Probable steps to tackle skill crisis gagging Indian students

In the context of rethinking education and skilling in India, Renita D’Souza, Associate Fellow at ORF Mumbai and working in the domain of economics, quotes Aristotle in her article in orfonline.org, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” Drawing parallel from the quote, she writes that the case of India’s education and skilling enterprise stands in stark contradiction to Aristotle’s words.”

Unemployable Glut of Educated Workforce

She says that in the first place, there is a glut of engineers, MBA holders and graduates from other streams of education, who remain unemployable in, ironically, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. To top it all, the currently imparted education and skills training appear to fall short of inculcating the resilience needed to cope with economic downturn and rapid technological change. She throws a question as to what are the probable steps we can take to ameliorate education and/or tackle skill crisis besetting the country. Even though, this contentious issue is eliciting lot of discussion and debate for quite some time, nevertheless, there are few related points, which have not received enough thought and consideration, Renita laments.

Unemployability

She then lists out the numbers, citing India Skill Report 2018, published by Wheebox, in terms of un-employability of the educated workforce in India, which is, nevertheless, alarming. In the B.Pharma segment, the level of un-employability is 52%, Polytechnic 67%, MCA 56%, ITI 71%, B.Sc 66%, B.Com 66%, BA 63%, MBA 61% and engineering 48%.

Skill Deficit

“The India Skill Report 2018 informs us that un-employability across all educational domains stands at 54.4%. These figures reflect the skill deficit incapacitating the nation’s workforce. Agencies undertaking the assessment of employability are stunned by the abysmally poor performance on general aptitude tests and ignorance about basic facts. An alarmingly large subset of newly graduated engineers demonstrates a worrisome lack of basic programming skills. This skill gap is an outcome of outdated curriculum, poorly trained faculty, and, flawed teaching and learning pedagogy”, Renita points out.

Skill Mismatch

The author finds two dimensions to the issue of skill mismatch in India. Education in India is disconnected from the benchmark of the industry and the expectations of employers, accentuating the problem of unemployment in the country in the first place. What is more, skill mismatch has led to under-utilisation of education and skill. Following rejection for jobs which the highly educated thought they were suited for, they are increasingly applying for openings that require a lower educational level, she writes.

“ We have heard of graduates applying for clerical positions that demand higher secondary education. In recent times, this job crunch has compelled even Ph.D. holders, let alone postgraduates, to consider openings for blue collar jobs. Since employers are likely to hire those with higher levels of education, those who are ideal for these jobs in that their qualification is just adequate, neither more nor less, are crowded out. Depriving the latter of what they truly deserve is indeed disconcerting. This phenomenon also entails a lower return on the investment in higher education and the lost return represents a deadweight cost for the investor. In the Indian context, the investment takes the form of subsidies and the deadweight cost the wastage of taxpayers’ money”, Renita points out.

“If India chooses to be lethargic about dealing with the challenges that confront its educational and skilling system, it runs the risk of falling behind and being rendered irrelevant in the global context”, she warns. The Skill India mission, despite all the right intentions, has faltered in its implementation and has failed to reform the vocational education/training (VET) system. The goal of aligning the system with employer expectations and requirements is indeed the need of the hour. But why are these initiatives confined to the VET system? She asks.

Mapping the skill requirements of the industry

There is a crying need to map the skill requirements of the Industry and to review whether existing academic and skill programmes cater to these requirements. We need to modify policy to formally recognise employers as important stakeholders in formulating new and revising existing educational courses. In fact, it must be clearly specified a priori which of the job roles, existing or to be created in the labour market in the future, will hire graduates being produced by our educational system, Renita concludes.

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