When about 40 per cent of the students from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) could not secure placement this year, it created uncertainties in the minds of the students, their parents and well-wishers. The reason cited by the companies as well as the placement committees of the IITs was that the students did not have the skill-sets that industries require of them in the time of high scale digitalisation with machine learning and AI enabled delivery models in companies.

The situation is more or less the same with regard to management and law graduates even from premier business and law schools. Though we talk a lot about demographic dividend, it is not going to materialise unless our young population possesses contemporary technical and technology-driven managerial skills to innovate and lead.

The government should come out with a policy that makes it mandatory for industry and academia to have a compulsory exchange programme. Under this, faculty will work in industry for a period of one month every year to familiarise themselves with contemporary skill requirements, through discussion and job analyses.

Similarly, industry managers should teach at technical and management institutes by helping the faculty to pedagogically adopt an applications-oriented approach. When the students join a corporate job, they will have ready-to-use skills instead of trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s skill solutions.

New skill-set template

Faculties after working for one month with industry can give the new skill-set template required for next year to the board-of-studies of the university, which will incorporate them into the dynamic syllabus.

A model of ‘work-permit’ for the students should be developed so that a student is assured of one or two years of work in the industry after his degree, not only to validate the knowledge learnt but also to possibly become financially sound to repay the loans taken from banks and financial institutions, like the way Indian students manage when they go to the US, Europe and Canada for higher studies.

Every institute of higher education must have an ‘innovation laboratory’.The laboratory should allot space to every student to work there for developing a start-up project. This should constitute compulsory course-work for all with full credits that students need to clear to get the degree at the end of the course. The university, in consultation with industry bodies like CII, chambers of commerce, etc., will annually arrange a job fair where industry will participate and select students on the basis of their project in the innovation laboratory for issue of work-permit/placement.

One of the reasons for Indian universities not figuring in the top 100 world ranking is the poor presence of foreign students and faculty. A number of Indian universities are better or at par in their teaching standards compared with their peers abroad. Most students go abroad on the prospect of a good education leading to a work permit, a green card or a permanent residency card, a passport to a good salary and quality of life in their perception.

Hence introducing a ‘work permit’ system will not only help mitigate the unemployment problem of inland students but also attract many foreign students to Indian universities. Regarding having enough foreign faculty in Indian campuses, we need to pay a competitive compensation package to them as also to the inland faculty, so that a university teacher does not put teaching as his last preference while choosing a career.

The writer is Professor of Management, NMIMS University. The views are personal