Employability skills is a relatively new and often talked about term these days. Everyone is stressing on the need for employability skills in young graduates -- be it the academicians, the industry or the government. The oft-quoted NASSCOM-McKinsey report which says that approximately 75 per cent of fresh engineering graduates from India are not directly employable gave the entire idea of employability an identity of its own. If that was not enough, a recent survey conducted by FICCI and the World Bank revealed that 64 per cent of the surveyed employers were not satisfied with the quality of engineering graduates' skills.
But what constitutes employability skills and why are they so essential for success in getting a job? The answers are many, but can be summed up in two points:
Domain-specific employability skills
These skills make one job-ready for a certain industry, for eg: banking, retail, insurance, auto, fashion designing etc. These are vocational skills and make one conversant with the elementary knowledge of working in the industry of choice, making one more attractive for recruiters. For engineers, domain-specific skills might include quality assurance, testing, network administration etc, whereas for management graduates, gaining skills related to the mutual fund industry, insurance and pension fund selling, share trading and depository services, stock and inventory management, etc will make them more employable.
General employability skills
These include basic communication skills like reading, listening and writing, and higher order communication skills which would include influencing, negotiation, etc both written and non-written. Apart from communication skills, the knowledge of industry verticals, career progression paths, workplace ethics, critical thinking and effective time management make one more readily employable in the industry.
According to the FICCI survey, the three most important general skills are integrity, reliability and teamwork, and the most important specific skills are entrepreneurship, English communication and familiarity with modern tools and technology.
The recruiter's perspective
If the prospective candidates appearing for any recruitment process possess the requisite skills, then it becomes easy for the recruiter to filter out the deserving from the not-so-deserving ones. Also, hiring people with the desired job-readiness skills will lead to a significant reduction in the time, effort and money spent in the training of fresh recruits.
Another benefit of hiring people with relevant employability skills is that it helps in managing attrition as only those who are interested in that field will take up the job.
Who will provide these skills and how?
We need to appreciate that imparting skills is an altogether different task than providing knowledge. Swimming is a skill, and no amount of bookish knowledge can make you a swimmer unless you jump in the water and experience the entire activity under expert supervision.
The same is the case with employability. Employability skills can be best learned through interactive and experiential learning curriculum where a person first experiences something and then derives the learning from that activity. This way the learning becomes permanent and more effective.
Over the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at specific skills that make fresh graduates and potential recruits 'employable' and how they can improve and perfect these skills.
BodhiSutra (www.BodhiSutra.com) is an IIT-IIM alumni venture which specialises in training programmes for engineering and management students. BodhiSutra offers both domain-specific programmes and general employability skills training programmes for students in final and pre-final years of their engineering or management degrees.