The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
Millions of students in India have been affected by the closure of schools and colleges due to the COVID lockdown. We are all figuring out ways to understand and find our place in this new normal. Students, recent graduates, too, are struggling to make sense of this precarious situation. The economic challenges posed by this pandemic have brought to the surface inequalities in our education system, our policies and our socio-political setup.
Finding a career path has been a great source of anxiety for India’s youth, and this pandemic has only made it worse. With increasing wealth and income inequalities, which seem to even affect the upper fringes of the middle class now, we can only imagine what it would be like to be stuck at the very bottom of this structure.
The digital divide has alienated our students forcing them to fall behind on their studies. This will further affect their chances of employability and a better future. So how do we make sure all of them make it?
Is there a way we can help the students, fresh out of college graduates to find the right opportunities, resources and skills to navigate the post-covid world? To find the answer to this and many more similar concerns Youth Ki Awaaz teamed up with UNICEF India and YuWaah for a panel discussion on World Youth Skills Day.
We spoke with the experts to understand the pandemic’s impact on employment, job loss and skilling and what it means for the future of 356 million young Indians.
The panel was hosted by Youth Ki Awaaz’s Prashant Jha included: Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India, Sunita Sanghi, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Neel Ratan, Managing Partner, North PwC, Supriya Paul, Co-Founder Josh Talks, Neil Banerjee, recent graduate, now working as an Advertising Professional.
The International Labour Organisation has warned that the economic fallout of COVID-19 could leave many young people behind, excluding them from the job market. One in six young people around the world has lost their jobs since the pandemic. For a country like ours with the largest youth population, it becomes imperative to discuss how we can move forward in such a situation. It is important that we reimagine a better and more inclusive future for the country’s youth hailing from diverse backgrounds.
“Upskilling and reskilling will become critical for young people as the world adjusts to the new normal.” – Dr Yasmin Ali Haque
1. Sunita Sanghi talks about steps being taken to focus on employability and self-reliance among young people in India
It’s a new normal and a ‘business as usual’ approach will not work. Many sectors have gone out of the picture. People engaged in the retail or hospitality sector may not find jobs in their respective sectors. They need to be reskilled.
This pandemic has brought in a multiplier effect in the way the job scenario has changed. We need to ensure that different skill value chains are addressed with proper pedagogy, curriculum, and an interface between teachers and students.
The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has also launched an app called ‘Swades’ to bridge the skill gap. We’ve initiated mapping skills of migrants, and if there’s a skill gap, we’re making arrangements to upskill them. We are working to ensure that education and skill go hand in hand.
To the youth, I would say, please look into all the opportunities available, and follow your dreams. The sky is the limit!
2. Supriya Paul sheds light on how the landscape changed in terms of access to opportunities, skills and resources for young people to pursue their goals and choice of career
Young people are not able to identify their aspirations easily. With respect to skilling, the first step to take is making it aspirational. While we focus on hard skills and technical skills, we must also focus on building confidence among our youth and investing in developing soft skills like English speaking, etc.
How can the economic gap between men and women due to the job market bridge?
The socio-economic gender gap has been there for long, it has only become more visible during the pandemic. Women’s role has primarily shifted to caregivers right now. Their careers have taken a backseat and focus has shifted to household chores.
But, at the same time, COVID-19 has taught us is that people are willing to learn online. Now that we know that digital is the next wave, we need to think about how we can create an ecosystem that’s more specific to women and their jobs.
We should also think of other roles women can fit into while they’re working from home. We need to bring mainstream careers for women and help them skill up. As employers, we must become more sensitive to the needs of women and create more holistic policies for their work.
3. Neel Ratan on how businesses and policymakers can work together to create the right space for young people to realise their potential
The pandemic has revealed the digital divide in India. It’s important to think about how we can bring the digital have-nots to the mainstream.
If we’re able to use this pandemic to create a sustainable hyper-local economic model for opportunities creation, this could be an opportunity for us rather than being a threat.
If the government and private sectors come together to help design this one core platform, which is accessible to everyone, it will really help people attain the required skills and transition smoothly to digital education and workspaces.
This world will be different, especially for the first batch that graduate into this new normal. But, be very, very optimistic, and look at the bright side, and you won’t be left behind!
4. Neil Bannerjee on gaps that exist in our education system that impact employability and being skill-ready
There’s a huge gap in what we are taught and the skills we need at our job. When we leave our educational institutes and enter the job market, this gap remains. Skilling and job creation needs to go hand in hand. We need to address this gap, and the government needs to play a bigger role here.
On Delhi University’s recent mock test fail
The situation in our education system right now is not just COVID-specific. We need to understand this. There’s a lack of social equity that needs addressing first. What happened in DU was an infrastructural failure, we need to reconsider where we need to bring in private partners. This is the only way forward to avoid a similar situation in future.
Not necessarily. And that’s why we must find ways to rebuild a better world to ensure we don’t come out of the crisis even more unequal than we were before. One thing’s for sure: in the future, if we have to make sure all have access to equal opportunities then it is critical that we have equalising policies in place.
You can watch the full video here:
UNICEF India also announced the launch of Young People’s Action Team to understand their problems and learn how we can improve to fit their needs better. You can apply to be a part of this initiative here.
You can participate in the #ImaginationUnlimited YuWaah Youth Challenge here.