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Education & employment: The missing link

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One of the biggest issues India is facing is of Unemployment. In fact most people voted for Mr. Modi on that account.

There is this strange expectation and perception that Mr. Modi will waive the problem away by some kind of a magic wand.

To those hoping for a miracle, please stop day dreaming. Most people lay the blame at the door of our faulty education policy. Well, faulty no doubt it is but to say the entire problem of unemployment is because of the education policy seems a tad exaggerated.

Yes, several educated youth, especially professionally qualified ones are sitting idle or involved in some entrepreneurial activities. Of the large section of people who are not able to find work are engineers. Now, are they unemployed in its truest sense?

Unemployment is basically when a person willing and capable to work does not find a job at the going wage rate. And it is the last phrase, which is the root cause. “At the going wage rate” or the prevailing one. In essence means, you are this engineer strutting around with a good performance and a degree, you apply through job portals and meet recruiters and you get job offers but at what salary? 30000pm. Sorry, you say. No way will I work for that measly amount. I would rather sit at home. And those angry words become your reality. You sit at home And let jobs pass you by because sorry, they are not worth your calibre. And you are not technically unemployed. You are voluntarily unemployed.

That is where one aspect of the issue lies. As we acquire higher education, we obviously seek what are called “white collar jobs” implying those people who work within the confines of the office.
The other type relegated to the shunned category as it is associated with those who are uneducated include construction workers, factory workers and so on.

Now, after our qualifications, it is a no brainer to know that sorry, we shall not touch that area. It is not what you and so studied for. Fair enough.

Now, let’s look at this third category of our populace. The plumbers, electricians, salon owners, tailors, contractors, cab (read uber or ola) drivers etc.

They are self employed and work as per when and where they want. The demand for their services arises from time to time in every household. In fact that engineer son of your sitting idle at home chases the plumber around when suddenly the water supply stops. When your electricity comms out, whom do you call? The rather elusive electrician. Such people are working at their own pace, earn what they demand and lead a life which meets their requirements. The send their kids to school too. I am not saying they enjoy a plush life. But, considering they earn pretty well in a day, with no boss to answer to and no appraisals, tension of a raise, meeting deadlines….nopes none of these. With so many metros and residential complexes, they are never short of work either.

But would you, a bright engineer with a degree, capable as you may be , do such jobs? Will you become an Uber driver? Or an electrician? I would not expect you to say yes.You will not touch such work even by a barge pole, I am sure. In fact , I expect you to question me and ask me if I am fine.

And here is where we as a society have gone awry. We educate our kids to vie for degrees. We want them to be a CEO by 40.We live to see them sitting in a plush office, with power, a handsome salary, paid vacations and the works. Ever thought about the demand supply ratio for such jobs? No, why should we. Our kid is a bright graduate software engineer. How can the supply of jobs run out for him? The bitter and unpalatable truth is that it does dry up. Then what?

Nowhere do we even consider that perhaps a skill will be a better acquisition. We are educated folks. Why would we have such a preposterous thought? Honestly, I would shudder at the thought of my son becoming a carpenter. He may make lots of money but he WILL HAVE NO SOCIAL PRESTIGE.

And that ,my dear folks is the core issue. We are good at aping the West. Quite the experts at that. Then why can’t we see that a plumber and a banker are treated with equal respect there? No child hesitates in saying that my dad is a carpenter.

The entire thrust on degrees in our country is what has let us down. No issue often education policy here, flawed though it is. Our problem is society’s perception and expectation.

Skill education was the agenda in this government’s last term too. But who and in how much time will we realise that no profession is demeaning. Acquiring a qualification, sitting jobless and becoming depressed is a natural outcome. If only we learn to treat our helpers, who come to us with their tools in our dire need, with equal respect and honour, maybe decades later we will see some change. Yes, one change is there as more kids are turning to self owned ventures. But not many patents are supportive of that either. We are a generation moulded in a step by step acquisition of degrees and certificates. We do not pause to think, how will it help in the long run?

Till then I will file my prestigious degrees in a file, rarely opened, while you could get them framed? The choice is yours, caught as we both are , in a quagmire.

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