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Enhancing employability for young Indians: Lessons for policymakers, academics

What can we do to improve the quality of millions of graduates coming out of India’s education system? How can India convert millions of “degree flaunting” millennials into employable young men and women?

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Enhancing employability

Like many proud Indians, I get upset when faced with alarming reports that point to the poor employment rate of India’s college and university graduates.

The IT industry body Nasscom’s reports point to the inadequate technical skills and low employability rate of India’s engineering graduates. The effort money that the $167 billion Indian IT industry has to invest in imparting months of intensive training before fresh engineering graduates can become productive on basic software jobs brings out the deficiency of our higher education system in creating job ready engineers.

Management education portal MBAuniverse.com‘s report on the industry-readiness of MBA graduates from over 2,000 Indian management schools of some significance, barring the top 200 business schools, points to dismal employment prospects for over 300,000 young men and women who annually join the employment market.

Conversations of academics at the assessment and job placement platform HireMee with recruiting managers too point to the woefully inadequate training of Indian graduates spread across different streams — ranging from engineering and commerce, to management and the social sciences — to even communicate clearly their core technical skills, leave alone career aspirations, or interest areas.

It’s a pity that India’s demographic dividend is being put through an education system that is divorced from its very objective of firing up creativity, building problem-solving skills, preparing them to work in a highly inter-connected, interdependent global work environment.

That we do have a few Islands of excellence — some of the best engineering, management schools in the world — whose alumni have earned a name for themselves, their institutions and India, is equally well known. The success of IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and IISc, can be attributed to the exceptional intake quality as a result of stringent selection criteria and liberal government funding.

What can India do to remedy the situation for a vast majority of institutions that are forced to follow the “garbage-in garbage-out” model? These institutions depend on pedagogy that has completely outlived its utility. Divorced from the world of work these, institutions have “very limited” to practically “no industry interface”.

India’s over-regulated higher education system perpetuates outdated curriculum, stifles innovation. Even serious education institutions are faced with regulations in some states that cap tuition fee that a student pays for professional programmes.

There is limited industry focus and virtually no research and new knowledge creation. This seriously limits the opportunities for lakhs of students to enroll and study in a school or subject of their choice, forcing those with finances to look for opportunities to study abroad.

What can we do to improve the quality of millions of graduates coming out of India’s education system? How can India convert millions of “degree flaunting” millennials into employable young men and women?

To begin with, education policymakers and academics must articulate what employability is and what it is not. Employability means not just the ability to get a job, but equipping young men and women with the skills, the knowledge and tools to succeed in their careers.

The employability at India’s institutions of higher education can improve dramatically once they modernise their outdated curriculum, teachers shift from unloading their knowledge in classroom to a discussion and problem-solving approach. Faculty asking pointed questions and students coming up with solutions.

I had an opportunity to debate this issue with careers and employment manager at the Sydney based University of New South Wales. My conversation with Blair Slater, a former Hollywood movie star in Canada, brought out lessons from QS rank 45 UNSW’s experience of preparing nearly 21,000 international students each year for global job opportunities.

Blair, an occasional speaker at Indian schools, says it must begins with how the faculty coach their students to think, and come up with ideas on how to enable students to take charge of their own future.

It is possible and expected of students not to know what they want to do. A ‘Professional Development Module’ for students is needed to let them experience workplace culture, the recruitment process and preparing them for a global career – through formal interactive sessions, says Blair.

When I entered the job market in 1970s as a fresher, getting a job depended on how networked and influential my parents and uncles were. Luckily for those graduating out of college today, there are networking tools like Linkedin that can help them connect with alumni and employers to get jobs. This, of course, comes with caveats: Provided they have sharpened their communication skills and learnt to write effective resumes that help them stand out. Most importantly, they better know that the communication protocol to connect with employers is entirely different from the one they follow on Facebook with their friends.

To put it simply, India needs to shift the very objective of its education system from ‘granting degrees’ to focusing on dramatically “enhancing employability”.

To me this appears to be the key shift in gears from providing employment to equipping them to the most current skills, teaching them how to market them and then to apply them on the job — especially one that she was not trained for, one that did not exist when she graduated and the one that had continuously evolved with no sign of having stabilised.

By Sanjiv Kataria

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(Sanjiv Kataria, who served NIIT as a brand custodian for two decades, is a communications counsel. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected] )

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Apple iPad Pro (2018): Near-laptop experience on a sturdy tab – Tech Review

For those familiar with iOS 12 on iPhone X and iPhone XS, the iPad Pro provides a similar experience, including tap to wake and swiping to go home, access Control Centre and for multi-tasking.

