Solving unemployability in India

Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

Chapter 1: What is the problem?

On another rainy Koramangala evening, Product folk from across the city were valiantly fighting through the standstill Bengaluru traffic to get to another Crosstalk meetup session that we had been looking forward to for a month. The brave leader of my (apparently amphibious) Ola sailed through a flooded 80 Feet Road to drop me off at Investopad.

EMPLOYABLE TALENT!

According to Aspiring Minds National Employability Report published in 2016 (based on a study of more than 1,50,000 engineering students who graduated in 2013 from over 650 colleges), as many as 97% of graduating engineers want jobs either in software engineering or core engineering.

Chapter 2: Why is it this way?

The rain had stopped but we were too deep into the discussion to notice. Sipping on our hot chocolates and cappuccinos, we started digging to the core of the problem.

The education system

In India, education is way too structured and streamlined. Once you get into a stream after Class 10th (Science, Commerce, Arts, etc.), it’s very hard to get into an alternative stream of education. A college education provides no scope for a broader view as well. If one is majoring in engineering, then other domains like economics or business are either not present or given no importance. Sometimes, it is so bad that students studying Electrical Engineering have no clue of Mechanical Engineering even though both skills require a co-dependency.

Being a specialist is a thing of the past and generalists rule the world today.

Just look at Elon Musk or Steve Jobs to know what generalists can do. Majoring in one course does not cut it and colleges don’t seem to care. Some students who understand this need use college clubs to fulfill this but these clubs seldom get enough support to be successful.

Cultural barriers

As defined by Dutch social psychologist, Dr. Geert Hofstede in his study of cultural dimensions of more than 50 countries:

Network support

Except for the few premier colleges, most colleges in India have failed to harness the power of alumni, mostly because of two reasons:

Chapter 3: How do we solve this?

As the coffees started getting cold and empty, we started getting desperate for some solutions to the demogorgon-ish monster of unemployability. Fortunately, some of us had some experience applying learning models that could offer a solution.

The Cclub model

Cclub is a swarm of WhatsApp groups started by one of our Crosstalk friends to help non-premier engineering college students be more employable. Their website’s headline bluntly states:

https://cclub.io

The AFS model

AFS is a 100+-year-old organization started by American ambulance drivers who volunteered to pick up the wounded from the war zone during the World Wars regardless of the side they were fighting on. After the Second World War, they came together to heal the planet through empathy. They believed the best way to build empathy is to make friends across borders and therefore, the AFS Intercultural exchange programs were born.

AFS ambulance drivers picking up the wounded from the war zone
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle
  1. Concrete Experience: The participant first has an intercultural exchange experience.
  2. Reflective Observation: Through periodic orientations and monthly counseling sessions, the participant reflects on the experience and reviews what happened.
  3. Abstract Conceptualisation: Through some learning content, AFS orientation leaders and counselors help the participant derive learning from the experience.
  4. Active Experimentation: The learners are encouraged to draft out an action plan to understand how to use their learning back in the real world which leads them to another round of experience.
An AFS workshop in progress

Theory needs to follow experience and not the other way around.

Learning need not be rushed and learners should be allowed to learn at their own pace. The focus needs to be on providing learners with the tools to continue learning themselves instead of having a non-negotiable and time-bound curriculum.

Chapter-4: The Conclusion

Although the above models may not be perfect solutions to the unemployability problem in India, they definitely give us a direction towards possible solutions. This is a problem that needs us to act fast if we really want to take advantage of our demographic dividend.

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Mohammad Najmuzzaman

Mohammad Najmuzzaman

Sr. Product Manager at Clipboard Health, No-code Instructor at Bubble, Intercultural Trainer, Geek Blood