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The Gap In The Skill Gap

Copyright © 2016 EmpowerGenie All Rights Reserved

The IT industry propelled Indian business to the world stage in the late 1900s establishing it as an economic force to reckon with. The 2014-2015 Economic Survey validated that the IT- ITeS/BPM sector continues to be one of the largest employers in India currently employing nearly 35 lakh people. Despite this, the unfortunate truth is that our workforce is yet to keep pace with the skill sets required to leverage India’s booming IT sector.

Sangeeta Gupta, Senior Vice President, NASSCOM recently said, "Our engineers are not unemployable, they just don't have industry-ready talent. In other words, they lack the skills required for the jobs that are available to them”. The NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) survey of 2011 noted that India's $60 billion outsourcing industry is spending almost $1 billion a year re-training graduates for jobs.

The growing awareness that this skill gap is impacting the future of Indian industry has led to public and private sector initiatives to remedy this. Colleges are beginning to slowly tailor their curriculum to industry demands and programs like the National Skill Mission announced by PM Modi on July 15, 2015 (aimed at the manufacturing sector) are being set up to increase India’s skilled work force.

While this is undoubtedly a positive step in the right direction in equipping college graduates and unskilled workers to finding the right job, this still leaves a considerable chunk of the work force whose skill gaps are not acknowledged or addressed by these initiatives – the people who are already employed by the IT industry. Most employees and companies assume that once hired, skills acquired on the job are sufficient to progress up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, very few employees or employers are aware of or consciously enhance the skills required to ensure their progress.

The Peter Principle, a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J Peter in 1969, states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role, rather than on their abilities in relevance to their future role. Employees stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." Forty seven years later, very little has been done to remedy this. This approach of learning what is necessary to get by today as opposed to augmenting requisite skills for future growth exists across all industries but is especially endemic to mid size IT companies.

Very few employees are working at jobs that they are skilled at and have an aptitude for. As a result, a few years into the job, dissatisfaction sets in leading to lack of motivation and interest. Work quickly becomes a “job” rather than a career - something to be “endured” rather than “enjoyed”. This leads to a fall in the productivity and quality of service/product offerings ultimately impacting the company’s growth and profits.

The reasons for this are manifold. Right from school, it is only the lucky few who get an education and a career based on their interests and aptitudes. Most of us are taught to learn by rote with no real understanding of the subject. We do what is required to get by. Societalmores and the glamour of a lucrative salary and potential foreign placements coupled with the opportunity to start earning quickly has made IT the career of choice. Engineering colleges are a dime a dozen with unregulated admission criteria churning out “engineers” aplenty. Companies have added to the problem by bulk hiring and force fitting employees to projects based on demand thereby offering no scope for individual ideas and creative thinking.

In spite of the fact that these factors are rapidly impacting company growth and employee morale across the board, it is also the proverbial “elephant in the room” that no one seems willing to address. The mid tier IT industry needs to realise that skilling and equipping their employees for growth is in essence the only way forward for their companies to stay relevant and to reap the benefits of India’s image as an IT super power.

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