Kerala which forms 1.18 per cent of the geographical area of the country has unique peculiarities in education and development. Kerala model of development is a topic of discussion across the world. The state could exhibit spectacular growth in education, healthcare, construction, infrastructure and services sectors. Kerala, the totally literate state in the country could achieve substantial growth in school and college education. The network of educational institutions is comparatively high in the state. This led to substantially higher numbers of graduates in the state. Compared to the National average, due to increased numbers of educated youth in the country, the unemployment rate is high in the state. The rate of unemployment is 13.5 per cent in the state whereas the National average is only 8.3 per cent. The average employability among graduates in the country is only 22-24 per cent. But the Covid 19 disruptions affected the employability at the National level by 14.3 per cent.
The basic challenge in higher education is how employability can be increased among educated youths in the State? Employability can be increased only through skilling interventions. There lies a huge gap between available and required skills. Among skills, communication, technical, domain, IT and entrepreneurship skills are more important. Employability depends on factors like talent, content, skills, industry interface, innovation, creativity, collaboration, adaptation and right decision making.
Govt of Kerala is giving more emphasis to employability enhancement programmes after taking into account the Covid 19 disruptions and transformations in education and career sectors across the world. More than 38 lakh educated youths are waiting for employment in the State; of which nearly five lakhs are graduates including professional degree holders.
Covid 19 disruptions & transformations
Covid 19 pandemic has created a lot of transformations in education and career and will facilitate new challenges in the business environment across the World. This can be in the form of demand reduction or stoppage of demands. Demand supply mismatch will be the biggest issue after the second wave of Covid 19. Unemployment may increase during the post lockdown period across the globe with an increased inflow of NRIs. Moreover slowing down of campus interviews may affect fresh graduates. Some of the sectors which can create more opportunities in the post lockdown period are digital technologies, automation, health care and skill development. E-commerce, e-learning, data analytics, food processing, food retail, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, machine learning, cybersecurity, process automation and self-service capabilities will exhibit spectacular growth during the post-Covid 19 phases. Annually skill institutes across the country are training nearly 10 million youth to improve their employability. These centres are trying to reduce the skill gap between available and required skills. The post-Covid period will witness reduced face to face classes and an increase in online lecture hours. Gradually education system especially the higher education and skilling arena may move towards online learning mode. A lot of technology-enabled online learning platforms are emerging across the world. Overseas Universities already started converting face to face communication in classes and lab-based projects to non-lab, online learning platforms. Students, teachers and parents consider this as one of the modest forms of learning and new normal situation so as to follow social distancing. 2021-22 will exhibit increased acceptance of online learning by students, teachers and service providers.
The impact of Covid 19 will affect the admission processes in the higher education institutions abroad and will affect the internships and placements. Global mobility of students will be reduced substantially. Nearly five lakh Indian students are pursuing higher education in overseas universities and colleges. There will be a drastic decline in the outflow of students from Asian countries during falls 2021 and 22 winter season.
Opportunities for skill development
There are umpteen opportunities for skilling institutions to offer stakeholder-based market centred programmes. Framework for effective collaboration with industries, edtech companies, skill councils and National skill Development Corporation will pave way for offering short term and medium level courses. Apprenticeship with an online mode/ blended approach can be effectively delivered by the training providers. Micro, small and medium enterprises will be heavily affected during the post-Covid phase. Skilling institutions across the state are facilitating appropriate opportunities for facilitating employability of students and unemployed youth
In order to build competencies among teachers, a continuous capacity building programme on online teaching, technology-enabled learning, upskilling, effective communication, e-content development, effective delivery of courses and assessment processes are required. Coursera, Swayam, EdX, etc are some of the technology-enabled platforms students can access for online learning programmes.
