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Skills, not degrees, take you far

Multiple qualifications won’t fetch you your dream job, skill-based training can.

A year ago, I met a mechanical engineer who had more interest in business analytics than mechanics. He obviously did not have the option of throwing away four years of study and starting afresh. Therefore, I advised him to take an online course on analytics along with his job. He did really well in the certification, and, as it turned out, landed a job at one of the biggest corporate houses. The skills versus degrees dilemma happens all over the world. I have many friends in Canada as well who have got degrees that did not benefit them because they did not have the skills. As such, they are working in different fields.

While education is important, it does not guarantee us a job in our chosen field. One learns a lot of theories during foundational education, but applying them to practical work requires skills which, for the most part, are not taught as part of the degree programme. I may not be wrong when I say that skill development is an area which is highly neglected by most of the students, and in fact, their institutions. The emphasis on vocational education seems to be lacking when it is one of the most important areas to focus on and will help prepare the youth for jobs.

The psychology behind this is that skills satisfy a deeper curiosity. The feeling you get when you satisfy your curiosity, having spent a lot of time and energy in trying to find an answer or a solution, is highly gratifying. Albert Einstein famously said, “I have no special talents… I am only passionately curious.” While the education system does involve a test of memory, skill-based training equips you with the analytical mindset required when you enter the workforce.

Acquire soft skills

In an interview with The New York Times, Google’s vice-president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, had mentioned that they consider GPAs and test scores as a worthless criterion for hiring. For every job, the main thing Google looks for is general cognitive ability, and not the intelligence quotient. “It’s the learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.” Applying your mind and logic to come up with a better solution would require the right skill set.

In order to keep moving forward, one will always need to revisit their skill set and keep on reworking as per the requirements. Institutional education sets your mind on a path for ‘how to learn’, while skills development teaches you ‘how to apply’ what you have learnt. If all you know is theory, you are limiting yourself and your opportunity for career growth. In today’s time, soft skills such as language and communication skills, personality development skills, management skills and behavioural skills are some of the essential skills required while applying for a job. Your resume boasting your degrees might get you an interview, but it is your skills that will help you get the job.

According to a report by Talent Sprint in 2014, only 27 per cent of the 7,50,00,000 fresh graduates would be employable by 2020. If we go by that number, then only 27 per cent of the country’s graduates are employable, which is a huge waste of resources and a major concern for the increase in unemployment. The talent of these individuals needs to be channelised to meet the demands of the job market and raise the percentage to a higher level. Of late, I’ve noticed that the social media pages of many corporates have postings similar to “Follow us and be ‘in the know’ of a job opportunity that matches your skill set.”

The Indian government has realised that it is a pressing issue and has set aside a huge sum of resources for skill development in the Union Budget 2016.

Globalisation has dug out the necessity for highly skilled workforce in both the developing and developed nations as manpower is the biggest enabler of growth of any economy.

There will never be a dearth of opportunities, but there is always a dearth of talent. Employability of the youth is therefore very vital and as the government pointed out, this crisis of skill development should instead be transformed into an opportunity for the growth of the economy. Value addition needs to be provided to everyone, from the jobless, to college and school dropouts, to the educated ones who need to refurbish their skills to move ahead in their respective careers.

When choosing the right course in order to accelerate one’s career in the right direction, the students need to be cautious on a few points before going for their skill training. For instance, they need to check the placement track record of a particular skill centre and the credibility of the content partners.

Given the government’s thrust towards this initiative, it is likely that some of these institutions have simply come up because of the government’s easy allocation of funds to finance such centres.

With the government focussing on providing skills to the masses, the digitalisation of the country being on its way and the ever-growing job economy, there has never been a better opportunity for Indians to get access to ‘whichever, wherever, whenever’ education.

Everyone should retain their sense of wonder and awe and keep learning throughout their lives. Working toward enhancing your personality should become an automatic part of you.

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