by Divya Jain
As per information available on the official website of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), there are currently nearly 31 million unemployed Indians looking for jobs. While there is a demand for skilled workers in several sectors, including retail, IT, BPO, banking and financial services, the lack of essential skills and training make many job-seekers unfit for the available opportunities. As per the 2016-17 annual report of the Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship, less than five per cent of the total workforce in India has undergone formal skill training. To enable India’s unemployed to find suitable employment, the emphasis should be on skill development to bridge the talent gap.
Traditional jobs are requiring newer skills
15 million Indian youth enter the workforce each year. The feedback from corporate India and research institutes alike is that, 65-75% of these new entrants are not job-ready or employable. While some part of the blame can be attributed to the formal education system, to some degree this is being caused by the evolution in the job market as well. Till recently, a plumber or carpenter had to deal with a very limited variety of complaints and issues. Today, different homes have different systems, and these professionals may be lacking in their knowledge of these newer systems, like temperature-controlled showers or digitally-compatible locks. With the gig economy in full swing, these professionals also have to become adept at marketing their services on digital platforms and manage their bookings through their smartphones.
Current model of vocational training has not been effective
In the rural areas, especially due to geographical constraints and financial turmoil, hundreds of thousands of students either drop out of school or don’t study further. This effectively renders them unviable as candidates for anything other than the most basic and menial forms of employment. In 2017, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, conducted a study to evaluate India’s growing skills challenge and proposed recommendations to bridge the gap. However, according to the data, only 40% new employees recruited in local labour markets have the requisite job skills. While there are numerous institutes offering vocational education and training to people, the large number of unemployed in India suggests that they haven’t been very effective in ensuring employability either.
The higher education curricula needs more experience-based, real-world learning
While the Indian economy has shown tremendous growth potential, the growing skill gap is a major barrier to the country’s growth. The fast-evolving economic environment makes up-skilling crucial across job profiles and sectors. India is held back by both the skill gap and a struggling higher education system. That is why it has become imperative to transform the higher education system and create a new model that better aligns with industry imperatives. For this, the higher education curricula should be revamped by infusing experience-based, real-world learning. New teaching technologies and techniques should also be embraced. Higher education institutions should build alliances with industry partners, share learning, and help in offering a more practical, applied and experience-based education.
Technology can help scale educational and training initiatives affordably
With the government making a strategic effort to create a skilled workforce and prioritizing skill development initiatives, businesses and corporate houses are expected to get on board and invest in effective programs. Technology can help deliver quality education at scale and at an affordable cost. For example, Safeducate, India’s largest training, skilling and consulting firm that specializes in the domain of Supply Chain Management & Logistics, has deployed e-learning modules to increase access and convenience. The company is also experimenting with different content formats, adaptive and intelligent learning solutions, as well as interactive and immersive learning. Safeducate is doing its bit by skilling approximately 50,000 students per year and aims to make use technology to scale this to a million students per year in the future.
As per a recent World Bank report, India is one of the few countries in the world where the working population will be in excess of those dependent on them and this will continue for three decades, till almost 2040. This is a demographic dividend that most nations experience rarely. This means the focus should be on providing the right skills and training to the young population, who could lead the way for India to becoming a developed economy. With the population growth and demographic shifts occurring, India is currently at an inflexion point. A joint effort must be taken by the citizens, government, corporate and academia to bridge the skills gap, and move towards a brighter future.