The impact of Covid 19 disruptions can be reduced through series of mitigatory measures. Students or educated youth require appropriate technical, domain and communication skills. Students are required to identify potential courses during their undergraduate period to augment their skills. Recruitment and campus placements will be based on skills acquired rather than academic merit. All industries are in need of technicians, supervisors and managerial positions. National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) level will emerge as the benchmark level qualifications for skill assessment. During the recession period, those who lost jobs require upskilling or reskilling programmes. Construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, management, banking, finance, tourism, hospitality,, automobile, hybrid vehicles, advanced technologies, agri-tech, health tech, etc requires umpteen numbers of skilled workforce.
Graduates including engineering and other professional graduates can join for managerial programmes; whereas Diploma, ITI holders can join for supervisory programmes. Those who studied up to the 12th/10th standard can opt for appropriate technician level courses. It is preferable to do the courses from NSDC partnered institutions/training providers. Courses that require a high level of skilling can be reoriented in such a way that courses catering the services sector can be given priority. The acceptability of an online skilled workforce by potential employers needs to be augmented since placement is assuming as one of the major cardinals of skilling. It will be easy for the services sector courses to shift towards the online platform with the use of user-friendly online platforms. Skilling includes technical, domain and communication skills. Technical skilling requires more of face to face classes. Theory portions can be completed at the earliest through online classes and the internship period for the students can be increased. Students can be allotted satellite centres like construction sites for courses coming under construction and infrastructure. Moreover measures to explore the opportunities of using technologies like Artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, data analytics, etc. need to be given priority. The evaluation process can be done through online tests and viva voce with the use of appropriate technology-enabled platforms. Communication skill can be given priority during the Covid 19 period. The synchronous and asynchronous mode can be used for an effective skilling process. The asynchronous mode can be implemented through recorded videos which facilitate students to recollect/reinforce their studies.
At a time when Covid 19 affects face to face classroom sessions in educational institutions, Govt of India’s Covid Atmanirbhar package e Vidya will facilitate increased use of digital technologies in the educational sector. This will provide access to global education at the fingertip. One nation one digital platform called Deeksha will offer online courses. 100 Universities within the first 100 rankings in the country started offering online classes from 31st May 2020 onwards. They offer programmes under technology-enabled Swayam software. Most of the World ranking Universities already switched over to online platforms. Taking into account the constraints in reaching the connectivity in remote villages the decision to launch yearlong 12 classes based multimedia television channels is also a welcome step. It will in turn help the school children to access and learn appropriate lessons through the timely telecast. Community radios will also facilitate augmenting the learning ecosystem in rural areas. The programme to address the mental health of students will pave way for positive thinking among students, teachers and parents who were confined to their homes during the lockdown period. It will be easy for a state like Kerala to switch over to e Vidya programmes due to increased digital literacy and connectivity which can be made convergence with existing edtech platforms.
In order to increase the employability of youth, skill mapping of educated youth needs to be given priority. All the educational institutions should collaborate with industries, services sector organisations and world ranking Universities to impart internships/ Assistantship/twinning programme to the students. One semester must be set apart for internship programmes.
Following are the thrust areas to increase the employment of students of Kerala.
- Campuses must give more focus to academia-industry interface and skill development programmes.
- The final semester should be earmarked for compulsory internship programmes
- Student entrepreneurship and start-ups require more emphasis.
- Interdisciplinary research needs to be promoted
- Collaborations with international universities coming under the first 200 ranking
- Launching twinning programmes with universities of repute based on world University ranking
- Promotion of vocational skills
- Upskilling and reskilling for NRIs who are returning to the state after job loss
- Offer new generation courses based on career trends and future skills
- Academic institutions must promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship skills among the students
- Communication, domain, technical, computer and entrepreneurship skills require more attention.
- Students may join for the UG programmes/Diploma/ITI courses based on their interest, aptitude, attitude and goals. Regular career guidance programmes need to be organised at school and college level
- Conduct campus interviews regularly. This requires mock interviews and promotion of soft and communication skills.
- Govt must attract more industries, abroad Universities and services sector companies to invest in the state.
- Based on future jobs envisaged by ILO, appropriate interventions in the curriculum need to be done to promote jobs in potential sectors.
Educational & Career Consultant & Consultant to World Bank