention span has dropped substantially to not more than 15 minutes. Hence our learning methods and content needs to be prepared accordingly.

Technology enabled learning – Technological disruption is consistently changing the course of learning and therefore it is important for our learning methods to evolve and be aligned to technology. New tech-enabled learning methods such as  flipped classrooms, smart boards, podcasts, gaming interventions can be used very effectively to teach not just face to face but also over the internet, thereby teaching a larger audience.

The four classrooms of learning – Traditionally teaching and skilling was restricted to 1-1 classrooms. While this has been considered a more effective form of learning, yet there are many limitations such as geographical barriers and the restricted access to best teachers, quality talent, and hands-on training. There is also the industry mismatch when it comes to demand and supply of talent. Learning should actually be delivered through a mix of the four forms of classrooms – On-Campus, Online, On-The Job and On-Site. Most skilling programs need to be integrated with On-The Job training and apprenticeship in order to be able to provide a more holistic learning experience. This makes the talent pool more effective, employable and productive. Industry has to play a huge role in providing ample apprenticeship opportunities as this will pave the way to prepare our workforce for the future.

Skill and vocational education– It is imperative that our students learn at least one vocational skill while they are at school/college. Vocational education should be embedded across all levels of learning and students should be encouraged to take up vocational skilling programs. Vocational education has helped the talent force enhance their skills and get better remunerations. In countries like Australia, UKA and USA skills such as electricians, plumbers, healthcare workers and drivers are most sought after and hence are very highly paid. In India, we are seeing a shift in the salaries of skilled workers going up, where as salaries of engineering and other graduates is spiraling downward. And the reason is very simple. The need for skilled workforce is on the rise and will continue to increase in almost all sectors.  It can be seen through various research reports that salaries of Blue Collar Workers are 10 – 27 percent more that of engineers.

Today, both the Central and State Governments are trying multiple approaches to skill the workforce to meet the demands of the job market. However there is still scope for a lot of amendments in the system. Industry majors are also taking revolutionary steps to upgrade and re-skill their employees. But this situation is unsustainable because it wrecks productivity. Employers’ creating their employees is not a viable model. The Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), through its Skill India programme is trying to align the three core aspects – industry, job seekers and the academia. The focus should be on creating a long term plan of creating a skilled talent pool. The skilling ecosystem in India has witnessed some great policy reforms which will create a stable platform for all stakeholders.

We have a unique problem in India. While most of our resources are spent in education, when it comes to employment we end up learning skills that the industry requires. The need of the hour is a more integrated academic system which provides holistic learning as well as imparts basic skill training. One cannot exist without the other. One needs a simultaneous and complimentary acquisition of both knowledge and skills. (Views expressed by authors are their personal opinion).

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