“Skilled talent in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (collectively known as the STEM) today is important to sustain a growing economy. This is primarily because a major factor driving economic productivity in recent times has been the developments in the field of science and technology.”
The collective application of developments in those fields has constantly kept businesses on its toes; a situation where adopting newer technology at the right time can prove critical to the organization's survival. From a consumer’s perspective, skilled talent in STEM fields has been successful in creating products and services, without which life today would certainly feel incomplete. However, from the perspective of the industry, the situation is different.
The Indian situation
From the birth of modern computer systems to the creation of internet and overtime, the development of nuanced programs and algorithms that serve multiple purposes, the impact of technology can be felt across almost all layers of society. This has only been possible because people equipped with the right skills and knowledge have got the opportunity (mostly in an unregulated, decentralized manner) to use those skill sets to create something meaningful.
“The tech giants of today like Microsoft and Google have been built on the shoulders of skilled individuals from India. By virtue of the role that technology plays in the world today, skilled talent in STEM fields today becomes critical for country’s economic and technological growth.”
Coming to India, there have been reports that indicate an increasing talent gap in such fields. According to a study by the jobs site Indeed, the shortage of skilled talent in STEM sector has increased from 6 percent in January 2014 to over 12 percent in January 2018. Data from the study showed that despite 1 million engineering graduates entering the workforce every year, lack of skilled talent has led to several STEM roles to remain vacant.
This skills gap becomes particularly worrying in light of the fact that India today has one largest talent pools of STEM graduates in the world; one that is constantly growing. Their absorption into the mainstream economic activity is crucial in ensuring that India can depend on its homegrown talent to drive technological; and by extension economic growth in the country.
It’s not the problem of lack of jobs in STEM
A closer look into the situation reveals how the lack of job opportunities isn’t really the problem. The Indian service economy has been on a growth and so also the demand for skilled tech professionals. Data from the report notes that IT, banking and financial services firms are among the top recruiters in STEM sector. And this is bound to grow. As the influence of technologies like AI and automation increases, more and more companies would start looking for quality talent from the STEM fields. Many more sectors would soon enter the fray, increasing the competition to get the best talent.
The Top ten companies for those interested in careers in STEM, according to Indeed are the following:
- JP Morgan Chase
- HCL Technologies
- Magna Infotech
- Citi Bank
Note: Among these companies, the top job roles that these companies offer include software engineer, web developer, business analyst, software architect and SAP consultant.
Despite this, many graduates from STEM fields today remain unemployed. In addition, many sectors like IT had to recently let go of many employees due to the replacement of several low skilled jobs by modern day technologists. These factors make the skills gap sound more like a gulf that might just require serious policy interventions to bridge.
According to a report in Business Today, industry experts and academicians agree that one of the chief contributors to such a talent mismatch is the disparity between college curricula and industry expectations. Although this has been the case for quite some time now, the situation has finally reached a point where millions with STEM qualifications enter the jobs market without having the right skills (mostly the qualitative aspect) and hence, aren’t able to get good satisfying jobs. The disproportionate representation of the genders in STEM employees further accentuates the problem.
“In countries like the US there have been many studies, like the one done by LinkedIn, which state that the root of the unequal representation of women in tech roles lies in the fact that from early on, women face several barriers when it comes to taking up STEM courses. Out of the ones that do, many face a culture that leads to them having a limited access to high paying, productive job roles. The situation is no better in India as a recent UN report states.”
Numbers vs Percentage of population
India produced the most number of graduates in any country worldwide with 78 million fresh graduates in 2016 alone, of which 2.6 million were STEM graduates. This puts India in a position to outstrip the US in terms of STEM graduates produced annually, given that it currently leads by a margin of over 2.5 million.
While this looks good on the surface, we need to calculate the number of STEM graduates by the population of the two countries. Considering that Indian population is 4 times that of the US, a lead of 2.5 million means nothing in the Indian context.
While the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has sanctioned the setting up of over 10,000 institutes across India by the end of this financial year, the issue of skills gap still needs to be addressed. In addition, Indeed said initiatives such as Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship should help serve as a great opportunity to create the right talent pool. But these still remain localized approaches to create a talent pool of skilled STEM graduates.