Onno Ruhl, the World Bank Country Director for India, estimates that “India’s working age population is on the rise and will continue to do so for another two decades”, while The Wall Street Journal expects the Indian workforce to grow by 12 million each year. With more than 65 percent of its population of working age at present, India is also expected to be home to the world’s youngest population by 2022.
But the secret to realising the potential of an emerging superpower like India lies in understanding and steering through the complexities of its economy, and the picture of this fast-growing nation is indeed both fascinating and complex. While India’s large young workforce is obviously a great resource, it isn’t being utilised optimally to power the nation’s growth.
According to a 2018 report published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), there are around 31 million unemployed Indians seeking jobs at present – the highest since October 2016. The fresh batch of college graduates that entered the workforce in May will have only increased these numbers and added to the burgeoning problem of unemployment in the country. While industry experts blame this on the ‘lack of opportunities’, there is a greater concern at play here – the lack of new-age skills amongst Indian job seekers.
In the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ever-increasing shift towards automation, digitisation, and analytics across multiple functions has made it necessary for professionals to acquire newer skill-sets. Today, jobs demand familiarity and expertise in disruptive technologies like Augmented/Virtual Reality, blockchain, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Another thing that has driven the demand for evolved skills is the introduction of new policies like GST, which require specialised subject matter experts.
These skill requirements are posing a challenge for young Indians. The problem is extremely basic – Indians have traditionally put a lot of emphasis on textbook education and acquiring white-collar jobs. But the academia hasn’t evolved in step with the changing times, nor has the mindset of Indian job seekers. Institutes and colleges are still producing engineers with the same skills that their predecessors had more than a decade ago. As a result, there is a huge mismatch between the demand and supply in terms of a skilled workforce. This is weighing the nation down and crippling its long-term economic growth.
But in every challenge lies an opportunity, and so is it in this scenario. While industries are being automated at lightning-fast speeds, this technological intervention is not taking the limelight away from other in-demand skills. Human-only skills such as creativity, decision-making, customer orientation, strategic thinking, interpersonal communication, cognitive intelligence, and time management have never been in more demand than they are at present.
Job seekers must be willing to take advantage of the exponential growth potential that this change in the dynamics of the job market offers. New-age fields such as AI, machine learning, analytics, etc. offer much better financial benefits and growth opportunities than traditional job profiles. Using these technologies creatively will require a tremendous amount of expertise and a large number of skilled professionals, and the constant technological advancements will only further bolster this demand. The workforce will also need to align itself with the fact that learning in the digital age will be a continuous process spanning years, rather than the one-time thing it has traditionally been.
Leading online platforms have been working towards addressing this need-gap by empowering job seekers with the required skill-sets. By analysing large volumes of recruiter data, these platforms identify emerging job requirements and market trends, thus enabling job seekers to stay ahead of the curve. Moreover, they provide curated courses from top global educators to help them gain expertise in their preferred skills, allowing them to re-skill themselves at their own pace and convenience. The access to such data-driven insights into emerging job profiles also makes it possible for professionals to plan their long-term career growth with more confidence.
In the long term, an opportunity also lies in the challenge of tailoring, the pedagogy to the new-age job requirements. There should be a close-knit apparatus between the industry, the government, and the academic world to make the youth aware of the industry protocols and prepare today’s unemployed and underemployed workers for a new-age workplace. Institutions and organisations should provide soft-skills training to IT students so that they can develop their language and communication skills and problem-solving skills, and manage cross-functional teams. Industry exposure through on-the-job training can also effectively mitigate the skill crisis.
A superior market-aligned workforce is the need of the hour. The rules for the future workforce are changing, and job seekers must learn fast – and unlearn even faster. On the brighter side, this presents a huge opportunity for the country’s young workforce. After all, it sets the field for self-learning and being aware of market needs. Indian professionals can now work vigorously towards being actual value additions to their organisations, instead of just being simple jobseekers.
Zairus Master is the CEO of Shine.com.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)