Professional Skill Set - A distant dream for a common man.
In continuation to my earlier article on the gap between the market demand and supply of the skill sets in India, I am going to analyze the reasons why India is lagging behind in acquiring the skill sets required for the industry.
Despite 1.5 million engineers, 28000 doctors, 0.273 million arts graduates, and 0.267 million commerce graduates coming out of college every year, the industry in India has not shown much progress in the last decade (2010-2020).
As highlighted in my last article, the lack of skills required for the industry is the major reason for unemployability. If we observe carefully, the industry and the education sector though present in the same country, were not able to connect the dots and fill the gaps in the demand and supply of skill sets.
So, where is the problem?
To be fair, the problem cannot be attributed to any party in specific, like the present and past governments, industry, or educational institutions. It is indeed a collective failure to coordinate and meet the gaps despite an abundance of human resources.
As I look at the problem of lack of skill sets, I can find 3 major lapses from the three major players in education and industry.
1. Isolation of the education sector: It might be a bit weird for many of us to hear that our education system almost works in isolation from society. As far as my observation goes, apart from a few social sciences courses, the rest of the education system has less or no means of interaction with society. With this kind of education system where the students don't have access to the real world through their education system, it is hard to expect them to be ready for real-world job eligibility.
Though professional courses like MBBS, CA, & CS provide an opportunity to interact with the actual industry, many technical and non-technical courses will not provide such opportunities for their students.
If we dig a bit deeper into how this problem arises, we can see that the teaching staff of many courses was not involved in managing the course curriculums. They are strictly into teaching, conducting exams, and marking the students. With this kind of structure, there is hardly any chance for the students to get a real-life experience.
To improve the situation, educational institutions should implement a mechanism that can create a constant interaction between the students and industry experts. Apart from this, educational institutions should create curriculums in coordination with the industry.
This might be a bit costly initially. But as the students get more employability through the courses, the educational institutions can harvest the goodwill by creating more employable students.
Further, educational institutions should create specialized curriculums for experienced people and can provide certain discounts to their alumni to encourage the enrollment and enhancement of skills.
2. Lack of industry coordination: While we see industry icons like Tata's, Birla's, Reliance, ITC, and other major corporates having special trusts to promote education in rural and urban areas, they are very much limited to the primary education or into niche groups concentrating on rural development or their interest groups. But this is not sufficient to harness the full potential of a country like India with nearly 700 million employable humans.
The industry must incorporate a mechanism to understand the skill gap, analyze the methods to reduce the skill gap, and publish periodical feedback through appropriate channels to the government. This helps the industry to find better resources and thus improve productivity.
Apart from publishing their requirement to the governments, as highlighted earlier, the industry should create a necessary mechanism to coordinate with the educational institutions and shape the curriculums as per their requirements.
3. Lack of proper professional educational policy: In recent times, we saw the present central government introducing NEP2020 with a vision to promote inter-disciplinary curriculums at the higher education levels. Though this is a welcome step towards the changing needs of education and employability, this is not sufficient.
If we observe the transformation of the industry keenly, we can see a constant requirement for upgrading our skills as we acquire experience in a particular field. While NEP2020 is addressing the core problem of equipping fresh graduates with employable skills, the policymakers failed to even identify the requirement for enhancing skills along with industry experience.
The professional courses offered by multiple private and public institutions are still costly with a huge fee burden for the candidates who wish to acquire those skills. Along with the course fee burden, the candidates have to pay an additional 18% service tax on each course. So, to acquire a skill like six sigma or project management, a candidate has to shell out nearly Rs 1 lakh as taxes in addition to the hefty course fee.
With the ever-increasing costs due to multiple market factors, the additional cost of the tax is a hindrance for candidates who are earning a modest income.
So, there is a need to revise the tax structures and make them suitable to encourage the people to enhance their skills. This might seems to be a cost factor for the governments to take the push on the taxable incomes. However, the cost gets paid off when the enhanced skills improve the employability and improve the earning capacities of individuals and corporates thereby increasing the GDP of the country.
Apart from the monetary benefits, the governments should take periodical inputs from industry and educational sectors to reduce the gaps in skill sets.
These 3 gaps are a major hindrance for the common people to enhance their skills according to the changing industry environment.
Without addressing these major issues, neither the government can achieve "AtmaNirbharata" nor the common man can fulfill the dream of enhancing the skill set to achieve better employability.
Note: The article is purely based on my understanding and knowledge of the strategic hindrances in addressing the skill gap in India. This may not be complete.