Building a skilled workforce for India's future, will there be enough jobs for the growing workforce?
Recently in Mumbai, the financial centre of India, a large group of young men hurried forward while police officers waved batons and tried to restore order. These were candidates, who travelled from various parts of Maharashtra with the aim of securing a position in the police force. The competition was intense, with a staggering 650,000 applicants vying for a mere 8,000 positions.
This particular incident brings attention to a range of challenges stemming from the population growth in the nation, most notably unemployment. And since this issue extends beyond tier-1 or tier-2 cities; a significant influx into urban areas is intensifying India's position as the second largest rural-to-urban migration in the annals of human history.
To a certain degree, this presents an opportunity too, given that the average age of Indians is around 28-29 years, and approximately 30-35% of the population is under 19. Therefore, India has immense potential “to become a significant labour market in the next two decades, surpassing countries like Japan and the USA,” anticipates Vidur Gupta, Director of Spectrum Talent Management.
But will the burgeoning youth find ample job opportunities? The World Economic Forum's latest study says yes, revealing a 22% job market revolution in India over the next five years. Yet, the crux lies in the fact that these positions will stem from the realms of AI, machine learning, and data, demanding skilled training from aspiring candidates.
“This highlights the need for increased government investment in education and training initiatives aimed at cultivating job-ready skills. These programs should be customised to cater to the specific requirements of different sectors and industries like technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. Additionally, it is crucial to foster a conducive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation, while also allocating resources towards infrastructure development and creating a business-friendly atmosphere,” suggested Mr Anupam Jauhari, CHRO, University Living.
Regarding the actions taken thus far, the government and corporates carried out significant steps to prioritise skill development and upskilling. “These efforts include initiatives from NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation), DGT (Directorate General of Training), entrepreneurship schemes, mandatory CSR initiatives, and the establishment of training institutes across India,” emphasised the Director of Spectrum Talent Management.
The active involvement of both corporates and the government in addressing concerns and contributing to skilling, upskilling, and reskilling is positive. However, according to Ms Debashree Lad, Chief People Officer at CredAble, these efforts alone may not be sufficient to drive the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. She believes that tackling this issue at a grassroots level is necessary.
“Although we have policies to address the youth employment crisis, it is crucial to address this issue at the grassroots level. One way to accomplish this is by improving the transition from school to work for students through internships, apprenticeships, hands-on experiences, mentorship sessions with industry professionals, and career awareness programs facilitated by experts,” said Lad.
Job scarcity is a concern in our country, and job losses due to technologies like Generative AI are a reality. IBM's recent decision to halt hiring and replace 7,800 jobs with AI is an example. However, these advancements also create many opportunities in the digital economy.
“In the engineering field, generative AI will create new job roles such as data scientists, AI developers, machine learning engineers, robotics engineers, NLP engineers, AI researchers, digital literacy experts, and cybersecurity professionals. At the same time, jobs that require creative thinking, design skills, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking will become more prominent as machines handle routine tasks and think logically,” believes Mr Sunil Dahiya, Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Skills Network at Wadhwani Foundation.
Therefore, “a paradigm shift from degree or certification to new-age skills development driven by AI and technological advancements is imminent and will require a re-skilling of 120-140 million by 2025,” he added.
While discussing the preparations needed to equip the youth of India for the future, the Chief People Officer at CredAble drew attention to a significant and ongoing issue that poses a threat to progress – the increasing dropout rate. “In India, the dropout rate in colleges and schools has been as high as 10%-12%, with a significant portion occurring at the school level. This trend needs to be reversed to achieve desired outcomes,” Debashree Lad told People Matters.
“Upskilling and reskilling have received inadequate attention, particularly for individuals aged 20 to 40 years. This can be attributed to a lack of training facilities, as evidenced by India's training capacity being only one-eighth of that of a country like China, which prioritises human capital development. Although the political and operational contexts differ, it is essential to acknowledge this gap and take appropriate measures,” she concluded.