There is one thing we recognise by instinct: The world has changed from what it was 20 years ago but education in India hasn’t changed all that much.
While curriculum has largely remained static, its application has become increasingly dynamic.
Today we have industries reliant on mobile technologies, augmented reality, vibrant online communities, renewable energy and drone technology. However, educational content, assessment and certification processes have lagged behind the relentless advances in technology.
Today, we stare at the hard reality – we have under invested in education for employability. Where do we find professional skills and vocational programs linked to a university degree? The answer is not difficult to seek.
There is a marked disconnect between what academia is producing and what industry and society need. With expectations of moderate to high growth, optimistic investment climate and expansion across key sectors like manufacturing, the demand for high levels of technical and soft skills will only increase further. As a result, a large section of Indian population needs to be skilled, re-skilled and up-skilled.
The Inter national Labour Organization (ILO) has noted that out of 73.4 million young people – 12.6% were out of work in 2013. Reason? The skills supply chain failed to adjust to the demand.
The problem is endemic across the globe but India sits among the top nations facing the problem. The 2013 global Talent Shortage Survey by Manpower Group showed that talent scarcity prevented 61% of employers in India from hiring people with the needed skills.
In another five years, the problem will spin out of control if we don’t act now. Forecasts suggest that by 2020, about 60% of India’s population of 1.3 billion will be in the working age group of 15-59 years. A majority of them will be unemployed.
This fracture in the skills supply chain could disrupt India’s plans of manufacturing dominance (Make in India), its goals to digitally empower citizens (Digital India), and its reduced dependence on fossil fuel and its carbon footprint by embracing renewables (National Solar Mission).
The major gaps in skills are in industries such as auto, building and construction, textiles and retail. Beside this, there is a skills shortage for jobs ranging from welders to masons and from electricians to nurses. Today, industries require market driven skills to meet their business needs of higher productivity, lower costs and higher efficiencies.
Hence, it is imperative that educational institutes beef up their in-house training facilities, industries tie-up and pact with training institutes.
They need to refurbish the curriculum, content and teaching cum training methodologies. What are the systems, infrastructure, processes and investments we need to overcome the skills challenges of India? These are questions that policy makers, planners and industry must quickly answer.