Getting 'practical' on skills development

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Getting 'practical' on skills development

Lokesh Mehra ,Regional manager, Corporate responsibility, Cisco South Asia

According to a NASSCOM report,each year over three million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, only 25 percent of these technical graduates and 10-15 percent of other graduates are considered employable by the industry. This growing skills gap reflects the slim availability of high-quality education in India.
Although the number of technical schools in India has more than trebled in the last decade, most of them still follow a syllabus that is largely theoretical and does not relate to the practical needs of the industry in terms of content. A one-size-fits-all curriculum aimed at an 'average' student does not address the needs of the full spectrum of students. The shortage in practical training further adds to student woes making most of them potentially unfit for employment.
Need of the hour:
To address the skills gap and ensure a continued pipeline of talent, public private participation initiatives and government interventions that focus on empowering individuals and transforming communities through networking are required. A broad range of economic, educational, and social initiatives must be undertaken by using market strength, industry experience, and business acumen to collaborate with a variety of organizations, including NGOs and universities. Given that many young employees do not have experience in dealing with transitions of markets, economies and development, mechanisms need to be put in place to show how the raw skill-sets that they have imbibed can be applied in the real world.
Today's education must be scaled for global impact, enriching the classroom experience, applying a business orientation to education, and reaching beyond the classroom. The education ecosystem should not only prepare students for technical certifications, but also deliver a range of business skills that support them as they further their education, prepare for work outside, or start their own businesses.
Propagating networking skills helps sustain business and gives students the practical knowledge they need to contribute to their local economies and communities. This will provide a pipeline to high-skill, well-paying jobs and contribute to workforce development. In the long run it will drive economic sustainability in underserved communities and bridge the digital divide between technological haves and have-nots.
Organizations must adopt multiple tools, methods, and processes that give employees the gift of learning by themselves and make training on new areas of expertise quicker. In order that students have access to career and economic opportunities in communities around the world, they must be provided with hands-on learning activities, along with career skills such as problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking, so that they can design, build, and manage networks. Courses supported by classroom instruction and online assessments that provide personalized feedback, prepare students for entry-level IT career opportunities, continuing education, and getting globally recognized certifications.
Road ahead:
The demand for networking professionals in the governance and retail sectors is set to increase considerably and the software talent pool in India automatically indicates the potential for it to develop as a resource base for the networking industry. Given the skills in demand in the knowledge economy, information and communication technologies(ICTs) have brought about a new approach to institutionalizing education by providing alternative venues for knowledge dissemination and learning, beyond the constraints of space, time, or physical structure.
As technologies develop and the network becomes the platform, e-Learning can serve as a form of empowerment. The Cisco Networking Academy is one example of an e-learning model that delivers web-based educational content, online assessment, student performance tracking, instructor training and support and prepares students for industry standard certification. Offered by high schools, technical schools, colleges and universities, community-based organizations, and other educational programs worldwide, the program provides educational institutions with IT curricula and hands-on lab exercises to train a workforce that attracts highly desirable technology employers. 
Examples of such sustainable partnerships between academia and industry provide students with a view of the world outside the classroom and train them for the jobs of the future. This will not only make a difference in their lives but will build a workforce with higher skills and help us to emerge as a successful knowledge economy and self fulfillment for both professionals and experts. The challenge is to continue learning and keep a tab on changes in technology. Learning is vital, more now than ever before since the work environment and technology changes are taking place at a much rapid pace.

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