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Is India ready to face the employability challenge?

With the increased use of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), there is a need for businesses to realign their approach to optimise output.

Narayan Mahadevan | New Delhi |

The rate at which digitisation and automation are penetrating business functions across industries has led to several changes within the processes that companies are using today. This, in turn, has affected the roles of employees as well.

With the increased use of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), there is a need for businesses to realign their approach to optimise output. According to a report by Gartner, while these technologies are likely to cause close to 1.8 million existing roles to become redundant, in return they are expected to create 2.3 million new positions by 2020.

Where engineering employability stands today

Given that the work of engineers already involves the use of technology to a large extent, the tech industry, in particular, will need to strategically implement new processes to be able to adapt these changes.

Amongst the best approaches is to start at the level of education, in order to produce a talent pool that is already equipped with the right skills to be industry-ready before they enter the professional world. Additionally, companies will have to focus on the strategic up-skilling and re-skilling of existing employees in advance to make the transition effective.

The need-gap

A McKinsey report found that 25 to 50 million emerging tech jobs will be created in the next 12 to 15 years of which India will have to account for 6 Million to 12 Million jobs. However, the challenge in India arises from the fact that, though there is a huge demand for engineers, there is a lack of available employable talent.

Additionally, even experienced engineers in the field are in limited numbers, making it more expensive for companies to retain them. This, in turn, negatively affects the startup ecosystem as well, given that smaller businesses generally do not have adequate funds to maintain costly-but-limited talent as well as to propel business returns.

As per recent studies, out of 1.5 million engineers graduating every year in India, less than 0.5 percent are deemed employable. This is largely due to a lack of coding confidence and hands-on experience amongst engineers during the years of their education and/or training.

Thus, large numbers of these engineers end up pursuing non-IT jobs. However, it is more than likely that a majority of graduating engineers aspire towards software engineering or core engineering roles. Therefore, there is a need to address this major employability gap.

The approach towards building a talent pool with the right skills

To equip present and future engineers with the right skill-sets for the job, it is necessary for educational institutions and training to lay emphasis on experiential learning.

An internal study suggests that the primary reason behind low confidence to code amongst 1000 participating engineering graduates is the lack of hands-on coding experience. This was followed by the absence of line projects, less time and focus on coding and an outdated syllabus.

In order to effectively solve these problems, engineering education needs to shift the focus to incorporate more hands-on learning pertaining to coding. Engineers should be given independent projects which contribute to creating real-time value and applying a number of different coding languages.

Additionally, institutions and training centres must have a model wherein there is continuous evaluation and mentorship by industry experts. This will ensure the syllabus and learning are up-to-date and at par with industry standards. Moreover, it will help them learn in a do-it-yourself approach which will help to equip them with versatile skills for future jobs.

By incorporating these three critical factors, fresh engineers will be able to tackle real and current problems in the industry when they enter the professional world.

Additionally, by following this approach for training, companies will also have access to experienced engineers who will be able to tap into what is required in today’s times with emerging technologies. It will help to create a strong pool of existing and fresh talent with robust skill-sets.

This, in turn, will lead to increased confidence amongst engineers to contribute to the demands of today’s dynamic tech industry, thereby enhancing the scope and scalability of businesses for years to come.

The author is founder at BridgeLabz.