India's workforce: Achilles Heel of India Inc?

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Mumbai, Dec 16 (UNI) A recent finding by the US-based Nasscom that India will face a shortage of 500,000 skilled workers by 2010 in its revenue-generating IT industry, could prove to be the Achilles' heel for India Inc as the country attempts to join the economic big-wigs of the world.

A major reason for this is only 25 per cent of IT graduates and 22 per cent of science graduates are employable, mainly due to lack of job skills. Industries across India are also facing acute shortage of employable workers, affecting their bid to increase production and meet growing demands for product services.

The real estate and construction industries, another major source of revenue generation and employment, will need 2.73 lakh engineers, 10 lakh technicians and 2.29 lakh managers. For this, the country might have to import workers in large numbers who possess the required skills.

The main gripe of industries across the board is the lack of practical hands-on experience or job skills and a general inaptitude. And they point the finger to the country's educational system.

Only 90,000 graduates (2.4 per cent of the total graduates in the country) are employable. The figures among the engineers and MBAs are marginally better -- 8.8 per cent and 18.5 per cent respectively.

These abysmal statistics are but a tip of the iceberg. The truth is 50 per cent of children actually go to schools, and only 6 per cent of those who attend school complete the 10th standard. The problem seems to be the outdated and theory-based curriculum dished out by educational institutions.

Every year, more than 17,000 colleges and professional institutions across the country churn out hundreds of thousands of young people.

Their level of knowledge, however, is far short of market demands.

The gap seems to be widening. The question is what should to be done about it? ''We need to change our educational system. Though the existing system is working, we need a better one,'' observes Vyomesh Shah, MD, Akruti Nirman, a real estate company.

According to him, the mid-level and senior level executives also need to upgrade their skills to be more competitive.

The new mantra, viz revamping the education system and vocational institutions, seems to be 'Public Private Participation' (PPP), where the curriculum can be designed suitably keeping in mind the sense of reponsibility by the stakeholders.

For such a concept to bear fruit, a strong constitutional support (with Amendments and Bills to revamp the educational system) will be required along with a transparent and active relationship between the industries and government agencies.

For example, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) will have to have a close relationship with the industrial sector to enable technical institutes to produce employable workers.

Mysore-based Raman International Institution of Information Technology (RIIIT), which offers diploma courses to 'polish IT and science graduates' to be more employable, is one of the institutes that has forged working relationship with the government.

''Our institute is accredited by the Mysore University and is supported by the Karnataka government. We have designed our course to meet the standards and requirements of the IT industry,'' said RIIIT Founder and CEO S V Venkatesh.

India needs to act fast and get its act right. To maintain the economic growth at the current level, it will require heavy investment in manpower to utilise the resources. About 500 billion dollars are expected to be invested in infrastructure in the next decade. This level of investment, to name but one, will require thousands of skilled workers. And if the country with more than a billion people cannot provide it, the blame should be upon us.

UNI

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