Preparing youth for the corporate world

Imparting industry-oriented soft skills among graduates and training them to face online tests and corporate interviews for placements has become a need of the hour
Job aspirants need to possesses necessary emotional intelligence and cognitive abilities to work in a multi-member, cross-disciplinary ecosystem that might be ethnically, technically, geographically and culturally distinct and diverse in nature.
Job aspirants need to possesses necessary emotional intelligence and cognitive abilities to work in a multi-member, cross-disciplinary ecosystem that might be ethnically, technically, geographically and culturally distinct and diverse in nature. Special arrangement

While the youth of Jammu and Kashmir have been doing exceptionally well in every sphere of life and have been proving their mettle by scoring well in their examinations, appearing successfully in national level competitive examinations, securing admissions for higher studies in higher educational institutions of national and international repute, bringing back laurels by excelling in their studies and offering their valuable services in national and multi-national corporations all across the world, yet it has been observed during campus recruitment drives and corporate interviews that a vast majority of our graduates and post-graduates lack some essential soft skills like the skills of problem-solving, critical thinking, effective communication, decision-making, creative thinking, interpersonal relationship, self-awareness, empathy, coping with stressful situations and emotions.

Therefore, apart from imparting training to our students in their own streams of knowledge and teaching them curricular contents, we also need to lay equal emphasis upon honing and inculcating soft skills related to confidence-building, time management, self-management, mannerism, ambition, focus, common sense, situational awareness, enthusiasm, optimism and empathy. Not only our higher education institutions but our high schools too need to work on building these soft skills among their students. 

Nowadays corporates are looking for professional, qualified and trained human resource who possess these twenty first century life and work skills including the ability to work with a team in a collaborative, coherent and congenial manner, ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and customers, ability to solve problems and take decisions at the spur of the moment, ability to interact with business partners and other stakeholders professionally, ability to face all hurdles and challenges and complete given assignments well in time.

Thus, in addition to the technical, managerial or non-technical tasks assigned to them they need to possess these soft skills in order to be productive, goal-oriented and successful in a sustainable manner. Subject-specific knowledge alone does not suffice in contemporary job markets. Job aspirants need to possesses necessary emotional intelligence and cognitive abilities to work in a multi-member, cross-disciplinary ecosystem that might be ethnically, technically, geographically and culturally distinct and diverse in nature. 

With a view to prepare our students to face the challenges of clearing online tests and appearing in corporate interviews for securing their placements, Centre for Career Planning and Counselling of the University of Kashmir is contemplating to launch a massive upskilling programme for our students in collaboration with Tata Strive (initiative under Tata Trust) - Google Scholarship Certification Programme, Tata Consultancy Services - Youth Employment Programme, Bitwise IT Orientation Programme and Finishing School Skill Development Programme of Mission Youth, J&K. These training programmes will be absolutely free for the students and will be primarily aimed at providing training to our graduates in communication skills, foundational life and work skills, logic, reasoning and cognitive abilities, quantitative aptitude besides other soft skills.

Tata Strive in partnership with Google has launched a free skilling program on high demand digital skills for youth that will provide a golden opportunity to them to upskill themselves for gaining more livelihood opportunities in IT industry.

This will be in addition to an ongoing Youth Employment Programme run in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai during which online weekend classes were started last year for engineering students of IoT, Zakura and North Campus, Baramulla.

This year this programme will be extended to non-engineering and MCA students of the main and satellite campuses of the University of Kashmir too. Main focus of this programme has been on building communication skills of the students free of any costs. Well qualified, trained and experienced experts are engaged for imparting training to our students under these programmes through virtual platforms.           

Finishing School Skill Upgradation Programme in collaboration with Mission Youth, J&K is also being contemplated for both engineering and non-engineering students of the University of Kashmir and its satellite campuses. Major thrust during this programme will be on building essential language and IT proficiency skills among our graduates.

During this programme, sessions will be held on CV writing, profile and capacity building, English speaking, appearing in corporate interviews, opportunities for higher studies and scholarships within and outside India, interpersonal and leadership skills.

