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Dealing with Employment Skill Gap in South Asia (Second Runner-Up)

According to a joint research by UNICEF and GBC-Education, almost 54% of South Asian youth leave study without skills for a decent job that will help them prepare for the next decade. Added to this the fact that almost 100,000 young South Asians enter the job market daily makes the aforementioned skill gap a big issue to be talked about. This should be the point to reform traditional methods of education, acquiring skills and understanding the job market so as not to creep into deeper economic falter, production loss and at this situation, an impending unemployment epidemic. This begs a question on how to make skills more dispensable and accessible among the youth.

Let’s talk about the most prominent way to reduce the skill gap; transforming educational scenario. The government, prominent employers and other concerned agencies must network and communicate with the educators regularly. This will ensure that all skilled workers are viewed and under lens of consideration for employment. The educational teachings in an organization must be made practical instead of only theoretical. This though is an overused phrase, its importance cannot be denied. Practical learning can include field visits, educational fairs, experience sharing sessions, case studies based on real time experiences and applicability analysis of different educational concepts. Practical learning can ensure that the learning obtained isn’t just jotted up or book-based but is something that will be fairly understood, remembered, practiced and applied. The other change that must be made in educational system is introducing more skill-based courses into syllabus. For example; a coding course can be introduced even in the smaller grades. This is because coding is one of the most demand skill in the workforce currently. And its demand is only likely to increase. Other such courses can be emotional intelligence, additional language courses, business writing courses, graphic designing courses, branding courses and so on.

One way to make the process of acquiring skills easier is through online learning and gamification platforms. These are well-incorporated in MOOC sites like Coursera and Udemy. Even though learning skills via these platforms have become commonplace, they aren’t seen as valid and reliable compared to skills learnt via real-time classes. This thus makes youth skeptic of learning skills on these platforms even if those courses are cheap, affordable and easily accessible. Here, accessibility is a huge deal. Many people in this web-connected age are more accessible to online learning than real-time learning. This is especially common in urban areas. But, this in no way undermines the viability of in-class learning. Youths especially from lower socioeconomic class should be allowed opportunities to skill learning classes in their own vicinity. For this, government can ask for volunteers who would be more than willing to share their expertise. This will allow mutual learning opportunities for both the parties. Those youths can learn important employable skills and volunteers can learn skills like empathy, cultural intelligence and emotional intelligence.

Skill gap can be addressed by diversifying the pool of potential employees. This can mean looking into the often ignored and overlooked pool including previously incarcerated individuals, differently abled individuals and global talent. It is important to address the values of intangible skills like adaptability, loyalty, sense of purpose and passion. It might not exactly be a skill that can be taught but ways to quantify those skills should be looked at. This means that to decrease the skill gap, the factors involved in measurement of skills employability should be changed. Besides this, individuals too should step up to realize the importance of applicable skills and actively search for affordable and accessible opportunities to learn a much needed skill with the mindset that #IAMTHESOLUTION. But this should in no way undermine the role of other concerned agencies.

Concerned agencies should also take initiatives to publicize the importance of skills for employment in the coming future. This way it can be ensured that general public and organizational stakeholders are all advocating for productive policy changes made by different organizations and the local and federal government. IBM had recently come up with a platform called P-TECH which aimed to develop academics and hands-on-training. These kind of programs should be praised and encouraged which will compel similar organizations to come up with similar initiatives in their organizations.

The skill gap as we talk about is most evident in digital field wherein newer technologies are being produced and the older technologies are becoming outdated and flawed day by day. Because of this, prime focus must be directed into developing digital skills. This can be a gradual process or an overnight one and concerned agencies should be prepared for the both. For this, many systems can be practiced. For example; KPI tracking can be especially helpful. To minimize skill gap in digital field, 360 degree program and apprenticeship programs can be practiced.

To deal with the perennial fate of most industries facing an acute skill gap, they along with concerned with government and public welfare agencies need to figure out how to deal with the impending crisis. Some of the ways can be diversifying talent pool, publicization of initiatives, transformation of educational approach and mainstreaming of online learning platforms. This can help reduce and fix skill gap when it comes to employability especially in youth centric developing regions of the world like South Asia.

Sushobhan Chimoriya