How to develop employability skills

Nagendran Sundararajan Mar 14 2018, 22:29 IST
To have the competitive advantage, students need to develop their employability during their time in the university. REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE

With a huge pool of highly skilled and trained people, it is of little wonder that India is in such an advantageous position. Which is why the country can provide a solution to the shortage of skills globally.

However, India needs a holistic approach to address the skills shortage in the country. It is estimated that by 2022, 700 million skilled workers will be needed to meet the needs of a growing Indian economy. Hence, the highly-trained demographic needs to be harnessed efficiently by creating job opportunities. Mass education of youngsters and their employment is key to ensuring that it is indeed a rich demographic dividend. On the contrary, according to several studies, India's performance on the employment and education front has been below average.

A degree is not enough to guarantee the employability of graduates. It is evident that the recruiters these days are looking for 'job-ready' graduates with job-specific skills in addition to academic excellence. Some of the skills that employers look for in a candidate include communication, adaptability, listening, problem-solving, teamwork and creativity.

Recent graduates have also begun to realise that having academic knowledge is no longer adequate in the world of work today. Hence, to have the competitive advantage, students need to develop their employability during their time in the university.

Reducing the gap

According to last year's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) report, only 20% of graduates get employed. Of the five million students who graduate every year, only one million get jobs. Over 50% of the country's youngsters lack basic employability skills. The Gross Enrolment Ratio for higher education in India is 34%. These figures are enough to give us an idea of the skill gaps and raises awareness on the steps we should take to reduce the gap.

Indian students tend to lag behind in these skills as the education system focuses more on academics and overlooks the need to develop employability skills. To solve this problem, educational institutes have to come up with a solution that would run along with the course and is easy for students to understand.

India's education system and skilling programmes work in isolation, leaving a gap between the two and this results in unemployment among youngsters. We need to create a bridge that will connect the two parallel streams using available technologies. Hence, the primary focus of the educational institutions should be to encourage students to expand their skill set. In addition, they should take up continuous and comprehensive employability tests that would assess their capabilities and enhance their skills over time to make them job-ready.

Based on the current trends in the job market, one question that every institution must ask is 'Are they preparing their students to learn, unlearn and relearn?' Some of the measures that institutes can take to do this include:

n Institutions should encourage change by introducing a modular approach of teaching. Teachers should be trained so that they can enhance the student's employability capacity.

n Soft skill programmes should be embedded in formal education. As soft skills can not be developed overnight, institutions must make an effort to introduce a curriculum that will enhance the student's soft skills.

nInstitutions should provide outcome-driven learning system instead of an input-driven one.

n Students should be encouraged to practically apply the concepts they have learnt. Allowing students to do projects can enable teachers to check their grasping abilities and presence of mind.

n Institutions should encourage students to acquire knowledge through a continuous learning process. Doing so would enable students to enhance their skills and polish their employability skills.

n Self-assessment should be given priority among students as it helps them assess critically and think objectively.

Actionable areas

There is a need to transform the education sector in terms of its approach and vision. The transformation should be such that it breaks into actionable areas and brings in a positive change that can bridge the skill gap.

This can be done by introducing an assessment that evaluates students' employability as per market standards. Assessment programmes can be introduced within the course structure. This helps students test their employability and improve it over a course of time with regular evaluations and post-assessment solutions.

With these aspects in mind, it is important to initiate change so that we can have highly-skilled employees of the future.

(The author is executive vice-president,
MeritTrac, Bengaluru)

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