The IT and ITeS industries have been crying hoarse about the gap in the demand and supply of fresh talent and the inability of the education system to cope with the dynamic changes in the industry.
According to NASSCOM the IT industry is likely to generate around 3 million jobs directly and 11 million jobs indirectly in the next three years. It is estimated that the Indian Software exports market is likely to double to $60 billion by 2010. Sure it is a sign of positive growth. The industry experts are elated as the industry which put India on the global map is still growing optimistically and continues to create jobs.
Overall the year 2006-07 has been a good year for the IT industry as the growth curve exceeded the industry prediction of 27% to 30% than the last year. The main reason for The growth path is that the industry had undergone a transformation in providing employment opportunities. Recognizing the fact that there are skills available in non-engineering streams also the industry has opened the gates for such streams. With newer business models, that suite graduates from streams such as B.Com and B. A., the industry has widened the scope of employment opportunities. On the hardware segment even lesser qualified are being absorbed in specific areas such as testing. The trend has resulted in the stupendous growth of the ITES/BPO sector.
Laxmi Narayanan, Chairman NASSCOM and Vice Chairman, Cognizant Technology Solutions, said “Software services are growing faster and creating more jobs. Innovative knowledge based outsourcing has taken off well. Accounting and Legal outsourcing are two other areas that remain untapped. We can make a mark in global outsourcing in these areas”. With new technology and innovative strategies today the ITES/BPO sector accounts for 1.6 million direct employment and created 6 million employment opportunities indirectly. Kiran Karnik, President, NASSCOM, while acknowledging the industry’s growth cautioned about the dearth of talent. He empathetically said “Employment opportunities are plenty. But we are concerned about the suitability of talent for the jobs. Some are excellent but unfortunately majority of them are not skilled enough to put them directly on the job”.
In order to assess the IT industry’s employment needs NASSCOM has taken the employment pyramid approach. The three level employment pyramid is aimed at understanding the industry’s skills requirement and create specific education and development initiatives. The base level of the pyramid represents the simple technical skills such as entry level jobs in BPOs, vocational jobs like networking, hardware maintenance, etc… The middle level represents mainstream skills that are commonly required by the IT services sector which are in great demand today. The top level of the pyramid represents high-end technology skills which are niche today. Areas such as bio-informatics, embedded software, product architecture, DSP, VLSI, program management and multimedia convergence fall under this category.
According to NASSCOM it is the middle level that causes worry as the majority of the existing shortage is likely to emerge from this segment. “We found out that the middle level not only lack the technical skills but also soft skills. They lag behind in the areas of articulation, communication and presentation skills etc…” said Karnik. To make them job worthy NASSCOM in partnership with the Ministry of HRD has initiated a program titled “Finishing schools for Engineering Students”. The programs are aimed at making the student acquire industry-specific knowledge, soft skills, management and employment skills through an eight week intensive training delivered by trained faculty and practicing IT industry consultants.
In an attempt to strengthen the base level employment opportunities NASSCOM has launched NAC-Tech (NASSCOM Assessment of Competence-Tech) an employment benchmarking standard and certification program. The program acts as a pipeline of talent for the BPO/ITES industry by transforming the trainable workforce in to an employable workforce. The curriculum has been designed in compliance with the industry and the industry accepts the ratings of the students. Based on the NAC-Tech rating one may go for additional training in a specific are where he or she needs to be strengthened.
Following the success of the pilot program of NAC-Tech in Rajasthan, NASSCOM has planned to roll out the program in various states including Gujarat, Chandigarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu , Thirupura and other North Eastern states. Further efforts are on way to proliferate NAC-Tech in Tier I and Tier II cities to make them as BPO hubs. “We are raising the level of the people. NAC-Tech will help the institutions, colleges and universities to understand the potential of their students and determine their caliber in terms of the needs of the industry, relevance and employability” said Karnik. He further added that the initiatives will also help the IT companies reduce their hiring cost, improve efficiencies and enlarge candidate pool.
The biggest human-power challenges faced at the higher- end education was the paucity of Ph.Ds and research scientists. Leave alone students aspiring to go for Ph. Ds, even at the post graduate education level there are not many aspiring students. The industry is partly to be blamed as the fact remains that the Masters qualifications are not valued much in terms of employability. Naturally many students find it wiser to take up a job than invest another two years in studies. On an average only five thousand students opt for Ph.Ds while more than four hundred thousand engineering students coming out every year. Karnik point out this anomaly and asks that if we not even encourage students for pursuing Ph.Ds, how do we encourage them for taking to teaching?
Realizing the need to attract bright minds to teaching, NASSCOM along with the IT industry and HRD ministry has planned to launch five new IIITs (Indian Institute of Information Technology) based on the public-private partnership model by the year 2008.In all it aims to set up around 20 such IIITs over the next few years. However Karnik candidly admitted that the while the finishing schools offer a short term solutions, the long term solution would be to modify the existing education system itself.
He said that there should be changes in the current curriculum which need to updated periodically in conjunction with the industry and encourage IT industry – academia interface through workshops and conferences, faculty sabbaticals and mentor initiatives. To achieve this Government should open up the education sector to the private in a big way. According to NASSCOM a shortage of 0.5 million skilled knowledge workers may arise if remedial measures are not taken.
- M D Sridharan