Here is an opportunity like never before. The educated young in India with talent are desperately being hunted by the booming economy. Yeah, it is actually a job hunters market that is emerging as India takes a leap. Sounds good, but the moot question today is whether the educated young are actually employable. The disturbing answer is that most of them cannot get those plum jobs as they are not professionally adept.

There is a severe shortage of talent with the right kind of leadership and technical skills. Millions of graduates are being churned out every year but apart from a paper qualification, they have little to show. They often lack even the communication skills that are so crucial in a globalised setup. Former President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam remarked that only 25 per cent of graduating students are employable as students are lacking in areas such as technical knowledge, English proficiency and critical thinking. Ironically, these skills are the ones that the IT and IT enabled services industry is looking for.

The IT scenario

Here is the grim tale of the IT industry: though it needs 3.5 lakh engineers a year, only 1.5 lakh are available. This could lead to a shortage of over five lakh engineers in the next few years. A recent Nasscom-CRISIL report, “The Rising Tide – Output and Employment Linkages of IT-ITeS,” says the industry is expected to create about 11 million jobs by 2010. A study conducted between April to July 2007 showed that IT and ITeS sector was the biggest employment generator having hired 1.63 million people till March 2001. In another two years, India would need at least half a million professionals in the IT sector. Presently, the IT sector employs over 3,50,000. But it is woefully short of around 90000 workers according to the National Association of Software and Service Companies. In another year, the shortfall is expected to cross 2,00,000.

Salaries in many organisations are almost touching international levels and so it does not become financially attractive to be in India anymore.

 •  Jobs, shortages and future-proofing
 •  All theory and no practice

Planners and educationists cannot get away from this fact: as the IT sector booms, the emphasis is on skilled and cost-effective manpower. It has to be that way. The industry is not India-centric anymore; it is global and competitive. As IT emerges as a catalyst to fuel the economy and create attractive career oriented jobs, we must understand that operational excellence is the only key. With job opportunities mushrooming all over the place, the challenge is not filling vacancies, but filling them with quality professionals.

This shortage of quality professionals has resulted in a high level of attrition in the IT sector as professionals keep moving from one high paying job to another as they are in a market where there are options galore.

In 2007, the job market was vibrant. 2008 promises to be better as India steps on to vitalising its various sectors. India is slated to require over 1000 CEO’s across industries as new areas of the economy open up and grow. Various international companies are now eyeing India and moving in to set up a base not because it is cheaper but because there is a serious shortage of young people in the United States, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Fortunately, India has a singular advantage that even China does not have - a young upwardly mobile class ready to work hard, take risks and dream.

New avenues opening up

The 2007 Employment Outlook Report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) underlines the fact that though India is lagging behind China in economic growth, it created the maximum number of jobs in the Brazil, Russia, India and China bloc. As the second fastest growing economy in the world, India has created more than 11 million jobs every year between 2000 and 2005.

Promising to grow by the day is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry that has rapidly grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry, with the potential of employing around 23 lakhs in another two years. But again, the BPO sector has been seriously affected by the lack of trained personnel. Attrition is the order of the day as there are opportunities to move out all the time as salaries sky rocket. But that is another problem: Salaries in many organisations are almost touching international levels and so it does not become financially attractive to be in India anymore.

Furthermore, office rentals in places like Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore are rising. The only option is to move to smaller towns like Jaipur, Nagpur, Chandigarh, Mysore and so on. Tomorrow, it will be even smaller towns.

There is another boom coming called the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). It is a $3 billion industry with opportunities in areas like financial analysis, equity research, treasury operations, credit decision processes and accruals. According to an estimate, the KPO industry may touch between 10-12 billion dollars in another two years creating 2.5 lakh jobs with high salaries for professionals from varied disciplines like science, engineering, law, accounting and pharmaceuticals to technological streams.

Another promising sector is Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) that has tremendous potential as law services are much cheaper in India than in the west. At the moment, it is just opening up in areas like patent application, drafting, legal research, pre-litigation documentation, advising clients, analysing draft documents, writing software licensing agreements and so on.