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New Delhi, Dec 10 : Three years is enough time for a flagship consumer electronics device to don a new avatar and the new Apple iPad Pro (2018) has done just that — it is far superior to the first iPad Pro that came into existence in 2015. (The first iPad arrived eight years back.)

Smartphones have begun to rival tablets today and tablets have decided to go the laptop way — at a time when fixed office spaces are shrinking and professionals and frequent travellers are looking to create, work and enjoy from anywhere, everywhere.

With the all-screen iPad Pro, Apple has introduced the future of mobile computing that has the potential to outperform a traditional PC.

The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are available in silver and space-grey finishes in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB configurations as well as a new 1TB option (which we reviewed).

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at Rs 89,900 for the Wi-Fi model and Rs 1,03,900 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. It is just 5.9 mm thin — the thinnest iPad design ever.

Let us see what went into making iPad Pro so that it can take on a laptop.

Once you own an iPad Pro, invest further in buying a Smart Keyboard Folio, encompassing a full-size keyboard that never needs to be charged or paired (the space grey Folio will cost Rs 17,900).

Now is the time to get the second-generation Apple Pencil that will cost another Rs 10,900.

Once the ecosystem is complete, sit back and witness new levels of precision and productivity with the iPad Pro.

The Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to the device for pairing and wireless charging. It became even more powerful and intuitive as we began selecting tools or brushes — with just a simple double tap.

The new touch-sensor built onto the Apple Pencil detects taps, introducing a new way to interact within apps like Notes.

If you are working in creative streams and love to multi-task, the Smart Keyboard Folio features a streamlined design that’s adjustable for added versatility.

The device packs creative apps from Adobe, Autodesk and Procreate (remember that Photoshop CC from Adobe is coming to iPad Pro next year).

Another noticeable thing for creative professionals is a high-performance USB-C connector that brings a whole new set of capabilities.

You can now connect iPad Pro to cameras, musical instruments, external monitors, even docks, and get data transfer done in a jiffy. This is important for creative pros whose workflows require high bandwidth.

The battery is great and gave all-day support during gaming and streaming movies.

For those familiar with iOS 12 on iPhone X and iPhone XS, the iPad Pro provides a similar experience, including tap to wake and swiping to go home, access Control Centre and for multi-tasking.

The new Shortcuts app will help you link together automated workflows for photo editing, video editing and file and asset management.

Improvements to Photo Import and support for native RAW image editing give photographers efficient ways to work on the device.

For a day-to-day user at home, iPad Pro is packed with fun features.

Group FaceTime now makes it easy to connect with groups of friends or colleagues at the same time.

Participants can be added at any time, join later if the conversation is still active and choose to join using video or audio from an iPhone, iPad or Mac.

With the new Animoji and customisable Memoji, you can take advantage of the large screen on iPad to add more personality to photos and videos in Messages and FaceTime.

iPad Pro features edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with rounded corners. The A12X Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine outperforms most devices. The device offers Gigabit-class LTE and up to 1TB of storage to enable mobile workflows.

Face ID, the most secure facial authentication system in any tablet or computer, is now available on the iPad for the first time.

A seven-core, Apple-designed GPU delivers up to twice the graphics performance for immersive AR experiences and console-quality graphics.

What does not work?

Well, there are some limitations when it comes to a true laptop experience. If Apple decides to run macOS on iPad Pro in the near future (the hardware is ready for that), it will become a perfect laptop for sure.

Conclusion: Those on the iPad Pro ecosystem must go for the device as it has never-before-seen improvements, at both the hardware and the software fronts. For working professionals, switching to the iPad Pro will take a bit training time, but the experience is simply out of the world. For the rest, it is an iPad Pro anyway!

(Nishant Arora can be contacted at [email protected])

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Demonetisation threw up political, economic puzzles: Arvind Subramanian

“Through my new book, I am drawing attention to the puzzle, the big puzzle of 86 per cent reduction in cash after demonetisation, and yet the impact on the economy was much less,” he said.

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New Delhi, Dec 9 : Drawing the link between demonetisation and GDP numbers, former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has said the puzzle thrown up by the note ban has a dual aspect – whether its impact as seen in the GDP numbers reflects a resilient economy, and if the growth figures pose questions about the official data collection process itself.

In an interation with IANS, Subramanian, currently teaching at Harvard Kennedy School, and here for the launch of his book “Of Counsel: The Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy”, published by Penguin, referred to the chapter “The Two Puzzles of Demonetisation — Political and Economic”.

He also referred to the other “puzzle” posed in his book — that of divergence in regional economic development in India despite equalising forces like migration and economic growth — a dynamic of the states, he says, which runs against the logic of competitive federalism.

