By: Dr. Sandeep Garg, President, India Electronics & Semiconductor Association (IESA)
Employment elasticity is defined as how employment varies with economic output, and research suggests that the employment elasticity in India has come down dramatically even though the gross domestic product (GDP) growth is on an upward swing. The major job creators like financial services, IT services and telecom, which employ around 6 mn people have been shedding staff. There has been a lot of noise around a recent retrenchment related fiasco in the IT services industry where the Chairman of the conglomerate apologized on social media, magnanimous of him but the issue is something that needs to be addressed from a more holistic perspective. Where is the real-problem?
If we look at the manufacturing sector, it’s not very employment friendly either, with most of the manufacturing processes being automated and the remaining manual labor being highly skilled. We account for about 17% of the world’s population; however, we do not have a proportional share of the global trade, the reason being we are not technologically advanced or cost competitive.
According to one study, USA produces around 1 lakh engineers per year for a $16 trillion economy whereas 15 lakh Indian engineers are added to the workforce for a $2 trillion economy. If we turn to the sectoral composition of the Indian economy, tourism which is 10% of the GDP does not require engineers nor does the financial sector or the hospitality industry. How do we change this narrative to zero joblessness? One answer is reskilling! The campus is the perfect place for industry-academia interaction so that we can contemporize and customize the curricula to the Indian context. Right now, there is a huge gap between what the industry requires and what a potential employee knows. With the rapid rate of technology advancement, the curricula and teaching methodologies seem out-dated and totally out of sync with the job market. This means the companies spend a fortune in time and money to re-skill the hired candidates. With our burgeoning youth population and majority of the educated youth unemployable, we are looking at a nightmarish scenario unless we bridge this gap.
How do we make our vision of “zero joblessness” a reality? One arena for job creation is the smart cities mission of India; smart cities are an engine for job creation and economic growth. Studies show that by 2030, cities will account for almost 70% of the national GDP. We need liveable and productive cities to be able to leverage this. With government initiatives like 100 smart cities across the country and an allocation of INR 1000 crore per city, the opportunities across transportation, e-governance, agriculture, healthcare, etc., defies imagination. Data analytics, programming, high-end consulting, system and network integration will be some of the fields which will throw up a treasure trove of opportunities for huge job creation. With over 50 bn devices estimated to be connected through machine-to-machine communication, the Internet of Everything (IoE) will be an enormous market globally. There will be need for new services within this market, which in turn require even more skilled workers. Cities could turn out to be living labs for integration of hardware and software and urban services, all of which could have IP created in the country.
There is no question about the intellectual capital that India possesses, and it is also said that one in four graduates in the world is a product of the Indian system. And yet, there is an acute shortage of skills across every sector, industry and profession. How do we solve this paradox? The mattle of solving this paradox has now been taken by the government itself. Many Educational institutes are in the process of revising their curricullam to address this issues. IESA in association with Government of Karnataka and KLE Tech have started an iniatitive titles “NETRA”-National ESDM Technology research Academy, whose mission is to:
Make Engineering Campuses Smart by Accelerating
- Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
- Best in class Talent
- Industry Relevant Research
- Silicon and System Level Products
Apart from only focusing on the curriculum structure, the objective is to train them for the future by inculcating skills for the market. In addition, it is also imperative that we retrain the faculty by exposing them to practical knowledge about industries Employers must actively come forward and work with the academicians to create and develop a shared model for jobs and curriculum to address their specific industry requirements. With regard to students, a well-deliberated exposure to the industry in the form of internships or projects is essential, which this project is aimed at. The academia would do well to focus on behavioral aspects such as interpersonal skills, leadership capability, attitude, communication skills, team spirit and the like along with industrial training which will ensure the success of candidates once they join the industry. The green shoots of this experiment has started taking shape and many university have started to experiment with this initiative. However, the road is long and needs hand-holding at the hand of industry, government and academia. IESA is playing the role of connecting them together.
Hence, the need of the hour is to make job creation central to development strategies in addition to encouraging people’s entrepreneurial instincts, whether it is small bootstrapped enterprises or bigger organisations under the Start-up India or Stand-up India missions. The education system needs to be revamped to create the desired skill-sets. Setting up of incubators across the country is one of the ways the government is looking at to be involved in reskilling. Now is the time for academia to rise to the occasion and collaborate actively and effectively with the government and industry. With the immense talent pool India possesses, we are on the right path to become the innovation centre of the world, setting new standards of frugal engineering and green technologies. If we lose this window of opportunity, our greatest assets could also become our most pressing liabilities.