Thanks to the trio of the pandemic (now morphing into an endemic), the Great Resignation and digitisation, the global and the Indian job market is witnessing a churn that it has never experienced before. In an era of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics and data-driven economy, new jobs are being created, existing ones made obsolete, and new ones are still evolving.
And, for a country with more than 62% of the population in the working age group (15 to 59 years) with an average age between 28 and 29 years, the right kind of skill is not only important for the country’s present and future economic growth, but also to reap the demographic dividend.
Moreover, with the reconceptualisation of ‘work and workplaces’ underway, certain important issues need to be addressed: especially whether the country’s youth have the necessarily employable skills to respond to a perpetually-evolving economic landscape? As per the World Economic Forum Report, 2020 unemployment rate in India in 2020 has increased from 10.4% to 23% primarily because of the employability skill gap.
It is well-known that the skills imparted during college education become obsolete for students even before they enter the industry or are irrelevant in today’s context, a point that was further attested by McKinsey Global Survey in 2020, which reported that 92% of Indians agree that there is skill gap regarding employability.
Globally too, according to the World Economic Forum Report, launched in October 2020, 40% of employees would need to learn new skills in the coming years and would be expected to perform different roles within the company. Additionally, around 94% of business leaders expect their employees to acquire new skills, while still on the job. The takeaway is unambiguous that if India wishes to establish itself as a skilled nation in the future, it must invest in skilling, reskilling and upskilling its youth.
But how do we begin and take the first baby steps? To start with, the country needs to establish and standardize the meaning of talent in the current climate. A framework needs to be put in place to assess the talent—scientifically, authentically and credibly. There is also a dire need to map talent and its assessment and find a synergy. In today’s context, talent is defined as digital competency, communication skills and business agility.
However, going forward, assessments will be defined as mapping a journey of learning, un-learning and re-learning to respond to the unprecedented changes occurring in the workplace. The purpose will be to discover the gaps between existing and employable skills.
The importance of foresight
Hence, foresight will be required to pinpoint the skills that would evolve, skills that would come up and skills that have an expiry date. Clarity on the problem statement and an actionable strategy without assessing the youth’s existing skills level is not possible. We must base our education policy and framework on them, focusing on educating our youth on practical and applicable competencies rather than merely cracking exams.
Our universities also need to implement a cycle of monitoring continuous progress, with assessments enabled, whose data can provide insights on what is working and what is not. We can neither evaluate nor implement strategies and processes without them.
It is also crucial to establish a baseline to understand the value of our educational institutions, and look at developing skills in various stages and cycles. But, again, that is not possible without regular assessments. Additionally, the youths will require customised learning and skilling plans to keep up with constant technological changes in the economy. Thus, it is possible to identify the skill gaps and plug them accordingly.
Assessment of data can help assessors align their learning objectives, develop assessment tools and teaching-learning strategies. Furthermore, they can analyse their instruction quality and introspect on their practices to make the necessary amends to better suit them to the current learning demands.
As the country steps into 2022, India must aim to build an agile, digitally-ready workforce for the new evolving world. Authentic, meaningful assessments should be the driving force of the country’s education policy, vision, digital infrastructure development and curriculum planning.
However, with changing times, offering memory-based assessments that only evaluate students’ ability to memorize content is not enough. Instead, we need to develop critical thinking, communication, information management and problem-solving skills that assume significance at the university level and in different work situations.
‘Change’ will be the only constant in the digital economies of the world. Hence, this will be an era of lifelong learning, equally for our youth and teachers/assessors. But what to learn and how to learn? The answer to these questions lies in assessments.