by Divya Jain
More than 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% is below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. This demographic potential offers India and its growing economy an unprecedented edge over other countries. In a recent study conducted by Bloomberg News, it was discovered that India’s workforce will grow and turn out to be the largest one by 2027, with a billion people aged between 15 and 64. While the numbers represent a great opportunity for the economy, they also raise some parallel concerns regarding the skills and abilities of India’s young workforce to meet the ever-changing demands of the job market.
Constant developments taking place in the tech landscape
A young workforce symbolizes more innovative minds. It also means that India has the capability and workforce to better leverage technology and increase efficiency. This young workforce is required for the rapidly growing manufacturing and services sectors in India. However, the constant improvements witnessed in India’s tech landscape have resulted in a situation where the educated workforce is not trained enough to adapt tonew roles. This has led to a growing disparity between the skills required for top jobs and those that theexisting workforce has. There is a need to constantly upgrade and upskill India’s young workersto allow them to stay relevant in the job market. Understanding the skills gap and working towards bridging itisthe key to unlocking the potential of the country’s young workforce and ushering in a prolific era of tech innovation and economic prosperity.
Lack of relevant training in the formal education system
In the 2016-17 annual report of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, less than five per cent of the total workforce of India had undergone formal skill training. While there is a high demand for skilled workers in several sectors, including banking and financial services, retail, IT and BPO, the lack of skills and training make many job seekers unfit for the available opportunities. Along with educational qualifications, it is the additional skills that determine one’s employability quotient today. A lot of young students, who have completed their graduation are in search of entry-level jobs but are unable to fit in due to their inadequate skills. According to the common feedback received from corporate India and research institutes, 65-75% of these new entrants are not job-ready or employable. This is because of the lack of relevant training in the formal education system and the adoption of new technologies in the workplace as well.
For instance, in the earlier days, an electrician came across complaints like a tripped fuse, faulty wiring, etc. Today, with smart home automation system installations like temperature-controlled showers or digitally-compatible locks, these electricians are required to upskill themselves and learn more about the newer systems. If they don’t, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant in their own area of expertise. Besides, these professionals also have to become proficient at advertising their services on digital platforms and manage their bookings through their smartphones.
Importance of upskilling and training
Realizing the importance of upskilling and training, the government has introduced various initiatives like Skill India, Start-up India and Make in India to build up an ecosystem where young entrepreneurs can be nurtured and India canbuild up an efficient labour force which can efficiently work across major sectors of the economy. The government is working on a new approach of training candidates for jobs in their own districts that don’t require migration. In non-industrial areas, that could mean positions in automobile showrooms, mobile phone stores and fast-food restaurants. A lot of candidates are also being encouraged to establish and set up their own small businesses, like beauty salons.
Skill development will also help prospective employees to get easier access to the formal job market, where they can negotiate for higher incomes, work under better labour conditions, have greater job security and gain access to healthcare and medical facilities. Although the academic curriculum is more or less similar across universities and colleges in the country, students in smaller towns and cities lose out due to the lack of exposure and soft skills. While the government is allocating funds for upskilling and taking more initiatives for training, they should also ensure that their programs are comprehensive and include training, screening, matching, and mentoring.
Working collaboratively to bridge the skills gap
These programs must enable job seekers to find a job easily as per his/her skills and must train them in aspects like customer service and communication as well. A system that combines skills and education together can go a long way in ensuring that the youth are better equipped to handle a challenging employment market. Employers too need to interact with the education providers and get into several collaborations with educational institutions in assisting and designing the curriculum as well as extending faculty support with practical training and hands-on learning. Closing the skills gap requires educators and employers to work together more closely.
Businesses, educators, governments and young people need to work collaboratively to bridge the skills gap in India, and enable the country to move towards a brighter future. The young workforce of India acts as innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future, who will play a vital role in the transformation of the country. They should be well nurtured with employability skills to spur the Indian economy into its next orbit of growth and development.
Divya Jain is Founder and CEO of Safeducate.
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