Meera (26), a farmer’s daughter from Burdwan, West Bengal, had dreams of becoming an engineer. Her father spent all his savings on her education and got her admitted to a private engineering college that guaranteed placement. Even after two years of her graduation, Meera remains unemployed. She told BE, “I had dreamt of getting a good job in the city and give my parents a better life. I have been trying for jobs in many companies but have not succeeded yet. They say even if I have a degree, I am not job-ready. I feel dejected.”
Meera’s case exposes a central flaw in Indian educational institutions where students are taught but are not primed for employment. Studies conducted by industry federations and consultancies have found that of the 12 million people entering the Indian labour market every year, nearly 75% are not job-ready.
In most educational institutions, students are assured placements but no employable education or skill education is incorporated in their curriculum. According to the employment readiness model, becoming “employment ready” involves achieving three interrelated goals of being self-sufficient on employability factors that prepare one to manage their work life, have soft skills that help to perform effectively, and understand the particular stresses or challenges associated with the profession.
The India Skills Report prepared by the human resources company PeopleStrong in association with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) states that India would need 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to meet the demands of its growing economy. It observes that India has enough manpower but the workforce is not job-worthy.
Although the government has set a target to skill-train 500 million people by 2022, India is likely to fall far short of the target. It has a capacity to train a maximum of 8 to 10 million individuals every year. According to official data, since April 2011, departments and ministries of the Central government have cumulatively trained 17.39 million and have missed the target in two of the last three years.
Our education system
The priority of our education system is to ascertain that every child is being adequately prepared for his future. As per the 2011 Census, India had the largest non-literate population in the world aged 7 and above and the figure stood at 28.26 crore. The biggest challenge facing school education relates to the sluggish learning rate. Poor quality learning at the primary and upper primary stages affects students at the secondary stage and even in higher education. The Aspiring Minds national employability report based on a study of more than 1,50,000 engineering students who graduated in 2015 from over 650 colleges, states that 80% of them are unemployable.
Moreover, the elite urban classes have access to the best education in the posh private schools leaving the ill-equipped state-run and sponsored institutions for the masses. This is leading to a divide in skill sets.
R.N. Mukherjee, an IIT Professor, and Director, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, told BE, “Indian students are not properly trained in education centres. That is the most important drawback for our education system. Students from any discipline with proper education are eligible to earn a decent livelihood. In our country, it is true, opportunity is less. Here we do not select good students. To create an analytical brain in every sphere of education is possible and our task is to create such an atmosphere in the institutes. Actually, I am talking of the need of a rounded education system in the country. Then the job opportunity for the students will increase.”
Anil Swarup, Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, said, “The fulcrum of Indian education is its teachers. B.Ed. colleges are mushrooming with no proper affiliation. In the next 3-4 years, 40-50% of these colleges will be on the verge of losing their accreditation for not filing their validation. We will also introduce CAT/SAT for teachers. Teachers training will also be imparted after selection. Teachers will be facilitated with value education as well.”
Profit-hungry managements, lack of skill education, corruption, focus on rote-learning methods, and shortage of faculty (both in quantity and quality) are the major issues plaguing higher education.
The market doesn’t wish to hire inexperienced candidates. Companies don’t have enough training facilities to make young hires job-ready. Candidates are hired with an average of minimum 3-4 years of experience. Most of them are rejected during screening. At present, the manufacturing sector and the IT hold the worst statistics.
Companies who hire engineers emphasise that domain knowledge is not the only criteria; candidates need to have good work ethics too. The industry seems unhappy with the lack of skills in the young graduates. Industry-readiness, the right attitude, and communication skills are the keys to be hired by a company. Many IT companies also hire candidates based on their degree, but it takes time to groom them.
According to the All India Council of Technical Education, India produces over one million engineers and management graduates every year. However, not even a third of them find meaningful employment. Apart from graduates from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management and a handful of other similar top institutes, the rest of the institutions struggle to place their students.
A 2011 study by Nasscom states that of all those who wish to enter the lucrative information technology sector, less than a quarter are employable. There is a gap between demand and supply in employable workforce. With the government focusing on the manufacturing sector, jobs are likely to be created. However, the low employability of majority of the job-seekers can pose a problem.
Linking industry and academia
There is a poor coordination between the industry and the academia on training students with the required skills. While the academia has to ensure that students have employable qualities, the industry too must step forward and impart the required skill sets needed. As industry requirements are diverse, it may be difficult for the institutions to train students with different skill sets.
Students who are fresh out of college, often hear that they are not job-ready and only 25-30% of this section are employable. But the required skill-set and factors associated job-readiness are not well defined.
As Indian students are more prone to rote-learning, their year-long education is restricting them to think beyond the conventional level and satisfy recruiters with innovative answers and opinions. Apart from their degree, their CVs should showcase additional qualifications of various extra-curriculum and skill-enhancement programmes. Students should be imparted with language training along with other soft skill learning. Students should be encouraged to participate in research paper presentations and national-level competitions. Industrial training must be emphasised. Governmental initiatives like ‘Start-up India’ and ‘Make in India’ are positive efforts to enhance employability. The higher education sector must capture this opportunity and make students ready for employment.
But what could be the ways?
1. As the skill sets required by the industry are ever-changing, the corporates and educational institutions should work together to bridge the skill gap and produce employable students.
2. Higher educational institutions should analyse and understand the market requirements, pick up the essential skill sets to be incorporated in the curriculum, frame student outcome based on requirements and develop skills through academic activities.
3. Importance should be given to mathematics and science in engineering applications to understand the subject-related concepts and contemporary issues. Emphasis should also be given to Social Intelligence Quotient (SIQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ).
4. Incorporating adaptive thinking and adaptability is a must.
5. Cross-cultural competency by working in teams, critical thinking and innovative skills and cognitive management skills should be incorporated.