The Future of Work: Delivering the Skills that Graduates Need

By Tara Panjwani

In today’s rapidly changing workplace, as new technologies disrupt existing systems and processes, non-routine manual and cognitive tasks will continue to require human input while automation will be increasingly used to execute routine tasks.

This is the insight we learned from Mr Akhil Shahani, Managing Director of the prestigious Shahani Group (which has been a mainstay in the Indian education sector for over 100 years operating 24 colleges across Mumbai) who kindly shared his insights during a UKIBC webinar on ‘The Future of Work: Delivering the Skills that Graduates Need’.

Most millennials are increasingly opting for ‘Protean Careers’ (rather than a job for life) which offer new challenges and require them to reinvent themselves on a regular basis. To clarify, the Protean Career is a concept that requires everyone to:

  • Monitor and assess the job market;
  • Anticipate future developments, trends, and industry shifts;
  • Gain the necessary skills, qualifications, relationships, and assets to meet the shifts; and
  • Adapt quickly to thrive in an ever-changing workplace

Accordingly, to be able to transition smoothly between jobs, millennials will need not just the standard skills which employers look for at the time of recruiting such as problem solving, communication and technical skills, but also – and more importantly – they will need to develop long term skills such as networking and lifelong learning skills to ensure that they are employable no matter which industry they choose to apply to.

As digital disruption takes over the global job market, employers too are adapting their recruiting practices and increasingly using AI, automation, social media and virtual reality to filter out the right candidates.

In addition, they are also increasingly directing their efforts in trying to attract the right kind of talent – keeping in mind that graduates and prospective employees these days look for companies which offer meaningful work with social responsibility at its heart, and where the company culture allows autonomy and values inputs from its people no matter what their position.

Often graduates do not have the required skills, so employers are gradually realising the need to develop talent right at the source by increasing communications with universities and other higher education institutions. Developing an ongoing dialogue with universities enables businesses to provide their inputs to shape the course curriculum and work with faculty to ensure incoming graduates are trained in the right skills.

In the UK, extensive research on improving employability has meant that industry and academia connect more successfully with each other much more than they do in India, where the difficulty in finding talent has reached epic proportions.

This is because there exists a huge gap between what Indian industry needs and the skills that Indian graduates are equipped with. To put it in numbers, India has 300 million people under 25 years but almost 80% of Indian graduates are considered unemployable and over half of the workforce needs to be reskilled by 2022.

Indian stakeholders have finally realised the gravity of the impending crisis and have started taking steps to address it. Consequently, they are more open to foreign expertise and thus there is a real opportunity for UK industry and universities to share best practices, provide inputs into policy reform, and work with Indian industry and universities to shape course curricula, facilitate exchange programmes, internships and conduct joint research.

Currently, there are approximately 128 examples of successful collaborations between British and Indian universities but there is potential to do much more.

It is worth pointing out that in India, it is the mid-tier, higher education institutions (rather than the top tier) which are usually more keen to forge partnerships with foreign universities and industry to enhance their offering and attract more students.

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