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Young people must focus on upskilling, developing better communication skills and chase long-term goals: Panellists at ThinkEdu Conclave 2020

A panel of five, including educators, a politician and a former civil servant, found that unemployment will be an issue in the coming decade mainly because young people do not possess the right skills


'Follow your heart' is something that most motivational speakers advise young people when it comes to the 'job versus career' debate but at the end, they tend to chase short-term financial goals over long-term fulfilment. "Jobs are just jobs, a career, on the other hand, is a vocation that will satisfy you mentally and spiritually,” said Aishwarya Manivannan, Artist-Educator, at the ThinkEdu Conclave 2020 hosted by The New Indian Express. “We tend to view a career as a single trajectory. I think the first step is to look at a career as a very non-linear process — as a process of growth, evolution, development and, in this scenario, I feel that creativity and innovation play a major role in equipping students to look at things in a very holistic manner," she said.


She went on to ask the audience, “But what is creativity really? It is the ability to connect seemingly unconnected elements to develop unique ideas and come up with new ways of problem-solving. If we consider companies like Google, which are considered to be one of the most innovative in the world, areas such as lateral thinking, visual thinking, design thinking are at the forefront of their processes. And this is not just related to the creative industries. It has to be brought forward across fields as no industry exists in isolation right now. The design industry is a great example because right from the phones that we use, the cars that we drive, the houses that we live in — every single thing around us is a product of design.” 


Aishwarya pointed out that today, every field of study has become dynamic. She explained that the first step is to work with students in changing and redefining what a career means, trying to erase the lines between a job and a career, along with promoting skill development and creativity.

Educator Stanzin Kunzang, who taught at the Ladakh-based Druk Padma Karpo School — popularised as the Rancho's School by the movie 3 Idiots — averred that preparing for a job or a career in the 21st century is contextual. “Studying and preparing for a job versus a career are very different for students from Ladakh when compared to the students from other parts of India. In the high altitudes of Leh Ladakh, oxygen is very less and similar is the condition of education and job opportunities. Our place is still very small. There are lots to be unlearned in order to learn and surge ahead,” she said, adding that, “We need to tell our children to dream big and chase their careers. As a Ladakhi, all we do is go for a government job or go for tourism-based vocations as they are trending now. But now we need to have jobs and career in tandem with the environment. All sectors and fields need to be explored.” She emphasised on the holistic education system, where climate, environment and so on will be given importance.

When Manickam Tagore, Member of Parliament, INC, was asked how a young person can prepare for jobs in the 21st century, especially politics, he replied, “The question is very powerful. Everything a politician does is going to be questioned in the coming years and people's demands are going to go up. Young people need to learn to meet expectations and be accountable if they are looking at a career in politics,” he said. Manickam also turned the attention of the audience to how the increasing population level in the country is going to be a great challenge for rural youngsters who have not heard about start-ups or other modern innovations. “However big our economy is, we have to focus on making rural students digitally literate as the jobs of tomorrow revolve around AI and allied areas. I think the New Education Policy is a step in the right direction, barring the importance it places on one language,” he explained.

The volatile job market and the lack of skilled job seekers are two of the issues that Vamsi Krishna, CEO, Vedantu, discussed at the event. “Every month, 1 million Indians are entering the job market. And by 2030, some 280 million will do so. It is not the number of jobs that matters but the nature of jobs. The kind of jobs that my team and I prepare our students for are those that revolve around areas like Machine Learning, AI, Automation — which, unfortunately, has nothing to do with what is being taught in schools nowadays,” he commented. In order to solve this problem, he suggested that more youngsters should take to teaching as most teachers today become teachers by chance than by choice. “A teacher is one who can implement radical changes. Technology can help a teacher reach the masses and also provide access to quality education,” he added.

An interesting point that was put forward by PWC Davidar, Former IAS Officer, who has been involved in many state education initiatives in the past, is the lack of soft skills among the youth of today. “We have a schooling system and a higher education system which gives you lots of knowledge but does not teach you exactly how to communicate. A school that teaches you how to articulate your thoughts, debate and deliberate is very rare. We end up labelling those schools as elitist schools,” he said. Contrasting the Indian situation with that of America, he remarked that Americans are able to speak well but the average American's knowledge base is very shallow. “The average Indian, on the other hand, has vast knowledge but they are not able to communicate those ideas well,” he rued.