Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Youth Employment: Aspirational Mismatch

- Richa Subedi is Head of Placements at Pratham Institute

Hope, Enthusiasm, Dreams, Energy are words that come to our minds when we think about youth. Working for the employment exchange program for Pratham Institute, I came across countless youth, who showed these attributes in abundance. Typically most are in the transition from a carefree student to a professional. A majority of the youth, that we cater to in the 18-30 age group, are school / college drop-outs and are unemployed / underemployed. The interesting part is that they are still to experience the realities of the world and yet many of them seem to have their own set of notions about professional life.

Meanwhile when we look at the other side of the coin, the industries or the employers, we can visibly say that the liberalization of 1990s opened the floodgates for extensive corporate expansions especially in the service industry. This paved the way for many opportunities and choices for youth with basic training /education to take up employment at entry level positions. The scenario at first glance seemed pretty simple. There were youth who were aspiring to start their careers and employers who could offer them one. However, realization dawned when it was evident that the mismatch lies in the aspirations of the youth vis–à–vis what the employer offers in terms of the profile, location, salary, work timing, etc.

Whether these youth are from rural, semi-urban or urban backgrounds seems to make no difference. Their aspirations boil down to self –sufficiency and further, if possible, extending monetary support to their families. The missing link, however, between aspirations and achievements is the lack of career guidance to these youth. Explaining and understanding the correlation between specific skills, education, and experience to achieve the higher career goals they set for themselves is crucial. There seems to be a clear dilemma among them as to what would be the right start, what are the realistic possibilities available to them and how these opportunities can be used as stepping stones for higher goals.

Although there is an ever increasing demand for talent to fill these positions, employers are not ready to pay these entrants beyond the minimum wage. Most of these jobs are also located in urban areas. Relocation brings with it its own set of challenges and considering our social scenario not everyone can/are allowed to relocate, especially women. Thus, unless there is a revision in their pay scale or their basic needs are met it is difficult to be self sustainable with the wages offered, and this coupled with long working hours does not become a lucrative option. Employers have their own arguments in terms of youth lacking basic skills, the high attrition rate and thus justify that it does not make sense to spend more on them.

The solutions we should thus be looking into are the opportunities that are locally available, bringing industries on the table while designing any vocational training programs, and concentrating our focus on youth career guidance and counseling.

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