There is a need for educational institutions to evolve a parallel curriculum that focuses on the necessary skills and abilities to help students become employable. Here's what is required.
India’s demographic dividend will be a huge deficit if we continue to have only 20 per cent of our graduates employable. The evident gap in the industry requirements and curriculum has emerged as the most common reason highlighted for this figure. There is an opinion among stakeholders that most of teaching – learning experience is academic and not related to the real job environment. Communication skills of graduates are often lacking particularly in comparison to the demands of today’s global market place.
The industry is today addressing the new generation and disruption is normal in today’s business. The generation entering education today is not the same as what it used to be 15 years back. The expectations from the key stakeholders – industry and students - have changed drastically. The traditional model of teaching and learning will not be able to address this gap. With its ‘fast-food’ approach, finishing schools have not been able to address this problem either. Moreover, most of its training is focused on ensuring that candidates perform well in job interviews, but does not imbibe skills that will help them succeed in a job in particular and life in general.
There is a need for educational institutions to evolve a parallel curriculum that focuses on the necessary skills and abilities to help students become employable. Just like the curriculum followed by institutions, there is a need for a consistent and well-designed methodology focused on understanding the employability related strengths and weaknesses of students and delivering personalised inputs for improvement. The training should be complimented by regular review of progress made by the candidate so that gaps can be effectively filled. Scientific assessments backed by proven training models is a solution to this problem.
Most educational institutions have a department for corporate engagements including placements and training apart from managing other interactions with the corporates. Along with the academics, this team has a major responsibility of ensuring that the students are fit for employment. Let’s look at how educational institutions can help systematically improve the employability of students.
Assess Strengths and Areas of Improvement
It is important for students to benchmark their current strengths and identify areas of improvement. This benchmarking has to be done against the industry standards. Corporates are comfortable with the domain knowledge that students acquire from the institutions. What institutions need is to focus on is the students’ skills, ability and personality which are not a part of a typical curriculum in an educational institution. These assessments should be administered early in the tenure of graduate education so that students get enough time to fine-tune their employability as per industry norms. Employability enhancement programs cannot be managed by single assessment intervention. There is a need for setting improvement targets and periodic review of the progress made by the student to make the employability enhancement program effective.
Assessments form the basis for training need identification. Once the training needs are identified, it is important for devising training programs which will address the areas where gaps are to be filled. The curriculum for this training has to be built on the basis of industry requirements and gaps identified in the assessments. Immersive methods of training using activities and games are proven to be more effective than the classroom training.
Organising and participating in College Activities
Educational institutions should encourage students to organise and participate in various extra-curricular events. These activities have proven to acquire certain skills that will not be attained through classroom interventions. These programs expose the students to various situations which help them improve their communication skills, leadership skills and teamwork. Students who actively participate in extra-curricular activities have been observed to be more confident. Corporates also prefer to recruit candidates who take up initiatives and hence, these will add to the resume of these students.
Disconnect between industry and academia has been often highlighted as a cause of concern. Industry expects the students to have real expectations about their future and the job environment. Frequent industry interactions where students engage with members from various industries will help them get exposure to the work environment and corporate expectations and help them prepare themselves better for the job. Inviting alumni for interaction with students will also be useful. Alumni community has a better understanding of how to interact with students of various institutions. Frequent industry visits will also provide students the necessary exposure to actual work environment.
Internships and Live Projects
Internships and Live Projects in industries of choice will help students gain first-hand experience of undertaking tasks in a corporate world. Students work on internship projects which will give them the confidence of working in real work environment. These internships also act as a platform to prove the corporates on the ability of student to handle various tasks. Students will get necessary feedback from the corporates based on their experience in the organisation. This experience and feedback will be useful for students to prepare themselves better for the actual job scenario.
Test and Interview Preparation
A standard fresh graduate selection includes assessment of skills and abilities followed by face to face interviews. It is observed that students fail to clear the assessments as they are not the typical domain questions that they encounter in their academics. A good percentage among those who clear the tests find it hard to cross the interview hurdle. Exposure to job environment and lack of communication skills are the most common reasons why they struggle in these interviews.
Many times the corporate recruitment test is the first time a student gets a change to appear for an employability test and face an interview. More practice in the form of mock tests and mock interviews will help the students perform better in their recruitment test.
About the author:
Nagendran Sundararajan is the Executive Vice President of MeritTrac Services. He heads Solutions & Business Development at MeritTrac. An engineering graduate from Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai and an MBA from Bellevue University, NE, USA, Nagendran has rich experience of working with engineering and technology based companies in his career spanning over two decades. During this tenure, Nagendran contributed extensively in developing applications and solutions to various customers for solving their business problems. In his career, Nagendran has been in the forefront of imparting skills on products and business functions and carries the experience of moving across products, services and markets.