On the one hand, India has a large number of educated unemployed, and on the other, industry is desperately short of skilled professionals. One of the biggest challenges HR managers face, today, is finding candidates with the right skill sets. Being qualified is one thing, being skilled for the job quite another.

So how do we overcome the challenge of getting skilled professionals? Skill development training, if delivered in a balanced and well-defined manner, can help bring talent to industry. Against 12.8 million new entrants to the country’s workforce every year, the capacity of skill development is only around 3.1 million. The 12th Five Year Plan set out to increase this capacity to 15 million, and to meet this, skill development through engagement with both the public and private sectors stakeholders, was thought necessary.

The National Skill Development Corporation was set up as a part of the National Skill Development Mission in 2008 to 2009 to address the growing need for skilled manpower across sectors. It was felt that the skill of a large number of young people from the unorganised sector, who lack formal certification, could be utilised under umbrella initiatives recognised by the Government Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Skill India campaign targets training 40 crore people in different skills by 2022.

It includes initiatives like the National Skill Development Corporation; the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushalya Yogna —flagship schemes to incentivise skill training. But lack of awareness about such training programmes, absence of adaptability with changing market needs, and lack of vertical mobility are key challenges facing the skill development landscape in India. Private vocational training institutes can play a major role in helping government with skill development.

The growing disconnects between higher education and industry requirement in India is, today, a matter of grave concern. With our over-emphasis on academic performance, even top-ranked universities are producing qualified, but hardly employable graduates and the employability gap gets wider, every day.

Skill development needs to be a strong component of our educational curriculum. A good mix of classroom teaching and practical training is what is needed. The last few years has seen an exponential rise in the number of start-ups in the country. We need to explore the possibilities of investing and feed them not just with funds but also with well-trained and industryready professionals.

Job training institutes can play a big role in picking up deserving candidates with industry tie-ups. Smooth coordination between industry and placement institutes helps in tapping the right potential and creating industry-ready talent. Accreditations and certifications from the industry also add value to new entrants to the job market.

There is no dearth of jobs. The shortage really is of the required skills for a particular job. Many a time, an organisation needs only +2 candidates from a rural background to fill its vacancies. Training and placement institutes can match organisation’s and the candidate’s requirement. Perfect matching is the key to good placement.

The idea is to get the right candidate for the right job. Internships provide students hands-on work opportunity and help them learn to apply their theoretical knowledge to real life situation. They are stepping stones to the job market. Many companies give high-performing interns job offers; others give internship certificate which could help one land a good job.Institutes that have tie-ups with multinationals and industry bodies can facilitate internships and jobs. Good communication and soft skills are part of the job requirement. Placement training institutes can help master soft skills to increase their market value.

From expanding their business vocabulary and increasing their speaking skills, to writing customised e-mails for clients, and preparing interesting PowerPoint presentation, all these can be learnt at placement training institutes. Companies no longer just look for academic excellence; they lay great stress on a candidate’s suitability for the job and mock interviews and assessment tests can be great tools for preparing for the day of reckoning. They provide appropriate grooming and build up confidence for campus placement interview.

Placement institutes can conduct mock interviews, written assessments, and group discussions for recruitment. They can also organise seminars, workshops and motivational lectures by industry stalwarts to understand the latest trends and projections in the industry.

There is need to organise job fairs to aid the recruitment and networking. The attempt should be to connect prospective employees with multiple employers. Such recruitment fairs give students industry exposure and the interactions held provide real-time experience about the hiring process and methodologies.

We live in a fastchanging technological world. If India wants to move up in the comity of nations, we need to improve our educational infrastructure, and technology is its most important component.

We need to integrate technology at the grass root level and introduce futuristic skills.

(The writer is chairman, ICA Edu Skills)