What comes first – Jobs or Trained Youth!

There are many issues pervading the youth and organizations in this century that make the skilling and employment process difficult and confusing.

Trained Youth
When I speak with students, they are filled with anxiety on what they will be able to do after college.  How much will the college education really help.  Will it help them figure out what they want to do?

They have very little clue of what it means to work.  Questions are ranging from what does one do in an office the whole day … to will I be able to refer to the books I studied for solving problems at work … to what if I dont like what the work is.

There are quite a few who are on a different tangent.  They are more sure of what they want to do like “I want to be a hacker”, or “I want to help suffering people”.  But they struggle with responses when one asks how are they planning to go about it, what is the real difference they are looking art creating, why will someone want to hire them.

Employers Dilemma
Then on the employment side, most of the employers including the bulk employers in IT/ITES, find it hard to articulate what they are looking for other than confident, communicative, and willing to work hard.  However, they do seem to know who to hire and who not to hire since they do scan resumes, give them psychometric tests and hire post interviewing the shortlisted people.  And when in spite of this the people dont stick long enough or be productive enough, it leaves us unsure of what is going wrong.

Unfortunately, this process is not a clear input for students or the training organizations on what skills should the students really come with.

Sector Skills Councils – Intermediaries?
Then there are these sector skill councils that are supposed to be an extension of the Industry on certifying readiness for defined job-roles. The Sector skills councils are not really accepted by the organizations as any definitive authority for hiring eligible candidates. What I mean here is that the organizations continue to run their own internal procedure for hiring and not rely on this certification based on the defined “Qualification Pack” for role definition with supposedly trustable third-party assessment.  The question “what’s the point of these Sector Skills Councils” is clearly avoided by all and sundry.

Overall Disconnect
Since the gap itself is not very clear, very few training organizations are able to train the students to be truly ready for an entry level job.  This leads to the continued frustration for training organizations on the Industry not giving any extra benefit to trained candidates.  The students themselves are not valuing the training since people get those jobs anyway. And of course the employers are moving on skeptically with all training providers and trained youth.  And on top of it government with its increasing cynicism only imposes more and stricter quality monitoring methods for the monies spent on training the youth.

What could resolve the situation
There is no clear or tested solution as the problem is complex and spread out intricately interwoven in society.

Some things I have tried in my own way and with my colleagues in the past organization and the present one:

1. We identified the lack of motivation to take up the jobs offered to poor education quality leading to lack of Self-esteem and lack of hope amongst the youth.  Visible in lack of motivation and efforts in getting skilled and also making efforts at the job.
With this understanding, we have worked re-energizing by connecting the youth with their dreams and at the same time share with them the stories of people who rose from poor/difficult circumstances into living their dreams.  With a consistent view day after day, we started breaking through the walls and have seen a remarkable change in the youth on their taking full responsibility for their life and growth.

2. The other big gap that seems to be the main show stopper from the employer perspective is confidence and communication skill demonstrated by the youth.
We realized, as have many other dedicated trainers, that this can be overcome with regular opportunity to practice, appreciation of the the effort, and their ability to see them succeed in increasingly difficult tasks.

3. Another big deal has been inability to stick to a job.  More importantly for the students, it is the not being able to connect what they learned or were told in training with what they actually have to do.  It is no longer glamorous, they are not the center-piece of attention at the work place and on top of it they have to do things which they considered below their ‘dignity’ or ‘low skilled work’.
We have worked at bridging this gap by turning the projects and problems they solve while in training to be similar to work place situations.  They end up doing a lot of those things that they would do in a real workplace like coordinating with people, documenting work data, and even cleaning up their workplace regularly.
All of this to be scalable and sustainable requires us to:
1. Train trainers to be able to drive this with passion – a slow and very involved process and notjust a TOT!
2. Method of watching and guiding each group or class as each one brings some unique element of the challenge to it.  Building appreciation, persistence and deep engagement at all times.
3. Staying connected with real workplaces to get the live projects and context to the training.  Am not sure if the virtual reality experiences will every be ready and real enough.

The most important thing that we need to constantly remind ourselves and fight within us is the cyncism towards the rustic and seemingly arrogant youth.  As Dr Daisaku Ikeda says in his book, Soka Education, “I believe we must wake up to the fact that cynicism and indifference erode society at its roots and are potentially more dangerous than any individual act of evil … because these attitudes reveal a decisive lack of passionate engagement with life, an isolation and withdrawal from reality.”