Ultimate aim is that our graduating youth should be well-equipped to face the challenges of the highly competitive and demanding job markets and should be second to none in securing high-package placements in top-ranking industries. However, this mission cannot be accomplished alone by the Centre for Career Planning and Counselling.

Each and every department of the University shall have to participate in these programmes with missionary zeal and enthusiasm. Departments need to rope in experts from their own relevant industries for training their graduates in their related fields of knowledge and expertise. They need to create more opportunities for their students for internships, apprenticeships, industrial visits, exposure tours and hands-on training in their relevant industrial units.

Under corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, many renowned corporate houses are ready to fund such skill enhancement activities at schools, colleges and universities. Only thing needed is the will to approach them with novel and innovative ideas and concrete action plans in these areas for liberal funding. Pertinently, community-based transformational initiatives have been mandated by the Government of India under Corporate Social Responsibility under Section 135 of The Companies Act 2013 for socio-economic development of the society, that makes qualifying Indian companies answerable to the government about their CSR expenditures.

All such companies that have a net worth of Rs. 500 crores or more, or an annual turnover of Rs. 1000 crores or more, or generate an annual profit of Rs. 5 crores or more come under the ambit of CSR initiatives that include a wide range of activities for eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition, promoting education, gender equality, protection of ecology and environment, protection of national heritage, art and culture etc. In the financial year 2021 as many as 1619 companies listed as CSR contributors in the country spent an amount of Rs. 8828 crores which was much less as compared to a total of 22531 companies spending an amount of Rs. 24688 crores in the year 2019-2020 as a result of COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Some of the big CSR contributors in India include ITC, Tata Group, Godrej, Infosys, Wipro, Ambuja Cement, Ultratech Cement, Mahindra & Mahindra, Hindustan Lever, Tata Chemicals, Jubilant Life Sciences, Vedanta and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.         

From the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister of India Sh. Narendra Modi said on August 15, 2014 that “skilling is building a better India. If we have to move India towards development, then skill development should be our mission”, following which a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) was launched on July 15, 2015 namely “Skill India (Kaushal Bharat, Kushal Bharat) campaign” under the National Skill Development Mission of India that is managed by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) of India with a target of training more than 50 crore people in various skills by the end of this year. Under this banner, a “Soft Skills & Personality Development Online Course” has been designed for improving the soft skills and personality of an individual which is a necessity in today's competitive world. In this program learners are taught various presentation skills, communication skills, team skills, interview skills, leadership skills, time management skills and customer service skills.

This course is being conducted by CSC (Common Service Centre), Govt. of India and the certificates are awarded by CSC, Digital India in association with NSDC. Students need to take up these courses as per their own convenience against a nominal fee. Main objective of this skill certification course is to enable a large number of youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood for themselves.

Other landmark initiatives of the Govt. of India for skill development include National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme, Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), SANKALP, Aspirational Skilling Abhiyan, Rozgar Mela, Indian Institute of Skills (IISs), Skill Loan Scheme etc.

Last but not the least soft skill training has to be made a part and parcel of the curriculum of each and every programme offered by our colleges and universities. Then only students, teachers and other stakeholders will take it seriously. Since National Education Policy-2020 also aims at preparing all-round, holistically trained and fully empowered multi-disciplinary individuals at our higher educational institutions, it becomes our prime responsibility to offer everything that is needed in the contemporary times by our students.

Merely teaching subject-specific content will not suffice to empower them and instil necessary confidence among them for facing the emerging challenges of the global job markets. Therefore, our policy makers need to pool their wisdom in this direction and reframe our curricula paving way for comprehensive skill enhancement and capacity-building of our graduates and post-graduates. NEP-2020 could prove to be an effective guiding framework in that direction.

Pertinent to mention that the Skill Development Department of the Govt.  of J&K has already taken a host of initiatives under centrally sponsored schemes (CSS), polytechnic schemes, PPP schemes and Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) scheme for skill enhancement of our youth.

University of Kashmir has also taken several initiatives for skill development of students that includes establishment of the Centre for Capacity Building and Skill Development, Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IoT, Zakura and the Centre for Career Planning and Counselling and has devised robust policies and plans for sustainable skill enhancement of its students.

(Author is Director, Centre for Career Planning and Counselling, University of Kashmir)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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