Enough has been said about the need for Skill Development and the critical role it plays in one’s career success.
As we know today from publicly available statistics, India produces around 15 million youth every year, who are ready to enter the workforce. The number of jobs created each year is a lesser-known number, but some public sources claim this figure to be a little over 5 million (all kinds of jobs). One might deduce that there is 1:3 ratio of supply and demand when it comes to jobs vs. youth. We don’t know for sure.
The problem however, is far more complex than this. Let’s see why.
A couple of months ago, we spent about USD500 on a small, local marketing campaign in Bangalore, using a mix of offline and online media. The idea was to promote certain training programs, which would lead a person to become highly employable and provide job interviews as well. The results were very interesting.
The ratio of responses we got were divided into 3 categories, as shown by this pie chart:
A majority of people wanted “guaranteed jobs” even though they admitted they might not have the skills. There were quite a few Training companies who saw the Ad and called, desperately offering training enrolments. Only a few respondents were really interested in spending time on a 50 hours training program, to acquire the right skills for a job.
This leads us to the realization that Education or Learning of any kind is increasingly being valued in our society, ONLY if it serves one of these purposes:
- It gets you a Job
- It gets you Admission into higher education or a learning program
- It helps you score high Marks in an exam.
Any reason other than this and there are fewer takers. But, if this is the case, then people should want to get Training/Education if it helps them land a job. Well, not really so.
We see another trend.
There is a problem of Aspiration vs. Opportunity mismatch and this is not a new discovery. This problem has been explained in detail and published by experts earlier as well. But let me summarize it again here.
In our society, there have traditionally been 2 reasons for seeking employment – Economic and Social. Economic reasons relate to monetary gains and Social reasons relate to respect and acceptance in our society. Here’s a simple view of this behavior.
The tendency of a job seeker is to look for high social value (to be perceived successful) and high economic value (to be successful).
And these parameters of job selection lead to the problem of Aspiration vs. Opportunity mismatch:
In summary, today’s consumer trends highlight the following challenges:
- A person wants to commit time and money only if it helps in getting that dream job
- While there might be a good overall supply of jobs, the job seeker’s behavior is driven by other social factors
- The desire is to quickly find out a solution to the problem of training, job and career. Why? Because we seek instant gratification.
We may continue to provide Training opportunities in the traditional way, but that will not make the problem of employability go away. The demand supply gap may keep widening, because the solution available today is still not catching up with shifting trends.
The approach to skill development in our country needs to change, in order to catch up with fast changing consumer trends. Here’s what I believe needs to happen.
1. 3 parameters – Aspirations, Current Skill Levels and Industry Requirements. The intersection of these 3 parameters should be the basis for career decision-making (training, job, higher learning) and the first step in skill development.
2. Modular Trainings – Rather than trying to make an individual an omniscient rocket scientist the focus should be on smaller competencies. For instance, it might be enough that a person knows specifics of Financial Statement Analysis, Ratios and Business Valuation. She may not need to be a complete Finance domain guru to be employable.
A focus on smaller competencies or modules makes skill development simpler and more efficient.
3. Flexible Learning – Skill Development should not turn into another long, arduous classroom learning session from which a candidate wants to run away all the time. Rather than creating a 3 months long program, the focus should be on more flexible learning options, which makes it easier for a person to break down this process and assess and learn at his own pace.
This is also in keeping with the previous point where we’re saying that skill development needs to be broken down into smaller competencies. With this modular approach, it is possible to make the whole process of skill development flexible and smarter.
4. Early Industry Interface – Employers need to get involved much earlier in the recruitment process, or even before the recruitment starts. A typical hiring process creates a funnel of talent pool for a company, which hires the filtered candidates at the narrow end of the funnel. Since this process creates no value for the candidate, if she is rejected, the problem continues for her.
She might then head for another recruitment test without first knowing her skill gaps.
Instead, the employer should get involved much earlier in the funnel, to highlight required competencies, map an individual’s skills to desired work profiles and to improve the incoming quality of candidates. The challenge lies in doing this in a cost effective way.
5. Modular Pricing – Pricing of training programs need to be less intimidating. If a candidate has to commit Rs. 25,000/- and 3 months, then willingness to pay will be low, unless there is a job guarantee. But we already know that job guarantee is a myth today.
We already see this problem manifesting through low enrolments in Training institutes or even the sub-optimal enrolment figures in colleges of higher education.
If we’re breaking the skill development process down to modular competencies, then we also need to get the pricing down by at least 10X.
For example – Pricing, Market Research, Segmentation, Social Media Marketing and Mobile Marketing could be 5 modular skills, which could be taught and charged separately, rather than creating a longer and expensive training program on ‘Digital Marketing’, where you’re not really sure about what the candidate is getting good at.
Overall, I’d say that the trend is shifting towards quicker identification of problems, shorter and faster learning solutions and higher flexibility for the candidate.
If we have to shorten the demand-supply gaps in employment and employability, then our methods of enabling skill development have to change as well.