Student mobility is key to talent creation

Student mobility is key to talent creation

Truth be told, education does not provide one the natural rite of passage to a well-paying job and successful career. Taking cognisance of this and finding skills shortage looming large across sectors, the World Economic Forum or WEF has called upon nations to put in place an education and skills recognition system to address the problem.

WEF, in a study undertaken jointly with the Boston Consulting Group, advocates encouraging student mobility across countries for promoting education and training.
Students mobility should be encouraged as the first step in talent mobility because student mobility introduces healthy competition among academic institutions, which contributes to improved levels of education.

Governments and academic institutions should increase access to tertiary education for migrant students by providing financial support through grants and loans, besides language support.

Student mobility not only enhances cultural diversity and facilitates intercultural understanding, it also increases employability of young adults.
As developed and developing countries face employability issues with companies having difficulties in finding graduate students who are directly employable, the WEF study says it is imperative that an assessment of current and future skills and qualification demands be developed by the authorities.

University-industry links
“Given today’s speed of change in technologies and business in general, no education system can provide the appropriate talents in the long run. Corporations should invest in training and education, including through delivering diplomas to increase talents employability, which calls for partnerships with universities,” says Jean-Michel Caye Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, France.

The study, covering 22 countries, also explores 12 different industry sector clusters that will face high-skills shortages within next two decades. Observing that right skills are mostly defined as tertiary educational attainment, including both general and vocational higher education, the study says, in coming years, most countries will be faced with most pressing, quantitative high-skills gap as their working-age populations will shrink.

Explaining that it would be a challenge to bridge demand-supply gap, the study notes that though countries like India are projected to produce large amount of highly skilled labour, the issue of employability will remain as formal qualifications are often not sufficient proof of skills.

By 2020, over 100 million economically active individuals will enter the Indian labour force — equivalent of combined labour force of the UK, France, Italy and Spain. This creates a significant opportunity but also poses a daunting challenge.

What ails India?
In India, overall high-skills labour supply marginally exceeds demand but there is a shortfall of sufficiently qualified (or employable) high skills. There are three main reasons to explain the relatively low employability of many graduates, including engineers.

First, quality of education is heterogeneous, due to significant disparities across universities in infrastructure, facilities and capabilities. Second, education systems do not often meet the needs of economies and do not prepare highly skilled people for positions with global companies.

Third, they do not focus sufficiently on development of skills required by employers.
Although the education system eventually adjusts to market needs, the skills development cycle is not aligned with fast-changing market conditions.
The most important challenge will be to upgrade and focus on tertiary education systems to improve employability of graduates, the study says.
In order to solve the skills gap problem, countries like India have to invest in education of their workforce to increase its employability, while also attracting highly skilled migrants.

Infosys CEO & Managing Director Kris Gopalakrishnan says, “We need to understand what skills are required in countries and industries, and we need to make sure there are sufficient investments made in education and training.”

In sum, observing that education systems evolve slowly, WEF says, corporations have a high responsibility.They can help develop curricula where systematised student internship programmes are integrated. Companies should help students to find long-term internships that will help them develop skills required by industry in which they are interested.  Clearly, we have miles to go before an educated young adult, aspiring to an ambitious career, can take that big leap forward.

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