Helping students bridge Bharat-India divide

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Only time can tell whether skill assessment tests hold promise in  the long term. But they certainly seem to be in the right spirit to bridge the Bharat- India divide. dh file photo

Even though 'Equal Opportunity' is a value espoused in the Constitution of India, it is seldom achieved in all spheres of life. It is one of those things which are easier said than done. Consider the employment scenario. Given the size and diversity of India, it is understandable that job opportunities in each part of the country would not be the same. However, there is a clear divide, where we have not been able to provide 'Bharat' access to opportunities on the same level as the rest of 'India'.

Small town vs big city

It is clear fresh graduates from smaller towns and lesser known colleges do not get the same job opportunities as compared to those in the metros and cities with large corporate hubs. These students are just not "accessible" to various companies who provide growth and exposure. They lose out on job opportunities, which are more accessible to students in urban areas. Considering the fact that 80 per cent of colleges in India are not situated in the metros or the large cities, job opportunity is inequitably available to candidates across Bharat.

Such students invariably move to the metros in search of opportunities. Most of them enroll for skill enhancement courses without a proper understanding of the right career option for them. Many others do paid internships to be able to somehow find the right opportunity. This does not serve the purpose, since candidates are unable to reach out to reputed companies or enhance their skills in the right way. Most of these candidates return - in despair - after spending a few months in the metro.

Luck by chance?

When asked to choose the main reason for not getting jobs, students of an engineering college in a Tier II city replied, "We are unlucky". Not that I agree that all these students are under-privileged and would have got jobs if they were in a large city, but I was concerned about their perception. These students are simply not exposed to opportunities. Hence they have no realisation of what skills they lack to get jobs and how they gain such skills. When even the best of them don't land jobs, they start believing they are "unlucky". No exposure to job opportunities or interviews means complete ignorance of what is required in the industry, where the skill gap is and how to fix it.

Considering that industry is starved of skilled manpower, the lack of opportunities in Bharat is baffling but not tough to explain. The prevailing myth that intelligent and capable candidates are mostly concentrated in the premier colleges is worth a serious debate. There is a significant drop in the percentage of employable people as we scroll down the hierarchy of colleges and to far flung areas. For example, IT services employability in engineering campuses has been measured to vary from 100 per cent employable to less than 10 per cent employable student pool.

This drop in employability makes it economically unviable for an organisation to go out to these far flung areas and sift through a large pool of people to hire. The cost per hire dramatically increases as we scroll down the hierarchy of towns or colleges. A Campus Hiring Manager of a reputed IT company explains that in some hiring events they have hired less than 4 people from a batch of 240 applicants, making the logistics and manpower cost of the event completely unviable.

But it is important to give the youth a fair chance to employment. Only a few get opportunities in the big league while the rest struggle to achieve the same.
Helping talent meet the opportunity - be it education or employment - is a vision which is required to be adapted by every organisation in the country. Corporates should also take a step forward to bridge this divide. There are lots of students who will prove to be the 'right' talent for them and form the backbone of their workforce.
IT and IT-enabled services accounted for 11 per cent of the total job openings in the private sector in recent times. The second largest share of the vacancies posted in the upcoming cities is for teachers and professors in schools and universities. Almost 10 per cent of the openings, publicised over the last four months, belonged to the Education sector.

Making these opportunities accessible to Bharat can be a very fruitful initiative in the entire puzzle of Inclusive Employment.

Skill assessment test

There are many ways to make this happen. For example, a nation-wide GRE/GMAT like test providing a statistically-valid, multi-dimensional skill assessment to judge the employment suitability of a large pool of candidates can come very handy. This system will ensure that all candidates from all regions -  metros and small towns - are judged on the same platform. This test can then be used to hire people based on specific job requirements, making sure that people from around the country have an equal shot at demonstrating their capabilities.

Companies find this a viable option to hire people. Not only does it save manpower, time and logistics costs, it also ensures that they can hire people of consistent quality through out the country. The inclusiveness from across regions gives a great mix of people in their workforce,  who bring in their own ideas and sensibilities. Hence standardised employability tests can act as a great bridge between the Bharat-India divide.

There are organisations already taking the initiative in such models. They conduct employability tests, helping students from small cities and towns get opportunities earlier elusive to them. These tests are being conducted across the nation with a mission to extend equal job opportunity for deserving candidates who otherwise may not have a chance of bigger and better opportunities.

Having the right technology and assessment platform is vital for the success of such an initiative. Equipped with the best technologies in the world, they are enabled to bring students across India on a common employment platform. Through these kinds of tests, the students have access to a career in big corporate houses in the metros ensuring equal opportunity as enjoyed by candidates across the metros in the country.

This has proved useful for corporates as well. For instance, a company in Gurgaon could hire a talented student in Allahabad, and a company in Bangalore could hire from Pune without having to travel to these cities.

It is still early to say, if such skill assessment tests hold promise in the long term. But they certainly seem to be in the right spirit to bridge the Bharat-India divide.

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