Shortage of employment skills
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the world has incurred a loss of about 255 million full-time jobs, four times greater than the global financial crisis of 2009.
India is further affected by the second wave of the pandemic as we see about 45% of job losses among people between 25 and 29 years of age in 2021. One of the major contributing factors to this is low skill levels in the economy compared to countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and China. During the pandemic, India struggled to deploy technologies to ensure continuity due to lower skill levels. In the same year, 36% of employers have searched for candidates with experience between 1-5 years.
Low skill levels and high expectations are challenging the current generation of the workforce to keep pace with accelerated digital transformation.
The adoption of digital skills is transforming the manufacturing industry because continual upskilling of the IT services sector promotes Industry 4.0 in the country. In fact, the National Policy for Advanced Manufacturing proposes that at least 25% of GDP should come from the manufacturing sector. However, although job skills in technology are advancing, the construction and retail workforce are being displaced by automation and robotics. Thus, forcing workers to seek a different occupation.
We need opportunities and investments to create new skills and enhance existing skills for the future of work. This should begin at the educational and institutional level.
To create an efficient workforce in India, it is important to guide college students into career paths that best suit their interests. This will effectively prepare them for future jobs equipped with the right skills.
One of the ways to accomplish this is to offer multidisciplinary programs in universities and colleges. This would allow students to design their own modules of courses to suit their career goals. A student following a multidisciplinary program can enjoy a tailored combination of courses. Such an approach cultivates different skills alongside gaining subject knowledge.
For instance, opting for a multidisciplinary approach helps students plan their course modules ahead of time. It equips them to compile diverse information into one tailored syllabus. It also improves critical thinking, develops a knack for time management, and prepares them to own responsibility and independence for their own syllabus.
Furthermore, Prof Mahadeo Jaiswal, Director, IIM Sambalpur recently responded to this approach and stated, “Due to the small structure of our IIMs and IITs, despite having ample talent, they were unable to figure in top 100 institutes of the world. Allowing technical institutes to become multi-disciplinary will help IIMs and IITs to start other departments like medical etc. and make their size bigger and allow them to admit more students. This will enable them to compete with the elite institutes of the world and become at par with them in the coming years. Diversification makes education more complete and helps increase intellectual outcome. Overall, the changes have been made according to the global system of education. This will also help attract foreign students to India and help the economy as well.”
Role of the New National Education Policy (NEP) in Creating Skills
It is interesting to know that NEP has proposed encouraging multidisciplinary institutes in each district area of India by 2030. The new National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) is a recommendation to transform India’s education system, approved by the Union Cabinet of India. Multidisciplinary institutes recommendation by NEP is focused on nurturing students for multiple skills or on making them an all-rounder. According to NEP, multidisciplinary institutes are expected to enrol more than 3000 or more students by 2040.
NEP has also highlighted an interdisciplinary approach to improve the skills and job prospects of students. Higher education institutions are recommended to integrate vocational education and training to prepare learners for future jobs in this approach. In the next 4 years, NEP suggests that at least half of the Indian student population should be exposed to vocational training.
Some students drop out of college due to difficult circumstances. In such cases, when students cannot secure a college degree, they lose opportunities to gain skills or procure decent jobs. NEP has recommended a credit-based flexible curricular structure that makes students eligible for multiple entries and exit options to address this issue. This approach boosts the confidence of students in seeking jobs and employers in hiring them. It also places a lifelong learning opportunity before them.
Less-educated workers exhibit a high unemployment rate. Eight out of ten women in India do not work. (source: Global Skills Report 2021 | Coursera). This rate is high among students, especially those belonging to minority communities. To address this issue, NEP has recommended higher education institutions (HEIs) to avoid the isolation of these students. This will be accomplished by informing students about diversity. Promoting equity and inclusion about empathy, language, ability, gender, and human rights and values within HEIs will break down barriers. This will solve the issue of unequal access to education among minority students.
Need for Tech Integration With EdTech Innovators
Technology is the intermediary to attain NEP goals for higher education institutes.
Multidisciplinary universities need management systems to manage suitable governance across disciplines and faculties. These systems enable staff to promote effectiveness and efficiency to solve the complexity involved in administrative processes.
EdTech solutions simplify the task of tracking the right career path for students, the growth of students, and bridge the skills gaps. These solutions help students opt for the right combination of subjects and excel in their careers by building the right skills.
Implementation of these changes using technology will enable India to reach its goal toward Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which aims to promote inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunity by 2030.
For NEP to successfully bring about these transformational changes in higher education, the entire higher education ecosystem must work together and use EdTech interventions to effectively create a “future of skills” environment for students.