What they don’t teach you in college

The stress of getting a job or passing the entrance test for a higher education program is paramount in the mind of the student in their graduation year. However, if they start early and start planning for their career or higher education  in the 1st year of their graduation then the stress in the final years would be much less.

As per 2013 report issued by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), there are more than 3524 diploma and post-diploma offering institutions in the country with an annual intake capacity of over 1.2 million.

They also reported 3495 degree-granting engineering colleges in India with an annual student intake capacity of over 1.76 million with actual enrollment crossing 1.2 million. Total annual intake capacity for technical diplomas and degrees exceeded 3.4 million in 2012.

The report, titled ‘Aspiring Minds’ National Employability Report’, is a national audit of employability of three-year Bachelor’s Degree graduates. The survey included 60,000 students from colleges across India, slated to graduate this year.

According to the report, the employability of graduates varies from as low as 2.2 per cent in roles such as corporate communications/ content development and 2.59 per cent in accounting to 15.88 per cent in sales-related jobs and 21.37 per cent for roles in the business process outsourcing (BPO/ITeS) sector.

Most of the graduates (35.95 per cent) were found suitable for clerical/secretarial roles.For an analyst’s role, close to 84 per cent graduates were found to lack the right levels in cognitive ability. Ninety per cent graduates did not have required proficiency in English communication.

Another area of concern is that many graduates from accounting and information technology backgrounds remain ‘invisible’ to potential recruiters since they do not belong to the top colleges usually preferred by companies. Forty-one per cent of graduates employable in accounting roles hail from colleges beyond the top 30 per cent colleges, whereas for the IT services sector this percentage is 36 per cent.

This system, apart from creating economic inefficiency, also breeds unfairness for the students. An effective means to tackle it, the report says, is to employ a scale able certification to ‘discover’ the employability of students across the nation.

India has the highest student population of over 300 Mio as per the last census. With Millions graduating every year from colleges in India, how many of them really are able to build a promising career? Planning Commission says that only 17.5 per cent of graduates are employable? Nasscom says that only a fifth of the graduates of engineering colleges are employable? 

Final year is very crucial year for any student. This is the time the student needs to spend time planning what next?  They have to decide how to manage the transition to either the corporate world or to move to a Masters degree.

If students plan carefully, supplement their efforts and work hard with dedication, they will definitely achieve their career goals.

Our company Infinite Myriaads, has conducted seminars with over a few thousand students from engineering, commerce, science stream across large, small, rural towns in India and we realised there is a huge gap between what the students think they have as skills and what the corporate wants from them as employees.

No wonder both the planning commission and Nasscom say majority of the graduates are unemployable. Many say that instead of increasing the enrollments in colleges and adding more universities and colleges the government should focus on providing quality education and the right inputs so that graduates end up with jobs that contribute to the economy.

Our student seminar tries to share with the students the realities of the outside world. It is a reality check for them to reflect on and realise that all the time they spent learning and gaining knowledge to get their graduation is only part of the task to get a job

In the seminar we impress upon them how the hard skills they achieved with their college degree needs to be equally supplemented with soft skills for a holistic development of themselves and to be wanted by the corporate as an employee

What is soft skills?

Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.

They are related to feelings, emotions, insights and (some would say) an ‘inner knowing’: i.e. they provide an important complement to ‘hard skills’ and IQ.

Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.

Our formal education is now looking at integrating the soft skills into the curriculum but what we realise it the subjects are taught like any other theory paper with no experiential learning. Does it really impact the students soft skills side of development, from the various seminars we have conducted it does not look like at all

 When we talk about soft skills we are talking about a whole host of topics such as :

–  Language proficiency

–  Personal grooming & Hygiene

–  Career planning & goal setting

–  Communication & Listening skills

–  First impressions

–  Corporate dressing

–  Customer service

–  Business communication

–  Workplace etiquette

–  Interpersonal skills

–  Team building

–  Leadership

–  Time management

–  Goal setting

–  Negotiation skills

–  Selling skills

In addition to soft skills the student has to be fully prepared with how to write their resume, how to conduct themselves in group discussion and personal interviews and how to manage their own social media profile. The transition to the corporate starts with the interview process and they need to be trained to be ready to face it

Is anything going right for the graduating students, probably not! As they do not think about how to transition to the corporate world.

The basics of grooming, communication, presentation, working in teams etc is not taught at colleges. The college curriculum is so demanding especially in the engineering side that the students have limited time to think of anything beyond academics, projects, exams. The academic inputs are limited to just test books with no or limited contact with what the industry wants, latest trends/developments. For a holistic understanding students must be encouraged to read economic papers to stay abreast of what’s happening in their field, understand the functioning of the biggest employers in their segment and how they are performing etc.

And on the other side what do employers look for from employees, they are looking at grooming and communication skills, as you know it only takes 30 seconds to make a lasting impression. Corporates look for strong work ethics, Integrity, ability to take on responsibility, working in teams, Interpersonal skills. Corporates are looking for well rounded individuals who know not just their technical skills but have good communications skills, good personality etc

What student feels they are achieving is a mismatch to what the corporates are looking for hence it is not surprising when we read about what Planning commission and Nasscom have to say

What next?

To make the graduates employable the hard skills imparted have to be relevant to industry, hence the syllabus creating bodies need to have interactions with industry and keep reviewing the curriculum on an ongoing basis so that it is what the industry wants as technical skills. If the curriculum is not up to date the students should invest their time and money in gaining additional specific certifications that are relevant like SAP, Six Sigma etc

The element of soft skills is missing from most curriculum’s in the education sector and to get that integration many colleges appoint external agencies to assist in bridging the gap

                             HARD SKILLS  + SOFT SKILLS = Employability

So the combination of hard skills and soft skills will make the student more employable. The challenge for all institutes is to get the student employed post his/her qualification. In order to address this statistical measurement which defines the success of the institute the institutions have started engaging with professional agencies to impart soft skills training so as to provide ready to employ students who hit the ground running.

To make a successful individual the hard skills at colleges need to be supplemented with industry specific certifications and soft skills, this could well be the success mantra for the student and the college


Raj Mahadev, Jt Managing Director, Infinite Myriaads Pvt Ltd 









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