Recently, Satish – a computer engineering graduate informed he was unable to get a placement in the IT industry, but had an offer for a marketing job. He was worried about giving up his passion and getting into an unrelated industry. As per sources, 60% of engineering graduates don’t get into their chosen industries. With education emerging as a lucrative business, there’s been mushrooming of colleges offering engineering and other degrees, increasing supply. However, in a subdued employment market, candidates are compelled to choose whatever jobs they get. Let’s examine various dimensions to this crisis.
Firstly, the manufacturing sector which used to absorb a large number of engineering graduates has been stagnant for a while, at 17% of the GDP, and being in no position to absorb the increased supply. The IT industry-a major employer, is also going through an increased automation and consequently, there’s saturation with less demand. The changes in the US Visa policies have also added uncertainty, lowering overall demand. As a result, there’s demand only for skilled graduates, with employable skills.
Secondly, the curriculum of engineering and other courses hasn’t changed in line with the industry requirements. NASSCOM and other industry bodies have been highlighting for long, the lack of employable skills in candidates. A recent ASSOCHAM-McKinsey study showed that only one out of ten students with degrees in humanities and one out of four engineering graduates are employable. Another report reveals that due to lackluster business sentiments, b-school campus recruitment this year has gone down severely with only one out of five students landing in employment offers.
Sadly, the report also mentions that 20% of teachers do not measure up to the standards of the National Council for Teachers’ Education [NCTE], which presents another dimension leading to the present crisis.
While business outlook remains grim, students have to be better skilled to start their career. Therefore, the key question is what are employable skills and how should you go about acquiring them?
Recruiters seek to match candidate profile with the job profile, while making a selection. To be able to a job, you need hard skills or application skills based on your stream of education. However, to be effective in the job, you need soft skills like communication, inter-personal relations, problem solving and decision making, time management, self-motivation etc., complementing the technical or hard skills. For example, if you specialize in Marketing with an MBA, you need all the soft skills mentioned above for professional success. Similarly, a doctor must be proficient in communication skills such as probing and listening skills, confidence building, motivating skills, whereas an engineer must be proficient in problem solving and decision making, inter-personal skills, time management, numerical skills etc. Thus, in today’s competitive environment, you need many common soft skills.
How to acquire job-specific skills?
Let’s focus on four common soft skills to make you employment ready
Planning and time management
- Ability to plan considering availability of resources.
- Ability to plan and complete tasks within a time frame.
This involves the ability to plan considering the availability of resources and the ability to plan and complete tasks within a time frame.
- Listening, speaking, writing and presentation skills.
- Effective body language.
- Understanding and empathizing with others.
- Recognizing everyone as a unique individual and treating them as such.
- Establishing a common vision.
- Taking initiative.
- Getting tasks done by others through persuasion and motivation.
- Supporting others and building a strong team.
- A sense of ethics, values and social responsibility.
Consider a few of the following options to develop these skills
- Joining a personality development institute that can customize a program depending on your chosen career. Learn an additional language, especially if you wish to study or work abroad. Please note such options are available both offline and online.
- Taking leadership in your college activities such as seminars, debates, case studies, mock parliaments, cultural activities etc. to develop strong communication skills.
- Joining college sports teams such as Football, Cricket, Basketball etc., which involve physical activities keeping you fit but also makes you realize importance of team work.
- Actively focusing on course related projects, summer projects and in-plant training etc. to develop project management and presentation skills.
- Participating in environment and social projects, to build your personality with a deep understanding of the importance of values and ethics.
- Taking leadership in college placement cell, coordinating with industry partners to develop soft skills and develop contacts.
- Taking a part-time job to earn money while you learn. Such options have multiplied in recent years including online options.
- Effectively network with leaders related to your career through business sites such LinkedIn.
- Watch videos and lectures of eminent personalities, related to your career keeping yourself updated.
- Seek a mentor to reconfirm if your aptitude and skill sets actually support your dream career.
The despondent mood in our economy might turn positive soon, creating a plethora of opportunities. As per report by Ernst and Young, job landscape in 2022, is in transition with a slowdown in employment in core sectors and the concurrent emergence of new engines of job creation. As per this, 9% of would be employed in jobs that don’t exist today and 37% would be deployed in jobs that will have radically changed skill sets.
Therefore, the jobs of today may not exist tomorrow and the jobs that are created tomorrow may not exist today; the outdated curriculum based classrooms of today can’t prepare the students for the employment market of tomorrow. The stakeholders of our education system must take these warning signals seriously and implement a complete overhauling, to meet the needs of industry and equip the students.
Meanwhile, students should critically analyse current trends, evaluate long term opportunities in mainstream and offbeat careers and decide the right career path. A strong line up of above soft skills will keep you better equipped to kick-start your career in any field.