The fact that employability has increased among students — from 33.9% in 2014 to 40.4% now — is largely due to government policy. In the Budget speech of 2014, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced that “a national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched” and it would provide the youth the skills to make them employable and groom them in entrepreneurship. It is also heartening women were found to be more employable than men. UP’s 4th rank on employability comes as a refreshing surprise, given the state’s not so healthy record in job creation.
However, this is one side of the picture and we should be concerned about the remaining 60% who did not make the grade. It was only in the earlier part of the year that the National Employability Report 2015-16, prepared by Aspiring Minds, had found more than 80% of engineers in this country were unemployable. Some years ago the Planning Commission (now supplanted by the Niti Aayog) had said that just 18% of graduates were fit to work. More alarming, Nasscom in its report, written around that time, had been in agreement with what Aspiring Minds has to say now. This simply means there has been hardly any improvement in the situation and this is the crux of the problem. Most of our universities, including central and state universities, are in a shambles. While the number of university students has grown from slightly more than four million in the early 1990s to nearly 20 million now, the quality of education they get is hardly anything to write home about. This is largely due to outdated curricula, lack of competent teachers who can inspire students, and inadequate infrastructure such as the absence of good libraries and laboratories. This makes most of the students unfit for white-collar jobs. And this is a phenomenon that explains why there were PhD holders among the 2.3 million applicants for peons’ jobs in UP and again PhD holders and engineers among 900,000 applying for the jobs of constables in MP. The mushrooming of private institutes has not been of much help in this regard, looking at the number of vacant seats in them.
Where does the solution lie? First, at government level it should upgrade the school education system because the lack of an elementary knowledge of English and mathematics can be retarding factors in college education too. One has only to recall successive Pratham reports on this. Second, it must improve our universities in terms of hiring teachers at least. Indians teaching abroad can be persuaded to return at high salaries. For this, UGC rules and those of the All India Council of Technical Education need to be relaxed.