Employability skills: train, never teach!

Thomas Edison, the world's greatest inventor, scientist and businessman, who created the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera and had 1,093 patents, had no formal education. Home-schooled by his mother and hearing-impaired from early childhood, Edison founded GE, the world's most successful and enviable industrial enterprise. On his success, he famously said: "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration". Where did he find this persistence? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not complete college either. Nearer home, Dhirubhai Ambani, too, evaded school, despite being born to a village school teacher. What made them successful? It clearly is not academics. There is some other knowledge, skills and attitude at work.

It is not a revelation that we all require some common sense to succeed in life. Yet it is seldom a course we study. Yes, life evaluates us on parameters "out of syllabus". This is the bane of Indian education. We leave our youth to learn the most critical employability skills by osmosis in real life; while educational institutions own this responsibility academically, professionally and morally!

In today's competitive employment market, jobs and roles are described in terms of competencies, which are a combination of behaviours that lead to superior performance in a job. The two major concerns of employers are finding good workers and training them. The skills-gap, which is the difference between the skills needed on the job and those possessed by applicants, is of real concern to managers and business owners looking to hire competent employees. India currently has 600 million people below 25 years of age, of which 320 million are in schools and colleges. Less than 25% of these are employable due to the skills gap!

Employability skills can be divided into 3 areas of learning. Knowledge is theory or technical understanding of a subject, the ability to comprehend, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate to arrive at solutions. Knowledge plays an essential role as a foundation, the basic building block supporting skills and attitude. Knowledge is what one knows—technical designs, software languages, financial modelling, etc.

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