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The Indian youth currently faces a major problem. With unemployment rates at all-time highs, college graduates are going through a hard time finding employment. In addition, companies too are having difficulties hiring a ‘skilled’ workforce.

PM Modi’s government has recently started pushing the rhetoric that they will now focus on making India an economic superpower where the GDP in its absolute terms would cross $5 trillion and where farmer’s income would double by 2022 (in comparison to 2017). What they’ve failed to do is outline exactly how the country will move in that direction and what steps the government will be taking to reach these goals.

For any economy to flourish, not only appropriate economic policies are required but also a skilled and educated workforce that is employable enough for any given company that may want to hire them. Although India has increased its literate population by more than 5 times since 1947, which in itself is quite remarkable. It has not been able to create a workforce with standard marketable skills. According to a survey by Aspiring Minds in 2019, more than 80% of Indian engineers continue to be unemployable for any job in the knowledge economy. Moreover, 30% of new engineers have no new age technical skills such as coding or AI, which is concerning considering the service sector in India is what contributes the most to the GDP. In comparison, it was found that the number of engineers in the US who can code is four times than Indian engineers.

As per another survey, around 66% of college graduates this year are jobless and 44% off those who have had a job offer have said that companies have deferred their joining dates while the rest have had their appointments revoked. The pandemic has certainly not made things easier. Many surveys have indicated that the students graduating this year will be less employable than those who graduated a year before. This can be partially due to the lack of exposure available to students, who’d usually enjoy it, had teaching been offline. Instead, they’ve now been subjected to online mode of teaching since schools and colleges have been shut for the past 17 or so months.

Data of school students doesn’t present a good picture either. In 2018, ASER survey reported that 55% of class 5th students failed to read a 2nd class book in government schools. It has to be kept in mind that it is the government run schools where the majority of young Indians are enrolled. To make things worse, the pandemic resulted in an increase of un-enrolment in schools, with figures rising up to 5.5% in 2020, compared to 4% in 2018. The difference is more profound in the 6-10 age group, where un-enrolled students have increased to a whopping 5.5% from 1.8%.

The Indian youth is smart enough to understand the dynamics of the working space. It knows the demands of the market and knows precisely where the curriculum is lacking. Surveys have highlighted that as many as 70% of the college students have already enrolled in reskilling courses online. Statistics now indicate that high school students now prefer the medical route over the engineering one because of the job guarantee it provides. Due to this shift in preference, new engineering seats added in the year before have now been out-numbered by those depleted from the count.

The current state of the workforce is concerning and the government should take some concrete steps to build and up-skill the Indian workforce. Though the government has launched several “skill-enhancement” programs, few of them show promise and even fewer have been able to yield some propitious results, and hence these courses are mostly reduced to being government “initiatives” that can be touted at public events and political rallies. The education sector must be revitalized and more resources need to be invested to see long term results. Institutions like the ITI need to be expanded to the vast majority of the nation, especially in the rural and semi-rural places, which sre in dire need of such resources. The recent opening of DSEU or the Delhi Skills and Entrepreneurship University is a welcome move. Such public universities will provide an excellent opportunity to those from under-privileged backgrounds, making them better in terms of employability. Governmental schemes such as PMKVY, Skill India Programme, Start-up India Programme are concepts in the right direction but need to be extended till the last village, in the remotest places. The approach should be a bottom up rather than a top down. We have seen success in programmes like polio eradication because of this very technique. Along with all these, school and college curriculum need to be updated to meet the current market standards. Our much theoretical concepts need to be taught in a much practical oriented manner. Every decision taken in the right direction counts and will yield results. This may not be visible immediately but will definitely help India in the coming future. We mustn’t let the proletariat go to seed.

Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Nidhi

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Written by Aditya Jha

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