Macro Matters

Why being a skilled worker is not enough to get the coveted job today

The success of Modi government's 'Skill India' will depend on delivering the right combination of skills that companies need - at the shop floor and executive levels.

 |  Macro Matters  |  3-minute read |   11-06-2015
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Politicians often talk about India’s young population being an advantage. They talk about how India can reap demographic dividend for many years to come.

It is also believed the skill development initiatives being put into action will create enough employable people in the country over the next seven years. But most of the skill development initiatives focus on relatively basic skills, those required at the shop-floor level, and to some extent on entrepreneurship. But what about skills required at executive levels?

There’s a crisis brewing. And, it is not limited to just India, as a recent global survey of CEOs conducted by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found. A majority of CEOs they interviewed identified skill shortage as a risk to their businesses, even as they prepare to step up hiring in the months ahead. They were not talking about basic skills or just domain knowledge. Companies are increasingly looking for people hi-tech innovators and "hybrid" workers, given the increased digitisation of business processes.

Such people are in short supply. Not just in the world but in India too, a country that likes to consider itself as an emerging global knowledge economy due its vast pool of people with software skills. It turns out that Indian CEOs worry as much as their global counterparts about finding people with the right skills, says a global survey of CEOs by consulting firm PwC. Globally, 81 per cent of CEOs say they are looking for a wider mix of skills than they have in the past. Tech skills are in high demand, with three-quarters of business leaders believing that specific hiring and training strategies to integrate digital technologies throughout the organisation are essential for success in the digital age.

A recent report of the PwC’s annual CEO survey notes that CEOs always worried about finding the right talent and skills, but over the past three years the issue has developed from “a nagging worry to a crisis-level priority”.

About 73 per cent of the 1,300 CEOs interviewed across the world named skill shortage as a threat to their business. Six years ago, 46 per cent CEOs identified skill shortage as threat. Alarmingly, over 90 per cent CEOs in ageing Japan and China and still relatively young South Africa are the ones most worried about finding right talent in this dynamic business environment where digitisation is reshaping the way people live and work. In India, 70 per cent of CEOs said they worry about finding people with the right combination of skills. Among the ones less worried were CEOs in France and Italy.

As concerns about finding right talent heighten, many companies are investing more effort into creating skills in the next generation of workers. Some are seeking collaborations with the government, even as they say that governments need to make creating a skilled and adaptable workforce their top three priorities. About 44 per cent of CEOs said that their organisation would work with governments to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce over the next three years. CEOs from India were among many who said their organisation were likely to work with the government on specific programmes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced an ambitious Skill India initiative last year replacing an earlier scheme launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to ensure that millions who join the workforce have the right skills to find jobs. It hopes to deepen linkages between skill training and the skills required by the industry. The success of "Skill India" will depend on not just how many people it equips with skills and prepares to be entrepreneurs, but in delivering the right combination of skills that companies need - both at the shop floor as well as executive levels.


Tina Edwin Tina Edwin @tinaedwin

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.

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