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August 14, 2012

Balancing the Equation Between Education and Employability

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:14 AM

Ironically even as the population of the World is reported to be growing, study after study reports a shortage of skilled talent required for the knowledge economy. While it is the constant drop in the number of students opting to further their education in math and science, in the developed world, in countries like India where numbers don't pose a challenge, the issue lies is the quality of education. For example, even as the intake capacity for engineering courses in India has soared to 1.44 lakh students year-on-year, the employability number for engineers is reported to be in the 15% to 25% range. The gap is largely around the areas of applying leant concepts in the context of the problem to be solved. Communication skills and the ability to work effectively in teams is found lacking too. 

While this has, of course, resulted in the birth of a new breed of training centers called "Finishing Schools" the question is - are these enough? What's required is deep-rooted action, on the education front, to improve not just enrolment in science-based courses, but also their quality and industry relevance. One example I can think of is the United Kingdom's decision to revamp its ICT curriculum. In India, certain organizations have proposed the introduction of "community colleges", offering two-year associate degree programs providing high intensity vocational training as a way to improve enrolment from the nation's educational backwaters (small towns/ villages / economically weak segments). The U.S. has initiated legislative action seeking the reservation of green cards for foreign students admitted to graduate level science, technology, engineering and math programs, at its institutions, to tide over its tech-talent shortfall. 

That being said, as the biggest beneficiary of improved employability, industry must also share the load. The IT industry has taken a lead in that effort. Industry bodies like The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and enterprises like Infosys, have demonstrated that industries can indeed engage with the larger educational system to make a change. There's also a case for organizations to make much larger investments in apprenticeship programs. For example, in Detroit, a city pummeled by layoffs in the auto industry, Infosys stepped up to help establish an IT training program for displaced workers .

And yet, the question remains - will all these efforts stand up and deliver?

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