India is home to 1.32 billion people. Around half of them are under the age of 25.
With a projected average age of 29 years, India will be one of the world’s youngest countries by 2020. Needless to say, the youth of the nation hold the reins of socio-economic change. They hold the potential to strengthen our country’s domestic and even international standing if channelized in the right direction. Also, India's working-age population is predicted to rise to 64% by 2021. Over time, if this population is productively engaged, the country’s private financial savings and physical capital investment are likely to boom.
For this to happen, it is crucial that the youth must be employment ready.
Our country has a vast untapped potential. According to the United Nations’ study on Indian employment, unemployment in India tends to rise. It states that, in India, "In percentage terms, unemployment rate will remain at 3.4 percent in 2017-18," It might seem a small number but when you account for India’s population, the numbers swell, “Unemployment in India is projected to increase from 17.7 million to 17.8 million in 2017 and 18 million next year”, the UN report adds. That’s an untapped horde of human resource waiting for its contribution to national-international growth.
In the previous article of this series, I discussed how Breaking the Vicious Circle of (Un)Employability has become urgent now mentioning various aspects to the engrossed issue of unemployment along with the associated reasons. It also briefly covered on how academic institutions are not being able to contribute much in solving the problem of unemployment by not updating to the need of the hour in terms of disciplines taught to students along with not skilling students enough to be ready for the industry needs.
As per latest researches, in the coming years, India will be having a large working-age population as compared to the dependent population. This ‘youth bulge’ will reach its peak in the year 2035. Analysts consider this period of a ‘youth bulge’ to be the abundance of human capital which can be used to fuel the growth of the country. Thus, the importance of employability cannot be denied. If anything, its need is dire. Employed citizens are the reason behind the development of big economies. Not only in terms of financial value but even in societal terms. And it is worth noting that unemployment is also one of the reasons for crimes.
On an average, more than 8 million students graduate every year in India (if we include the three, four or five years of degrees/programs). More than 75% students enter the job market but what’s worrying is that based on multiple reports – a very low % of these graduates are termed employable”.
So, what is the root cause of unemployability and why is a large population of students termed ‘unemployable’?
With continuous development, the shelf life of knowledge is decreasing. In many disciplines, what is taught and pedagogies used are obsolete. Hence, students are learning what the world no longer values.
Some of the more tangible aspects of an individual’s employability are qualifications, knowledge, skills, personal attributes, and some other intangible factors. The same attributes are also vital in promoting employment and economic growth.
When it comes to seeking employment job candidates come to the market with varying knowledge, competencies and abilities – broadly defined as ‘skills’ – combined with the outcome of individuals’ choices in terms of education, training, and work experiences. However, matching job seekers with available vacancies is not an automatic process. Imbalances between the demand and supply for people exist in all economies – they are sometimes inevitable. Matching the skills of a population and market is difficult. They need to go hand in hand in order to build social partnerships for better skills and better jobs. This gap between the skills required on the job market and those possessed by individuals also raise questions on a society’s ability to capitalize on its workforce.
This ability of to fully utilize and capitalize a society’s workforce is especially important for developing countries like India, where the contribution of all individuals is critical to the country’s general development, growth and sustainability in order to sustain itself and excel in a world of growing developed nations. The challenges to skill development are compounded by the market which is becoming more skill intensive, not only in the private sector but also in the government sector. Hence, demanding a speedy solution to the employability challenge.
It seems that the vicious circle of unemployability constitutes missing analysis on market needs, lack of its awareness in youth and absence of the right solution in form of a Parallel Curriculum.
Various institutions focus on academic knowledge and skip the much-needed focus on the employability skills like analytical ability, communication, soft skills, behavioral skills and domain knowledge.
In developing countries, the need of the hour is to skill, un-skill, and re-skill to keep up with the demands of ‘future of work’. Doing so can be the way to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the 21st century we are in. The undivided focus on academic knowledge should shift a towards the skilling of students so that they can be employment ready and the gap between education and employment readiness gets bridged.
There are numerous groups and individuals committed to the pursuit of helping bridge this divide. MeritTrac is at the forefront of this endeavor. Such organizations are helping higher education in fulfilling the purpose by offering courses, support, gap assessment insights allowing them to focus on the missing areas, re-enforce the weaknesses and make the youth work ready. They also help professionals up their game by aiding them in getting specialized degrees and certifications in disciplines that are in demand by the industry.
As said by the former president of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam,'Unemployability is a bigger crisis than unemployment”. It’s good to see initiatives which make the youth of today ‘work-ready’ and help professionals stay updated with what is in demand. The employability enhancement program introduced by Merit Trac - AceTrac stands out and completes the circle of continuous assessment and enhancement of skills. As a program dedicated to bridging employability gap (the gap between market demands and skills), it helps students to assess, identify, and enhance their skills; for recruiters, it offers access to an employable talent pool, all in one place.
Watch out for the next post in this series where we will discuss the role of corporates, the future jobs & market need of 21st century and how can you prepare yourself for the same.