Today, Nithya is on the brink of a new life, equipped with a letter of intent from Andromeda Loans that guarantees her a job. It became clear to me that what Nithya needed most was guidance on how to find the right career opportunities that can help her secure her family’s future. She received this along with other 200 students who attended the career counselling session facilitated by IKEA Foundation supported Disha Programme – a partnership of UNDP India and India Development Foundation.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Today, India is sitting on a goldmine of raw talent waiting to be nurtured and developed and added to the growing human resource pool. As per the National Sample Survey Office, there is an estimate of over 105 million fresh entrants to the workforce that would require skill training by 2022. The Indian workforce today needs a formula to find the right person with the right skills for the right job. The Indian employment market focuses largely on the demands of the employer, with not enough focus being given to the needs and aspirations of young job-seekers.
While large-scale skill development programmes today focus on skilling and job placement, it also needs to explore what potential employees want or excel at. This gap in programmes can lead to young girls resigning from their positions to getting married, within a few months. UNDP’s Project Disha aims to bridge this gap by providing career counselling services to young women, to enable job-seekers to become aware of the range of opportunities, discover their aptitudes, and choose a skill-set that matches their aspirations.
CATCHING UP WITH 21st CENTURY SKILLS
Secondly, the alignment of skills with jobs is the most pivotal factor in determining the growth of the Indian workforce. With the advent of technology, it is becoming clear that skills that are taught today will become obsolete within the next few years. Many skills required in the future are currently unknown and large-scale programmers to impart technical skills to the youth may leave them unemployed in a decade or so. In this context, ‘21st century skills’ become crucial for youth to ensure sustained employment and the ability to make dynamic moves within different sectors. These transferable skills are useful across jobs and include communication skills, digital skills, cognitive (computing, critical thinking and ability to learn) and non-cognitive (social emotional intelligence, teamwork, creativity) skills.
Such skills need to be introduced into the formal education system early on, and not only in the context of job-seeking. This would equip the youth much better for the dynamic nature of employment that the market will be witnessing in the years ahead. Even with the advancement of technology, Nithya would remain essential for customer relations, due to the communication skills she acquired during her Disha training.
BEYOND FORMAL ECONOMY
The last component is the identification of the right job. Currently, the formal economy in India, represented by large companies, constitutes 10-15% of the workforce, with smaller companies currently lie completely outside the purview of the skilling ecosystem. While all the major government schemes are currently geared towards the formal economy, it is important to understand the requirements of smaller employers within the unorganised sector and create linkages with the youth to tap the full potential of the employment market.
Disha Project is creating collaborative platforms at the district level for various stakeholders in the skilling ecosystem, including NGOs, local administration, education institutes, vocational training providers, sector-skill councils, and local businesses. All actors would benefit from the platform, by understanding each other needs much more clearly, thereby enabling the youth to be skilled in areas where employers require workers.
It is clear that there is a need for the youth to skill themselves in alignment with the needs of India Inc. Interventions like Disha Project aim to create an ecosystem where education links directly with the needs of the market, and such linkages are pivotal in ensuring that more young women like Nithya can achieve their goals