Skilling the Workforce to Make them Employable and Contribute to Economic Growth

Need for a Skilled Workforce

Any employer needs a workforce that is competent and has expertise in the niche that it operates in. For instance, manufacturing industries need skilled workers who are able to function effectively on the shop floor and this means that whoever they employ must be adept at handling machinery, taking up skill based jobs, and other aspects related to the job.

Further, service sector companies need employees who are good at software, technology, financial services, and above all are fluent in English and are able to communicate effectively. In this context, services sector refers to the entire gamut of employers in the financial services and IT space.

Therefore, no matter what the niche that the company operates in, a skilled workforce is needed in the same manner in which investments and returns on capital are necessary to sustain the operations.

Difference between Quantity and Quality of the Workforce

This leads us to the next point wherein how do the various stakeholders including the government, the private and the public sector companies, the non governmental institutions working in the field of labour relations, and the future workers themselves should get together to coordinate and cooperate in a wholesome effort to skill the workforce.

This is more the case with countries in the developing world such as India where the average graduate from any of the numerous colleges and universities has been found to lack simple skills or is considered “unemployable” by the industry.

For instance, surveys have shown that while there are millions who graduate from colleges and universities in India, only a fraction of them are found to have the necessary skills and basic expertise that would make them competent for the job.

The point to be noted here is that unless there is a shift in emphasis from quantity to quality wherein it is not only the numbers but the quality of the numbers should matter.

Now, one might ask whether it is not the duty of the employers to train and equip the workers once they are hired so that they perform effectively on the job. After all, no amount of skilling which is generic can help since each employer has different expectations and requirements from the workforce.

The Foundation must be Strong

The answer to this is that while the employers must and do train their employees and new hires, the effectiveness of such training programs is only felt when the employees have certain “base skills” which can include familiarity with technology, ability to communicate effectively, and analytical logical reasoning abilities.

After all, in the same manner in which one cannot build a house without the underlying foundation being strong, one cannot expect employers to train the new hires and employees from the basics onwards. Indeed, this would not only be a waste of time and money, but would also defeat the very purpose of having colleges and universities on which the government spends a lot of money anyway.

Thus, the clear implication is that before the graduates can be employed, they must be employable and as we shall discuss next, there is a need for all stakeholders to do their bit here.

Catch Them Young, Watch Them Grow

For instance, colleges and universities must not only focus on “churning out” graduates with little knowledge and expertise and instead, must ensure that they are trained in various elements of skill based aspects as well as communication abilities and above all, an ability to think logically and analytically in addition to being problem solvers.

For this to happen, the private sector must make its requirements clear upfront to the colleges and the universities as well as the government must convene a taskforce and a committee in each college wherein representatives from the private sector and the government along with the college representatives must meet and arrive at ways in which they can implement skill based training in their curriculum.

As the saying goes, “catch them young and watch them grow”, there should be an emphasis on practical skill based training right from the school level so that the workforce of tomorrow is skill ready from the time they enter college and graduate with more “value added skills”. For this to happen, the government has to play an active role and this would be discussed next.

How Government Can Help

In recent months, the Indian government has come up with a program to undertake mass based skilling initiatives aimed at the workforce of tomorrow. This program entails creation of a capable and competent workforce that is skilled adequately to meet the challenges of the labour market.

Towards this end, the Indian government’s ambitious objectives are driven not only by an idealistic tilt but also a practical and pragmatic realization that unless the youth of today are skilled and made employable, they would be jobless and more likely to be deviant and prone to causing trouble. Indeed, the demographic dividend that everyone is talking about as an advantage that India has over its rivals can easily turn into a demographic nightmare if the millions of youth do not find jobs and hence, take to the wrong path and wrong ways that can cause social unrest.

Finally, as has been mentioned throughout this article, it is simply not enough to boast about how many millions are graduating every year from colleges and universities if these graduates are found to be not fit for employment.

Thus, any program to skill the workforce must necessarily shift the emphasis from quantity to quality and from mindless learning to more skill based and competency based curricula.

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