Retail is another new economy sector that is seeing a hiring spree. Here too, getting trained manpower is a major problem. There will be tremendous generation of employment with the growth of organised retail. It is hoped that by 2010, two million jobs would be created.

Another sunrise industry is hospitality. A lot of activity has started keeping in view the coming Commonwealth Games. Tourism is looking up as the government unleashes an aggressive campaign to sell India like never before. This is expected to create around 95,000 jobs in another four years. As of today, there is a serious shortage of trained hands and students of hospitality are being lapped up even before they have finished their professional course.

Then there is the aviation sector that is growing at a startling 25 per cent every year. The numerous courses that have been started to train personnel are not able to meet the industry demand. So acute is the shortage that foreign pilots are flying in to meet the shortage. By 2017, there would be two lakh jobs as hundreds of new aircraft would come in as airlines expand rapidly.

Vacancies galore in conventional sectors

In banking and finance sectors, there is a whopping shortage of 90 per cent for risk managers, 50 per cent for treasury managers and 75 per cent for credit operations. Assocham’s study during April-July 2007 showed that 51 per cent of advertised vacancies were for financial professionals. Around 1.5 lakh were hired just in the banking, trading and real estate sectors every year. And it is slated to keep growing year after year. In the financial sector, specific skills like customer relations, sales and knowledge of products are in short supply.

Believe it or not, even for doctors demand is outstripping supply. A recent Planning Commission report has said that India is short of six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons and has suggested opening up the medical education sector to the private sector. Most developed countries today have around five percent of doctors from India. Nearly 60,000 Indian doctors are roughly estimated to be working out of countries like Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. India has only 73,000 dental surgeons against a need of three lakh. If health ministry estimates are anything to go by, India needs a nurse for a population of 500. That means there should be at least 21 lakh nurses around in active work. But only 11 lakh are available.

Media boom

The entertainment sector never had it so good. India’s television industry is among the fastest growing sectors in this segment anywhere in the world. TV channels are opening up every month requiring over three lakh professionals in the coming two years. Despite the mushrooming of media schools, channel heads complain that they do not get the kind of trained talent they require.

All this flurry of economic activity will automatically create a platter of opportunities in advertising. There are many options to choose from client servicing, creatives, media planning, production, television, corporate films, photography, market research, exhibitions, event management, promotion and direct marketing. Increasingly, companies are setting up their own units to handle these areas as it is more financially prudent to organise your events, exhibitions and video productions.

Seducing talent

As there is a severe shortage of trained manpower, companies desperately try keep their employees from leaving. Attrition rates in the BPO industry swings from around 20 to 30 per cent according to sources. India’s industry is realising that human capital has to be created. Training programmes are being whipped up. Salaries and perks are becoming ways to seduce talent. Corporates are going out of their way to manage career options and provide opportunities for growth and development. That is why companies are heavily investing in training, corporate training programmes, personality development modules and a more humane human resource development approach. It is for companies to ensure that their employees stay and not the other way around.

But in this exciting scenario, one thing is certain. If you want to be a part of the party, you have to be not just professionally qualified, but be intrinsically talented.

No time to lose

All this said, the challenge for the education system is to respond. In reality though, India’s schools and colleges are not equipped to meet the demand of the job market. Employers complain that students lack basic skills. Students learn by rote, earn marks in theoretical exams and graduate without going through a real learning process that involves analytical thinking, experimentation and independent thinking.

Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, says that the quality of education has to be improved. Of the 90,000 MBA’s that come out every year, only around 10,000 are employable, he feels. To say the least, this is a damning statement on the country’s higher education system. Kiran Karnick, former NASSCOM president, puts the blame at the door of India’s education system saying that only 25 per cent of the country’s engineering graduates are employable.

This is precisely why companies today are heavily investing in training and are even financing employees to go in for specialised courses. The Indian education system has not been upgraded for years. It has not responded to changing industry needs. The syllabus needs to be redesigned in all courses keeping in mind the dynamic changes that have dotted the world in recent years. Points out Manohar Chellani, Secretary General, Education Promotion Society for India, New Delhi. “There is tremendous scope for improving the education quality in India and it has to be done systematically. There is just no time to lose; the process has to be started right away.”