What do employers value more, skills or degrees? In fields such as engineering, banking, insurance, e-commerce, IT and the hospitality sector, a degree will help you get a foot in the door but hands-on experience and skill is what will help you stay there.
In many professional courses, there remains a gap between the two. To bridge this gap between education and employability, private skills-based institutes are now working with industry and academia to design course curricula based on job requirements.
The Palava Institute, for instance, was set up by Lodha in March, to offer short- and long-term certification courses in financial markets and emerging technologies such as data analytics and blockchain technologies to help students and professionals in the IT and ITeS sectors stay. The Tata Power Skill Development Institute (TPSDI) which was first set up in 2015 now has five centres across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jharkhand, offering a number of enhanced training courses to mechanical and electrical engineering graduates and professionals.
The Rustomjee Academy for Global Careers (RAGC) has two training centers in Greater Mumbai, that offer degree and diploma programmes in fields such as electrical, automobile, construction, business management, accounting and marketing. All these courses can be availed of by students, fresh graduates and mid-level professionals.
“Over the past five years, skill-based programmes have become popular with employers too,” says Kailash Shahani, founder of the HR consultancy firm Morpheus. “These courses can help students gain an edge during the preliminary stages of hiring. Since you can’t always demonstrate your skills in interviews, the experience gained in these courses can be considered an equivalent.”
Vaibhav Raut, 21, a student at the Rustomjee Academy, for instance, got a diploma in electrical engineering via the Maharashtra state board, but soon realised his skills did not match international standards. “To enhance my skills further, I then applied for a specialised electrical training course at Rustomjee and it was here that I started getting trained in line with industry needs,” he says. “Through the academy and their tie-ups with industry, I was able to train on site with international companies such as Siemens and Schneider, learning about aspects of my chosen specialisation — electrical fittings and components — that would have taken me years to access to on my own.”
“Today in the tech age one needs to continuously augment one’s skills to keep pace with changing technology. Hence the emergence of skills-based institutions. These institutes offer real-time courses in shorter durations that can be absorbed and applied while learning or working,” says Shaishav Dharia, regional CEO of the Lodha Group.
But it is imperative that these programmes are designed in such a way that they also address the future of work.
“The days of specialising in one area — electrical, mechanical or civil engineering, for instance — are a thing of the past. In order to succeed, professionals need to develop skills in allied areas as well,” says JC Mistry, head of training services at TPSDI.
“For instance, an engineer specialising in electrical engineering will benefit by developing skills in the renewable space like solar photovoltaics technology or smart homes, or electric vehicles. Therefore, skill-based courses must be focused on building competencies in allied areas with a focus on extensive hands-on exposure to hone problem-solving, decision-making and creative thinking abilities. So that along with a strong foundation, students have the confidence to take on future jobs — roles that have not even been envisioned yet.”