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Want a good job? Think hard beyond soft skills

Last updated on: November 19, 2010 13:27 IST

Want a good job? Think hard beyond soft skills

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R.M.S Atwal

While multinationals' tantalising hefty pay packages are too encouraging for our youth, the Indian corporate continues to crib about widening industry-education gap leading to a 'half-baked' workforce.

On the other hand, the academic fraternity is deeply concerned about employers getting 'softer' on prospective employees' basic technical and analytical skills.

Unlike the West where there is a 'strong interface' between the industry and classrooms with more emphasis on teaching real-life analytical skills, our education system is suffering from a host of flaws like rote learning, leading to growing unemployed youth brigade year after year.

Predictions are that by 2012 India will have its largest share of unemployed educated youth.

The author can be reached at rajatwal55@yahoo.com

Next week: Top job mantras and top skill-sets to bag a hot job.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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According to experts, literacy and employability are 'not necessarily linked'.

For example, India has 270 million (23 per cent of India's current population of 1,160 million) illiterate people.

As of 2009, India's unemployment rate was about 9.5 per cent, which equals 110 million. This means that 'not all illiterate persons are jobless'; even though they may be doing menial jobs.

Little wonder, under the present work-culture even an MBA first class is not finding favour with the captains of industry scouting for talented individuals with 'nerves of steel'.

Unwritten work ethic is, 'thou shall not totter under pressure and should think outside the box'. Yes, soft skills do help a student get that plum post but it is his ability to go the extra mile which can sustain and push him up the corporate ladder.

While a fresher is not that welcome in the present job market, what clicks for a student today is a good academic record coupled with some experience and 'extraordinary multi-tasking' skills.



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In reality, employers today expect a 50 years of experience from a 25-year-old man, who should be able to gel well with his co-workers in his pursuit of meeting company's targets.

Blessed are those with loads of physical and mental energy, who can still manage a smile at the end of the day! So, the smart act would be to acquire the skills that will increase individual confidence and competence and create an environment where he can add value to the organisation.

At the same time it is also true that finding good workers and training them are two of the biggest worries of employers today. The difference between the skills needed on the job and those possessed by applicants, so-called the skills-gap, is of real concern to HR managers and corporate houses looking to hire competent employees in Northern India.

Placement companies' hiring mantra is, select a few smart people and train them on the job.

Most discussions concerning today's workforce eventually turn to employability skills. Finding workers who have employability or job readiness skills that help them fit into and remain in the work environment is a real problem. Needless to say that employer needs reliable, responsible workers who are real trouble-shooters and who have the social skills and attitudes to work together with other workers.



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Creativity, once a trait avoided by employers, is now priced among employers who are trying to create the empowered, high performance workforce needed for competitiveness in today's marketplace. Employees with these skills are in demand and are considered valuable human capital assets to companies.

"Universities need to ensure that their graduates have the best employment opportunities by finding out what employers want from them," according to Punjab Agricultural University (Ludhiana) Vice-Chancellor, Dr Manjit Singh Kang, who feels that industry demands are different today than those of educational institutions.

"In industry, employability skills with the greatest need are getting along with people, planning and completing projects, and analysing information for decision-making. If the graduates have the proper employability skills, they will have a positive attitude toward their job," he opines.

Dr Kang suggests that like the West, there should be an internship system for teachers as well in India.

"A newer concept of internships for teachers is designed to make the classroom teaching more relevant to the needs of business and industry, where students listen when teachers tell them what they saw in industry," the V-C says adding that universities need to develop short-term vocational training programmes.

This top agricultural expert feels that the teacher internships make educators aware of the needs of industry.



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Such internships are not only good for educators' professional development, they will also allow them to adapt develop/curricula and classroom instruction to better prepare students to meet the practical demands of business and industry.

"This process can make course work with practical applications in the "real world" where the college graduates will be working after graduation," Dr Kang emphasises.

According to the CEO of Top Careers & You (Ludhiana), Kamal Wadhera, there is a 'gross mismatch' of industry and education in our country both relating stream and soft skills. In this age of stiff competition only those students excel who continue to update their skills.

He laments that most of our students are 'not groomed' for the industry.

"While it is a do-or-die situation for the industry, which has to keep updating itself as per global standards, the curricula being followed in our universities and colleges move at a snail's pace," says Wadhera, hence the gap keeps widening.



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Making a comparison with the US universities, he says, "Over there industry experts have a strong interface with students because they start innovations at the university level rather in the organisations only."

Wadhera, heading one of the top private education companies in the region, rues the fact that most employees lack interpersonal and behavioural skills. "On-job training is only successful up to a certain extent because there are certain skills which are ingrained in an employee and can't be taught. We employ people based on their sense of life and a threshold skills. Skills beyond that level can be taught on the job if one has the right sense of life" he avers.

On the other hand, Lovely Professional University (Jalandhar) Vice-Chancellor, Dr Vijay Gupta, opines that since our education system is 'greatly flawed', the gap between the industry and education is widening day by day.

Talking of industry placements, this US educated professor says, "Today, nobody is worried about candidates' technical skills as the industry is hiring them only because of their smart skills which lead to on-job problems later on."

He laments that since our education system encourages rote learning there is a 'total lack' of innovation among students.



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The V-C, who was honoured with the Punjab Ratna in 2006, suggests that with the introduction of analytical and critical thinking in our university curricula, our teaching can be made more meaningful like the West.

"The need of the hour is to first make our teaching analytical; industry requirements come much later. Our students must learn fundamentals first," concludes Prof Gupta making a strong appeal for making our boys and girls employment ready sooner than later.

Jalandhar's known career consultant and personality development expert Nikhil Mehta (Careers Paradise) opines that today big companies avoid recruiting freshers just because of lack of basic skills which make them employable.

"With the surging economy, jobs are there in every sector but our students lack awareness. They need to sharpen their personality traits to make themselves always employment-ready. You are hired easily if you are a multi-task master," concludes this young man with years of experience in manpower placements too.



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