Young Indians | Unemployment: a manifesto for universities: how to make young Indians employable

“I graduated two years ago, but I still can’t get my dream job,”

“I got my master’s degree, but I’m still underpaid,”

“I lost my job during the pandemic, and since then I have been unemployed.”

Nowadays, talking about jobs is nothing less than singing about the pangs.

Over the past few years, most of us have known people going through phases of underemployment and sometimes even unemployment, despite having a boatload of professional degrees. What makes their degrees rendered impotent? And more importantly, what can we do to get away from this storm?

Although some factors are absolutely out of control, it is important to dig deep. The education sector in India has witnessed phenomenal growth over the past few years. However, the overall employability rate can be seen dropping sharply. This raises several questions about the job readiness of graduates.

This is why it is imperative to address the crucial role of universities in bridging the industry-university gap and preparing students for a market that has been and will continue to be reshaped by automation.

What is the background?

The All India Higher Education Survey i.e. AISHE Report 2021 has offered a detailed analysis of the state of higher education in the country. According to the report, there has been a whopping 11.4% jump in student enrollment over the past five years. The results also indicate an 18.2% increase in female enrollment in many major programs. While all of these numbers seem extremely impressive, unemployment continues to plague people.

Knowledge and practical sense: huge gap to fill

Despite the efforts of each higher education institution to equip students with solid foundational knowledge and discipline-specific skills, companies continue to express their dissatisfaction. There is clearly a gap between the knowledge acquired by students and the requirements of employers. While there are several causes of youth unemployment, the primary one is the mismatch between the school curriculum and the dynamic demands of labor markets. And it goes without saying that this further limits students’ chances of getting their dream job. Knowledge, if not put into practice, is not recognized in the market. As it is well said, ”
Jo dikhta hai wahi bikta hai.”

The post-pandemic scene

The pandemic has become an accelerator for the widespread adoption of technology in almost every field. While this rapid digital transformation has unlocked high economic value, it has also led to increased unemployment and underemployment.

Between 2020 and 2021, many people lost their jobs due to their inability to quickly adapt to fast-paced, technology-driven environments. Moreover, those who entered the markets with their diplomas or specialized diplomas did not manage to find a job, because they were trained for roles that no longer existed.

The post-pandemic digital landscape has visibly altered the human-machine-technology relationship and generated a need for a workforce with a different skill set. This is precisely where the role of universities comes into play.

Currently, students are graduating in a market that has undergone transformation. It has become necessary for universities to rely on digital skills, keep their curricula up-to-date and introduce multidisciplinary skills in order to provide their students with many job opportunities. Here are some things they should consider.

  • Aligning Curricula with Labor Market Demands – Given the ever-changing nature of markets, it has become extremely important for universities to find out how the curriculum can meet industry demands. Until now, institutions have relied heavily on the theoretical approach to impart academic knowledge. However, they need to move to a more hands-on, skill-based teaching method to become true incubators of human talent. While foundational knowledge helps facilitate critical thinking, students learn to apply their learnings to real-world challenges.
  • Introduction of multidisciplinary skills – Institutions need to understand the importance of multidisciplinary skills. These skills apply to multiple career paths. For example, finance is a discipline-specific skill for a business and management student, while data analysis falls under the multidisciplinary category. By equipping students with a plethora of these skills, they can remain employable throughout their lives. Moreover, they also get a job in case of an unpredictable or uncertain future.
  • Provide Workplace Exposure – Another step universities need to take is to educate students about workplace expectations, which can be done through internship programs. Many Indian institutions have made it compulsory for students to do internships in the final semester. In this way, they learn several things about the work and behavioral expectations of an organization. By communicating with colleagues and seniors, performing tasks in real time, and taking full responsibility for their actions, students can understand how an organization works. Additionally, institutions can invite industry experts as guest speakers to help students clarify how they should prepare for the future.
  • Prepare students with advanced digital skills – The country’s digital infrastructure has improved significantly and more and more students are interested in high-tech positions such as data scientist, data analyst, software engineer and mechanical. engineer. However, according to the Coursera Campus Skill Report 2022, “Courses in technical disciplines often lag 10-15 years behind industry needs, resulting in graduates lacking the cutting-edge technology skills needed to drive national innovation.” So, for students to fit into the growing digital economy, universities need to revise their curricula from time to time following local and global trends.
  • Guide Students in Building a Diverse Portfolio – Higher education is that time in every individual’s life where a piece of advice from a mentor, industry veteran, or subject matter expert can prove to be of immense help. Universities should take the initiative to educate students about work roles that can align well with their respective courses. Also, they should be guided on how to develop a diverse portfolio to present themselves as a strong candidate for a job opportunity who can make full use of their skills.

India’s large population of ambitious young people is undoubtedly a huge advantage in the competitive global arena. If educated, trained, and skilled in market trends, students can steer the economy in a positive direction and ensure steady growth. All we need is an integrated effort from higher education institutions, governments, and industry experts to help students follow their disciplinary interests while gaining professional skills.

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