The World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, have announced the winners of their global essay competition on youth unemployment, The Youth Jobs Innovation Challenge. The competition aims to give voice to young people on how to tackle the growing crisis of youth unemployment. More than 1.2 billion young people will enter the labour market in the next 10 years with only 300 million jobs awaiting them. Vidyadhar Prabhudesai was awarded second place for his entry.
As I glance through “Output, Prices and Jobs” in the latest issue of The Economist, I am surprised to notice that India’s unemployment rate is given as 10.8%. The state of unemployment in India is graver than what the statistics reveal.
At the core of India’s unemployment trap is a set of complex issues, including a skills deficit, an outdated educational system and corruption at the grassroots level. These issues are deeply interconnected, and solving one might not really solve the ultimate problem – youth unemployment.
For the last few years, I have researched the gap between industry expectations and student competencies to find solutions that can bridge the skills deficiency. About 60% of Indian youth live in rural areas away from the opportunities that exist in the cities. So, there is a real time gap between supply versus demand for resources.
There are two main issues that I have focused on to address the unemployment challenge: the legacy of an outdated educational system and opportunity deficiency in marginal areas.
For the first issue, I concentrate on skill development programmes based on principles of andragogy, which relies on self-exploration and collaborative learning, as opposed to the Indian pedagogical system. Programmes should be built around interactivity, where every element captures and sustains the interest of the student. This brings us to the second issue, which I propose to solve by creating a platform, with three objectives in mind:
First, this would be a platform where rural youth receive opportunities to interact and engage with eminent thought leaders from business, politics, entertainment and sports on a regular basis. The assumption is that once these minds are stretched through inspiration, they would never go back to their original form and they would then influence others around them.
Second, I would use the platform to enable corporations to reach out and create opportunities for the rural youth. Even as I talk to various corporations, they comment that though they are aware of the enormous talent in upcountry locations, they still do not have a formal channel to reach out. The opportunities that I have identified include internships, jobs and scholarships.
Third, there is a need to create a mentoring network where established leaders can mentor rural youth such fields as entrepreneurship. This mentoring network would ensure that rural youth are not just passively taking up employment opportunities, but are also actively looking at being opportunity creators, value providers and entrepreneurs themselves.
I feel that this two-pronged approach – where we focus on skill development to deal with the legacy of an outdated educational system, and matchmaking between the supply and demand of talent to deal with the opportunity deficiency – helps address some of the very important, yet moving parts of a complex problem – youth unemployment.
Vidyadhar Prabhudesai is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. He is one of the Founders and Managing Trustees of LeadCap, and a co-founder of Cygnus IT Solutions. Find the full version of his essay for the World Economic Forum’s Youth Jobs Innovation Challenge here.