That much-needed finishing touch

SOFT SKILLS

ON-THE-JOB Courses offered at a finshing school will typically cover business etiquette, confidence building, communication skills, team building, grooming and corporate dressing. PIC courtesy/indiaskills.“An article in Learning Simplified claims that last year, people at Infosys sorted through 1.3 million applicants, only to find that just two per cent of them were qualified for jobs. Various studies, including one by NASSCOM, over the last five years, have consistently reported that only 10% of graduates are directly employable. Of the 5,00,000 engineering graduates, only 62,500 are directly employable. If we leave out the graduates from metropolitan cities, the employable alumni reduce to 5% or less.

Therefore, the concept of finishing schools is vital to raise the employability levels of our youth,” says Monujesh Borooah, partner, Envision Talent Management. While this statement may sound rather compelling, it certainly highlights the potential that finishing schools hold.

Courses

Finishing schools focus on soft skills and are primarily intended for imparting certain work skills in the student, which will enable him/ her to perform his job better. Since the current education system concentrates more on imparting generic theoretical knowledge, it is not enough for the young student to start his/ her career and succeed in it. Typical courses in finishing schools revolve around the core areas of building personal excellence, enhancing interpersonal skills and creating business capabilities. Edge Academy offers 17 modules. Over the last 3 months, these have been converted into just 3 major modules — Corporate Etiquette (contains Body Language, Grooming — Power Dressing, Dining Etiquette and the Art of Polite Conversation), Leadership Skills (consists of SWOT Analysis, Delegation and Cross-functional Teams) and Effective Communication Skills (consists of Presentation Skills, Public Speaking, Interview Skills, etc). Likewise, at The Finishing School, courses offered include business etiquette, confidence building, communication skills, team building, grooming and corporate dressing.

IndiaSkills offers a wide range of qualifications across different industry verticals. It currently offers courses in Retail, Hospitality, Security, Hair & Beauty, Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) and Spoken English and will soon add technical trades in sectors like construction, manufacturing, refrigeration & air conditioning, auto service and follow it up with qualifications in sectors like warehousing and logistics, healthcare and media & entertainment. Spoken English, BFSI, Retail and Hospitality are currently the most sought-after courses by students. Developed with industry inputs and recognised by leading players in the industry, the qualifications are designed to provide a combination of both classroom learning and practical skills required to perform the specific job role. For the industry employers, this translates into a job-ready workforce with “first day, first hour” productivity.

Weighing pros & cons

While one can survive comfortably without learning anything from a finishing school, acquiring certain finer skills from a finishing school would give them an edge in any interaction. The benefit to the student is the increase in employability skills and better probability of success at work. The benefit to companies is that less expense is required to transition the recruit to the performance environment so that he or she becomes productive faster.

“There are numerous companies, institutions and individuals offering courses that are aimed at ‘polishing the diamond’. One problem that is often seen is that the focus is on training and not on the result. Is there any effort to coach or create an ecosystem for success after the training? Most often, there isn’t. The second problem is that, despite the fact that finishing schools are supposed to make you ready for the ‘real world’, they often do not. For example, a trainer could be talking about ‘innovation’, yet, is she delivering the lesson in an innovative manner? If not, the lesson on innovation will never be learnt! The most important problem is that despite all the studies and statistics, the target population of finishing schools — youth who are passing out from higher education — have no ‘buy-in’ to the concept. They understand the reality and the need only after numerous rejections and/or lack of success at work. By this time, they are trapped in a work cycle,” says Borooah.

“The concept of finishing schools is very important in today's competitive world. People get hired for their hard skills and get fired for their lack of soft skills. The response has been good. Initially, it used to be an initiative by the individual and now companies send nominations to the academy. We are a decade old and we enjoyed the early movers advantage. However, I see many such centres emerging and, thanks to the competition, trainers are getting better. We were forced to innovate and have now roped in SWOT specialists, psychologists, etc., for a complete assessment of the top 50 individuals in an organisation. We now focus on optimising the strengths of an individual,” says Sudhir Udayakanth, president & CEO, Edge Academy.

Growing demand

According to the NSDC (National Skills Development Commission) Report, India will need 83 million skilled workers across different industry verticals by 2015. With the current training capacity, India will produce only 3 million skilled workers. In this context, courses that imbibe workplace skills and enhance the employability of a student are extremely important since they will not only help in youth empowerment, but contribute to national development also.

“Our youth today are technically qualified but time and again we read that they lose out on opportunities due to the lack of confidence, ability to communicate effectively, or hold their own at work or socially. Today, it is a global market where we in India score well because of our fluency in the English language. By incorporating and balancing skills, we can gain a competitive edge. The response is very good as people have come to recognise that doing these programmes helps in building a complete person who is able to hold his own in any given situation. A person who can communicate and speak with confidence, who is groomed and dressed well, along with his business skills and technical qualifications, can climb up the career graph at a fast pace,” says Malathi Kumar, proprietor, The Finishing School.

Vocational courses that offer students not just classroom learning but also hands-on practical training in various aspects like customer relationship, people management, personality development, etc, are in demand now. “Students are realising that their regular college education does not equip them with the adequate communication and practical knowledge that are necessary to perform well in their professions. Even after a three year graduation, the youth often has to spend a considerable amount of time job hunting, which becomes very frustrating. Vocational courses offer students a fast-track education that opens up job opportunities and growth in the workplace. Thus, students get jobs faster and become responsible citizens of society,” says Hari Menon, CEO — IndiaSkills.

The most important benefit of a finishing school/ vocational course is the wide range of job opportunities they offer. Retail, Hospitality & BFSI are the fastest growing sectors and would need 20 million skilled candidates by 2015. Specialised sectors like Auto, Hair & Beauty are projected to need 5 million resources while the construction sector alone will require over 15 million skilled workers. Since India and China will be the talent providers in all verticals for the rest of the world by 2020, finishing schools will surely have an edge in meeting that challenge.

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