Headhunters for IT and ITES firms are sounding the alarm over the quality of fresh graduates applying for jobs. Employers from technology firms to financial services in India have started to complain of talent shortages, and rising vacancies, when the number of unemployed graduates is also on increase. Universities, institutes, and schools must get their act right
Kiran Karnik, president, National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) president Kiran Karnik pointed out in an address to vice-chancellors from across the country that the entry selection average for engineers hardly stood anywhere between 20% and 25% and dipped further to as low as 10-15% for ordinary graduates.
The candidates have degrees, but are just not employable. They lack technical and soft skills. The universities and institutes are carrying on with outdated curriculum mostly and the students keep on using the equipment, say, computers and accessories or lathes and milling machines or pillar drills that have gone obsolete. Further, many of the students hardly work independently on the machines, because of weak background and lack of even the foundation knowledge from the school level. They hardly pick up the new skills expected out of them.
For IT/ITeS sector, the biggest shortcomings come from the inability of the students to discuss, present and articulate, and to work effectively as team members- naturally known as soft skills presently. Those administrating the education perhaps have failed to appreciate these problems that are making even a graduate with degree unemployable.
Most companies do have an orientation and training schemes, but the companies consider the time and resources for training as something that can easily be avoided if the institutes keep their curriculum oriented to the industry’s need. After all, the companies never like training its fresh employees in basic communication skills, but that is the necessity today. Companies will certainly provide skills specific and specialized for the sector.
IT sector is on threshold of creating 2 million direct job opportunities with exports expected to rise to $64 billion or more by 2010 from $24 billion this year. IT sector and BPO are moving to highly technical services requiring different types of domain knowledge. Graduates from all specializations might get employed easily, but the education system must integrate the soft skills as compulsory requirement for employability in its curriculum.
Is it difficult to prepare our graduates both from professional courses as well as general ‘honours’, be it be geography, physics, chemistry, mathematics/statistics, geology, or economics, streams as employable with the soft skills such as globally competitive communication skills and presentation in English, team working, and general problem handling and solving techniques?
I have some viewpoints on the issue of skill manpower shortages and suggestions to meet the situation.
1. All institutes can invite private institutions (even individuals) to conduct simultaneous and parallel courses for developing the communication skills in English. Similar short time courses for other soft skills also can be arranged. Naturally, the initiatives must come from the administration of the educational institutes. Even though it may not be officially incorporated in curricula immediately, the students can be provided with the facilities with immediate effect.
2. All institutes must have compulsorily an active advisory council comprising of senior executives from the different sectors of the industry that can keep the institutes abreast with the needs of the industry. Regular interactions of the students with the people of industry can make them feel their shortcomings better and get themselves prepared well to become employable.
3. A scheme for all the existing teachers to refresh and update their specialised domain knowledge must be in place. It is a necessity today with exponential rise in knowledge in every field.
4. An annual appraisal system for teachers based on their academic performance both teaching, research, and publication of original papers must replace the present system of treating every one on a fixed scale what the leftists are famous for. Teachers must have all opportunities to earn more and equal to others in industry.
How can a country that produces 4,00,000 or so of graduate engineers every year and many times more diploma holders and graduates in honours courses, have shortage of skilled people for the industry?