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Bridging the Skill Gap with Quality Education

Nandita Abraham
Executive Vice President-Pearl Academy
Friday, January 13, 2017
Nandita Abraham
At a time when the global population is ageing rapidly, India has one of the youngest populations in the world.This is a distinct advantage that our country enjoys with regards to the demographic dividend. Having said that, almost three fourth of India's population is unskilled and is suffering from low employability potential.

It is widely accepted that the formal education system in India has not been able to equip the 'millennial' generation of students with skills which are essential to succeed tomorrow. The Indian education system itself is centred on securing marks and grades thereby pushing students to focus chiefly on achieving higher grades. Very limited or negligible attention is paid to understanding and developing their capabilities and skills. The gap between the skills required in industry and those provided by the education system has only kept increasing. According to some estimates, 30 lakh graduates join the Indian job market every year but only about 5 lakh are considered employable. Sectors such as retail, e-commerce, media, and healthcare are reeling with severe shortage of skilled and talented workforce.

Also, there is a dire need to adopt an advanced and systematic pedagogic development approach. Pedagogy methods used today are mostly outdated and do not resonate well with both the global education standards and the 'millennial' generation. Apart from this, the R&D culture in India needs to be fortified. One of the major concerns which need immediate attention is encouraging our students to dwell more in the areas of research, innovation and creativity.

Government should also regard the fact that skill development is not just about providing skills for the lower-end of the job spectrum, such as plumbing, car repair or carpenter. The definition and pool of the 'skill sets' should also include niche and creative domains. Make-up, Photography, communication, fashion designing should also be promoted and imparted. As per a recent report 'Re-Imaging higher education in India' published by industry body ASSOCHAM, some of the futuristic skills required in the new age job profiles includes design thinking and cross culture adaptabilities. Such skills not only make students more relevant for jobs, but also empower them with skill sets required for entrepreneurship and thereby generating job opportunities for others.

It is heartening to see the emphasis the government is placing on enhancing skills and promoting institutes that can impart new age skills to the next generation. The ability of these institutes to learn, adapt and offer new vocational courses can result in meaningful employment and makes them a better education provider to plug the widening skill gap. The current government not only understand the grave scenario ahead, but has also earmarked a roadmap to solve this issue. Programs such as Digital India and Skill India can go a long way to not just impart vocational skills, but also make the Indian youth a constructive contributor to the nation's economy.

With lakhs of young individuals joining the workforce every year, tackling the pressing issue of skills gap is imperative for India's growth story. However, all stakeholders will have to accept that the traditional route will not be enough to tackle this issue. Therefore, the solution may lie in newer, innovative course offerings which may not necessarily fall under the traditional and formal gambit of education. Newer avenues offered through digital learning, such as skill based courses, will not only make education more inclusive but also will negate the requirement of elaborate infrastructure.

The change is happening, only the acceptance and recognition to this change needs to be brought in. It is time that everyone, including Government, regulators, industry, education providers, parents and even students change their approach and be more open to newer ideas which will make the country head in the right direction.

Nandita Abraham, Executive Vice-President, Pearl Academy

Nandita Abraham has 20 years of professional experience across corporate in India, USA & Hong Kong in the areas of strategic marketing and academic management. Prior to Pearl Academy, Nandita was associated with organizations like Arvind Mills Ltd. and Arvind Worldwide in Hong-Kong, where she was responsible for setting up a marketing office for the Knits Business, which was then running out of the U.S.A. Nandita has also worked with Ge-ray Fabrics, USA, where she was responsible for development of product ideas based on market requirements. Has played an instrumental role in uplifting the Research and Development wing of the institution and has presented papers in international seminars and conferences. She is an avid traveler and loves to read historical books.
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