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Bridging the employability gap through work integrated learning

An exceptional institutional perspective and a system of ensuring a well-structured interface with the corporate world is the need of the hour.

The students think that they are ready to join the corporate world but, companies hiring them, disagree. The gap between campus and corporate is enormous and bridging this gap is essential for employability. This requires an exceptional institutional perspective and a system of ensuring a well-structured interface with the corporate world. According to the recent India Skills Report (ISR), less than half of the Indian graduates are employable as they lack professional skills. In 2021, just about 45.9 percent of the graduates were found to be employable, a drop from 46.21 percent in 2020 and 47.38 percent in 2019.

But what are colleges supposed to do besides completing course curriculums, and imparting degrees? Work-integrated learning (WIL) can be an innovative solution for addressing both national skills shortage and student employability in a systematic fashion. WIL means incorporating academic learning of a subject area with its practical application in the workroom. Any academic institute can integrate WIL into their degree curriculum accentuating 360-degree students’ development. In simple ways, it means that students go through a rigorous corporate curriculum that runs concurrent to their academic programs, along with regular mentorship programs.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) can express itself in a variety of ways:

Industry Projects and Internships

Industry-institute interaction is by organising exchanges with industry/corporate leaders through internship programs, field research projects of relevance, interdisciplinary college events, conferences, skills training, etc. This industry-academic meet is important for cultivating excellent proficiency in functional areas and acquiring relevant domain knowledge.

Students should work on a real project for an organization, under the observation of either an industry expert or an academic staff. This synergy helps in the application of classroom theories to real-life situations. Students learn to work in multi-disciplinary teams, thereby developing their skills in project management, liaising, team collaborations, and many more.

 Networking

Forming industry network contacts is an indispensable part of work life. Networking stands as a crucial element in students’ career paths, which helps them be industry-ready and industry-known. WIL provides platforms to get involved on campus and encourages them to be open to new connections at corporates too, and assists them to become skilled networkers.

Applied Research Projects

Applied research projects solve workplace problems in partnership with related organizations or industries to find a solution to real-world challenges. They help understand the complexities of workplace and help apply information, primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective. Applied research can be undertaken either at a workplace or on campus.

Solutions to these problems are archetypally generated through consulting, design and research. Students can usually spend 2-8 months working on applied research projects during their academic program.

Hard skills to Soft Skills

Work integrated learning lets students gain familiarity with fundamental work capabilities and a plethora of both soft and technical skills that they would otherwise not be able to cultivate without working in a professional setting. In today’s times, both hard and soft skills are required by striking the right balance for a professional success story. WIL gives equal consideration to students’ knowledge, skills, and attitude to prepare students for their hard skills and polish their soft skills. It provides customised therapy to every student as per their attitude, knowledge, and skills needs, which is assessed based on the 360-degree system.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship allows a student to pull resources and funds and allows students to learn in an interdisciplinary environment. They learn to understand the real-world requirements for their academic credit.

Research indicates that the transition phase from academics to corporate for a student has a crucial impact on various aspects like remuneration, development, job commitment, self-esteem, and corporate relations. Therefore, if classroom knowledge and professional skills are flawlessly knitted into the college curriculum it shall benefit in the smooth landing of students into the challenging corporate world. The innovative practice of WIL can help students gain skills and domain knowledge for the big world of employment awaiting them after completion of their degree.    

This article is authored by Dr. C.V Ramanan, Director, IMM Business School

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