The EMPLOYABILITY of the UNEMPLOYED.
If you’ve been reading the papers recently, you would be hard pressed to avoid two key words, ‘Start-ups’ and ‘Unemployment’. On one hand, everyday you find a new ‘Startup’ popping its head out of the quagmire, mostly due to the availability of easy access to technology and on the other, a little lower in the newsprint, with not too glitzy a headline, you find a woeful tale of the rising ‘unemployment’ in the country.
The International Labour Organisation recently pegged the jobless in India to be at 18.3 million and rising. 60% of engineering graduates remain unemployed as per the National Board of Accreditation. Truly mind boggling, given that being an engineer and a doctor are some of the most sought after degrees for an Indian student. So how does one cure unemployment or at least attempt to do so?
You attempt a careful diagnosis and try to nullify the possible causes. While there can be many causes, EMPLOYABILITY or the lack of it, often goes unnoticed. Employability is not just about getting a JOB! It is about developing attributes, techniques or gaining experience with the emphasis less on ‘employ’ and more on ‘ability’.
Academia has always been the fulcrum of manpower supply to industry but lately, given the advancement of technology, there have been tensions between universities and employers when it comes to competencies, skills and attitudes of the workforce. Universities have turned into huge behemoths that are slow to turn with the passage of time while industries today no longer function at the pace set during the Industrial revolution but are already bringing fiction to life in this lifetime. “Change is the only constant”, an axiom aptly coined and indoctrinated in many a GE employee.
The traditional ‘Lecture based curriculum’ and ‘Exam-culture’ can no longer provide our students with the attributes that will help them attain meaningful and professional careers. Most of these can only be gained through experience, either real or simulated. What complicates things further is that these attributes change from organization to organization and even over time.
Many universities and in some cases, certain colleges themselves have taken the initiative to try and inculcate such attributes in their students but it more than often turns into an attempt akin to watching a ‘CAM’ version of the latest film on-line. Another key question is whether ‘Employability’ can actually be taught in the first place? The general consensus worldwide, is that it can but the jury is out on exactly how.
The Goa Technology Association has attempted to smoothen the gap between academy and industry. Since its inception last year, we have got on board as members, four of the Engineering Colleges i.e DBCE, PCCE, AITD, RIT and more are following suit. For us, it was a passion born from an ire after finding out that students could name just four IT companies based in Goa, when the actual number is closer to 100. We have since then, collaborated by having a Job fair with nearly 30 companies hiring, panel discussions and much more. Sadly this is just a drop in a very wide ocean. Academia needs to take a much more proactive role. It would not take much effort, given that some key activities that would help create a functional workforce are easily achievable within the confines of every reputed lyceum, indeed some as simple as the following.
- Support increased opportunities for student work experience, placements and internships.
The Catch-22 is that to get a job, one usually needs experience and to get that experience, one most certainly can get it only with a job. The Industry would definitely love to help as we can offer internships which serve two purposes. For students, it’s a way to find out if they really want to do something they hope to do for the rest of their career. For companies, it’s a way to test for fresh new ideas and to see if they can replenish their ranks with young blood in the future.
2) Design authentic assessment activities, aligned with industry practices, standards and approaches.
Make the outcome, process and mode of the assessment align with what your graduates might be required to do in the workplace. Is accessing them with a series of long written essays a real test of their mettle? Analyse what industry expects from them and access accordingly.
3) Know the career options and outcomes for your graduates and be explicit about career pathways.
Stay in touch with alumni, not just to say they are placed at prestigious organisations but to understand industry trends and practices which evolve constantly and to keep abreast of new opportunities.
4) Make the learning experience about knowledge, skills and attributes.
The printing press and the Internet have changed the role of the teacher from the keeper of knowledge to one who facilitates the evaluation and application of information. Employers expect not just degrees, but technical and soft skills too. To recall is fine, but to do is divine!!!
Shakuntala Devi summed it up best when she said, “Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.”