Reasoning must replace rote-learning

Last Updated 21 July 2010, 11:04 IST

At a recent job fair conducted at a well-known university, enthusiastic employers set up impressive stalls and eagerly waited to sign on fresh graduates. By the end of the first day, only a dismal 4 per cent of the students were found to possess the required job skills, the disappointed recruiters claimed. The remaining 96 per cent, according to them, were ‘unemployable’.

 The Evaluation Survey Report, 2010 foresees a flood of openings in the KPO industry (2,50,000 openings) by the end of 2010, also estimating that for every job created in the offshore financial sector, an additional two-three jobs will result in other sectors.
However, there is a word of caution. India could soon confront a potential shortage of skilled workers in these industries.

A report on global skills for graduates in financial services  states that only 42 per cent of the financial service organisations have been able to strike a balance between the right expertise and skilled employees. When the World Bank, along with FICCI, carried out an ‘Employer Satisfaction Survey’ in 150 companies across sectors and regions, it was found that 64 per cent of the surveyed employers were only “somewhat”, “not very”, or “not at all” satisfied with the quality of newly-minted graduates.

These figures clearly point to to the problem which lies in ‘employability’ rather than ‘employment’.

So, what are these qualities which employers are seeking?

Employability skills, in simple words, can be defined as basic skills that help an individual not just land the right job but also help him/her retain it. Employers rigorously assess and lay a huge premium on soft skills.

A candidate’s academic scores are necessary, but that is  not the only criterion when it comes to recruitment.

In a few cases, a job seeker’s area of expertise may actually be relatively unimportant as compared to his/her employability skills. And more often than not, it is these skills that finally determine their future in that company.

Job readiness or employability skills can be broadly grouped  into three kinds of skills.
Basic academic skills:  These are essential for jobs that involve intensive core-curriculum knowledge. Work that involves physics or maths comes in this category.

Higher order thinking skills: It includes the ability to think logically, rationally and creatively. This influences decision-making and problem-solving.

Soft skills or personal qualities:  A general set of skills that are essential for any job like responsibility, integrity, honesty, self-confidence, self-motivation, social skills, team spirit, punctuality, efficiency, personal grooming, adaptability and flexibility. Despite such skills being categorised as ‘general’ skills, most employers describe them as ‘rare’ skills.

Adapt or perish!

The changing nature of jobs and job profiles have increased demand for skilled employees over the years. Globalisation and international trade have both contributed significantly to what’s expected of an employee with regard to his/her job.

The employment scene has undergone a tremendous change ever since mergers, acquisitions and takeovers became routine. The new workplace requires a set of skills that were not important earlier when businesses were largely based in the country and were not exposed to competition on a global scale.

The widespread use of mobile phone technology and the internet have diminished traditional writing skills but have given them a new avatar. While businesses evolved, our education system stayed the same and continued to over-emphasise the value of academic scores or grades.

Rather than testing the creative, analytical and reasoning skills of the student, the evaluation system is based on rote-learning of standard texts.

Most private institutes offering courses in contemporary fields of study churn out graduates with sound technical skills and determined minds but low on soft skills. The education system has been unable to match the dynamics of India’s economy or the job sector. This has led to a rise in skill shortage and skill gaps that coexist with increasing unemployment and under-employment. Holistic education is the need of the hour.
There’s hope yet...

The good news is that it is possible to equip potential job seekers with soft skills. A well-planned and well-balanced curriculum can go a long way in addressing the gap between unemployment and employability. Schools must adopt a student-centric approach in their teaching methodology. There should be greater emphasis on skill development that enables students to formulate, analyse and solve real-life problems.
The on-campus experience needs to be enriched and made holistic through sustained interactions between students and the industry. One would, of course, also have to recognise the need for qualified teachers.
Corporate responsibility

Over the last few  years, despite Indian companies turning global, most of the recruitment was from within the country. But  the trend now is to hire extensively from the expatriate community. The trend can be reversed only if corporates can  equip employees with the required skills and colleges/ universities get their act together quickly.

(Published 21 July 2010, 11:04 IST)

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