“Through my new book, I am drawing attention to the puzzle, the big puzzle of 86 per cent reduction in cash after demonetisation, and yet the impact on the economy was much less,” he said.

“The puzzles essentially spring from the fact of why the measure was politically successful, and why GDP was affected in such smaller measure… Is it because we’re not measuring GDP correctly, not measuring the informal sector, or is it the underlying resilience in the economy?” he said.

“In the six quarters before demonetisation, growth averaged 8 per cent and in the seven quarters after, it averaged about 6.8 per cent (with a four-quarter window, the relevant numbers are 8.1 per cent before and 6.2 per cent after),” Subramanian has written in his book.

“The key to this would lie in a comprehensive understanding of both the polity and economy of India, about how people vote, for instance,” he said.

He referred to the ongoing controversy on the NITI Aayog’s presence at the release of the GDP back series data by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) with a change of the base year, lowering the country’s economic growth rate during the previous UPA rule.

“I think the calculation of GDP is a very technical task and technical experts should do the job…institutions that don’t have technical expertise should not be involved in this,” he said.

“Economists would naturally raise questions when the parameters vary so much and yet growth remains similar. It is not so much about credibility of the data as about the data generating process itself and of the institutions that carry it out,” he added.

To a query on whether he was a participant in the decision-making process on demonetisation, the former CEA said: “As I’ve said in the book, it is not a Kiss and Tell memoir…that is for gossip columnists.”

Asked about the recent tiff between the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Subramanian said the autonomy of RBI must be protected because the country will benefit by having strong institutions.

“I have myself advocated that RBI should play a pro-active role, but its surplus funds should not go towards routine financing of spending and deficit financing — that would amount to raiding the RBI,” he said

The government’s differences with the RBI centres on four issues — the former wants liquidity support to head off any credit freeze risk, a relaxation in capital requirements for lenders, relaxing the Prompt Corrective Action rules for banks struggling with accumulated NPAs, or bad loans, and support for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Central to the liquidity issue was the government’s demand that the RBI hand over its surplus reserves by making changes to the “economic capital framework”.

On the RBI board, which has a majority of government nominees, the former CEO said: “I think that part of maintaining a real autonomy is not to politicise the board. The board should not be politicised. Not only it must not be done, it must not be seen to be done either.”

On the other puzzle of domestic divergences in development, he said the reasons could be historical in the form of the unequal impact of British colonialism in different regions of the country.

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Gambhir’s retirement draws curtains on glorious career

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New Delhi, Dec 9 : The high points of Gautam Gambhir’s career are a stuff every aspiring cricketer dreams of. Top scorer in two World Cups, winner of two IPL titles with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), one of the most prolific opening pairs in world cricket alongside the great Virender Sehwag. The list goes on and on.

On Sunday, the combative former Team India player made his exit from the game as the Ranji Trophy match between his native Delhi and Andhra drew to a close.

The match ended in a dull stalemate at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. The match itself however, faded into inconsequence as Gambhir was at the centre of attention of the spectators present in the stadium.

He made the occasion a memorable one, top scoring with 112 in Delhi’s first innings.

The 37-year-old has an enviable record. He has played 58 Tests (4154 runs), 147 One-Day Internationals (5238 runs) and 37 Twenty20 Internationals. He has also played 197 first-class matches.

But apart from the statistics, what fans will remember most is his combative attitude, the never-say-die spirit which stood out during those nerve wracking run chases or when the going became tough.

These qualities were on full display during two of the most memorable occasions for Indian cricket since the World Cup triumph in 1983 — winning the 2007 World Twenty20 and the 2011 ODI World Cup.

He played an integral part in India’s wins in both finals. At the the 2007 World Twenty20 final against arch-rivals Pakistan, he top scored with 75 runs from 54 balls.

He was the top scorer in the 2011 World Cup final as well with a composed 97 from 122 deliveries as India pulled off an exciting chase against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.

Gambhir is also the lone Indian and only one of four cricketers to have scored hundreds in five consecutive Test matches. He is the also the only Indian batsman to score in excess of 300 runs in four consecutive Test series.

But even before he announced his retirement earlier in the week, the signs were there for the past couple of years.

Gambhir did not exactly see eye to eye with India captain Virat Kohli which played a part in his exit from the national squad. He also struggled in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in recent times and his last season after returning to the Delhi Daredevils was not a very memorable one.

On Sunday, as Gambhir walked off the field and into the sunset, the curtains came down on a glorious career. Indian fans, perhaps even several around the cricketing world will miss one of the most exciting and talented batsmen of his generation.

(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at [email protected])

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