India as a whole is now the youngest country in the world, with half of its 1.3 billion population, under 25, the average age being 29 by 2020. Cool as that may sound, this boon could as well be a bane if not harnessed effectively.
The youth are a force of reckoning that come in with expectations - with dreams and aspirations to build a good life. With the world changing rapidly, and technology competing with humans for jobs, it is not surprising to see people clamouring to showcase (or show-off) their ‘skills’ even on their LinkedIn profile.
Qualified yet un-skilled
The need for exceptional skills is therefore no longer a ‘desirable’ asset on their CV but rather a must-have. Post-Independence India has focused a lot on the formal education process, which churns out qualified resources like an assembly line car manufacturing unit.
Only in recent times, have we recognised the real need for skill development and thereunder it launched many Govt. driven initiatives. The challenges though are plenty:
- Lack of industry Involvement - Without substantial input from industry in the design and curriculum of courses, the skills that are taught are often out of line with the needs of employers. Govt initiatives can only so much so help create a supply of skilled workforce. The demand generators viz. the industry & corporates, need to chip in to ensure that the gap between expectations and delivery, is reduced.
- Improvements in Programs & Courses - Considering the scale and ambition of the Skill Development Initiative, it is imperative to bring in more standardisation & synchronisation between the various bodies promoting it.
- Changes to our education system - The learning process starts in our very first year of life itself, and never ends through the journey of life. Our curriculums though, are not tuned towards the process of learning or inculcating a habit of acquiring new skills. There is a need to over-haul our study methodologies such as to adopt more of an intuitive, thought-provoking and analytical approach. A solutions-based approach, wherein teachers present relevant problems, utilise problem solving and employ case studies, would provide students with a holistic education. This will arm kids with the right learning attitude that they will carry forward in their youth and become more open to acquiring new & specialised skills required for career progression, allowing them to compete at global levels.
The future beckons
There is no denying one fact - technology has become a big part of consumer life, and will therefore play a big role in driving the industrial wheel, be it in manufacturing or services. IT skilling thus will play an important role. As technology continues to leap forward, both blue-and white-collar jobs will become increasingly sparse, highly sought-after and fervently fought-over. The 90s saw a massive opportunity for the nations’s economic growth via the IT sector but its now critical to evolve our skills to beyond that of building an English-Speaking workforce with basic tech understanding. The labour-cost arbitrage that resulted in the boom is now fast collapsing and curriculums and courses need to re-designed to create a skilled workforce that cannot easily be replaced.
Essential not inferior
There is also the need to change deep-rooted belief that skills training is an inferior option to the so-called standard college degrees. This implies treating skill development as an important complementary part of our education system rather than a less-preferred step sister.
Its not about ‘what’ you know, but ‘how’ you do it
What finally defines success? In today’s fast changing times, ask any industry leader and the answer you will get is - the right mindset. The right mindset comes from the ability to adapt, to collaborate and to make decisions. The answer thus goes way beyond acquiring hard skills that make you ‘fit’ for a job.
While hard skills concern your ability to do a specific task, soft skills are more about the way you do them. The concept of excellence is now being driven by holistic skilling at individual, team, organisational & industry level; evolving to encompass not just functional/hard skills such as scientific, technical, operational & marketing but also soft skills such as interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills and all those that define one’s character traits, attitudes, career attributes and help formulate the emotional intelligence quotient (EQ).
It starts at ‘I’
While evolution is a given constant, it moves in a step function. We now stand at one such cornerstone, wherein lies the opportunity to shape the lives of our entire workforce and create an unstoppable engine of growth. Alternatively, if not done right, this buoyant young nation could be faced with a not-so-pleasant situation of unskilled youth, obsolete workforce, increasing unemployment and declining competitiveness in the global sphere.
Our policy makers, education system & industry need to come together and be joined at the hip. In the meanwhile, change has to reflect at corporate and individual levels - to pursue the art of learning. Discover yourself, explore your interest, choose a vocational course and develop your personality with the plethora of online options. Better still, get a mentor, to guide you through your life journey or simply get inspired and learn from the best.
Let’s each of us end our day, everyday, with a 5 minute Do-It-FOR-Yourself activity (DIFY) - The Night Cap. Ask yourself 5 questions - What was the one highlight of the day? What all did I achieve? What did I do wrong? What challenge did I face? What was my learning today.
Don’t wait for change, take it upon you, every day. Be the force of change, and let the world catch up to you. Learn each day, and stay relevant.