Leading corporates and entrepreneurs must treat it as their collective responsibility to innovate and implement creative solutions that maximise opportunities for a large number of people, especially rural youth, and enable them to improve their lives.
The All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 published by the HRD ministry, states that the 10 courses in India with the highest enrollment include B.Com, B.Sc., B.Ed. and BA, which are at the top with 96.55 lakh enrollments. While India is producing millions of graduates with the same degrees, it is not difficult to guess why the unemployment rate continues to be high, with rural India leading with jobless youth and poverty.
The urgency for youth from rural underprivileged backgrounds to opt for education that brings them into the mainstream organised sector early on is a necessity today. Employment with guaranteed wages can do wonders for human development.
Urgency for employment
Many students from rural India who come to college are first-generation learners with a poor economic background. Completing school education in itself is a big feat for these children. As parents see their education as something that will help alleviate the family’s financial struggles, they often take loans to send their children to bigger cities for higher education.
Therefore, getting a well-paying job upon graduation is a necessity in most cases as the family cannot afford to continue to invest in further education or pay debts. The social pressure on girls to drop from school or college is higher due to the early marriage factor. These issues need to be addressed by creating ample academic-employment-driven opportunities and creating awareness through counselling at the school and village level. Explaining how investing time in the right courses can bring value in their lives must be done through talks, counselling and community radio to reach the right audience.
Skills and employability
We need to address the skill crisis right from the school level. Teaching our youth 21st-century skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and reasoning will further help them to get absorbed in the mainstream job market with better wages. Rural schools have included vocational courses like carpentry, painting, clay modelling and organic farming but these skills alone cannot suffice for the ever-demanding and competitive job market.
From traditional to futuristic
Students in rural India mainly remain stuck between two extremes - the much-hyped civil services, the NEET or basic graduate degrees across science, arts and commerce. This mindset needs to be changed.
There are a plethora of professional degrees across subjects that open greater avenues of employment without being bound to a several-years-long programmme. This in no way means that students should not aim for competitive exams but it may be wise to look at practical alternatives to become financially independent in the short-term and then simultaneously work towards their long term education goals. In the race to become doctors, engineers and IAS officers, students must not lose their talent and potential that can be utilised in a different course with a promising future.
For example, Rishu who hails from Narayanpur Village, Mainpuri district, UP opted for BSc Nursing instead of the regular BSc degree. She qualified for the Military Nursing Services and secured admission at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. Upon completion, nursing students from AFMC are granted permanent or short Service Commission based on their merit. Rishu took this decision on the basis of the guidance she received from counsellors at her school - VidyaGyan, a rural leadership academy in UP.
Like Rishu, there is no dearth of bright and talented students from rural stretches of this country, all they need is hand-holding and correct guidance to direct them towards professional courses in every subject.
For example - those in the commerce stream can directly opt for Bachelors of Management Studies or Bachelors of Business Administration which are three-year courses with starting monthly salary prospects around Rs 25 to 30 thousand. In sciences, allied medical and para-medical courses have a wide range of choices, including radiography, anaesthesia, pathology, nutrition, microbiology, physiotherapy and nursing among many others.
Similarly, students with humanities subjects can explore careers like mass communication for which many colleges under Delhi University offer certificate courses at undergraduate level. Bachelors in Hotel Management, and BSc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration is another option for which national level entrance is conducted by the National Test Agency. For more employment-driven undergraduate courses in the field of arts, one can look at fashion designing, photography and videography. Bachelor’s degree and certificate courses in these courses are available across government and private institutes.
With a focus on employability and entrepreneurship, the Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University (DSEU) has opened up the School of Allied Medical Services, School of Logistics and Supply Chain, and School of Sustainability.
Corporate sector can drive innovative career models
There are examples of Indian corporates creating innovative models that allow meritorious students to get into skilled jobs immediately after school and pursue higher education from reputed institutions simultaneously. TechBee is one such programme by an IT company that creates early career opportunities for academically bright students graduating from school and prepares them for an IT engineer’s job. School graduates learn on the job through a mix of classroom and onsite training in cutting-edge technologies and are upskilled to deliver solutions to global clients while earning straight out of school. They simultaneously pursue higher education from reputed institutions like BITS Pilani to complete their educational journey through distance and digital learning solutions.
Leading corporates and entrepreneurs must treat this as their collective responsibility to innovate and implement similar creative solutions that maximise opportunities for a large number of people, especially rural youth, and enable them to improve their lives.
India has a young pool of talent that needs to be guided to help them realise their potential. Creating right career opportunities and preparing youth for the future also has the advantage of nation building and overall economic development.
The author Lopamudra Majumdar is the Admissions Coordinator and English teacher at VidyaGyan Sitapur. The views expressed are personal.