IntroductionAround 12 years ago, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture in a leading engineering college of Anna University, for the MBA students and was also asked to talk about careers for the students. This college is situated in a small town near a big town called Salem. The name of the college is not mentioned for confidentiality.
To my shock, even the Head of Department did not know any information about the big four global companies in Finance. He did not even know how many foreign banks operated in India and the campuses they visit for placement. Worse, most students had not even heard about the prestigious Indian School of Business and none had even heard of the GMAT examination. Not a single student had even heard a little about the famous Dubbawallah case-study of Mumbai, which has now been registered as a case-study at the Harvard Business School. I do not know the present state of affairs. It could be slightly better now.
That said, there is an urgent need to give a total revamp to career counselling efforts at schools and colleges. Fundamental orientation towards the Joint Entrance Examination(JEE) for admission to the IITs, needs to put into the young minds, right in the eighth standard. The child should be told about various careers. There is every chance that he or she may not understand everything. But they will slowly understand and by the time they come into the tenth standard, they will be aware of the different options.
Be that as it may, career counselling has to focus on a) All the possible careers b) The basic requirements for course entry c) Details of the entire coaching ecosystem d) Professional inputs on use of Information Technology and e) Continuous career-orientation through coordinated efforts at all levels.
All the possible careersAround fifteen years ago, most students who would have studied Biology, Chemistry, and Physics as their core subjects would have opted for medicine; if they failed to get medicine, they would hang up and straight away settle for a course like BSc(Chemistry). There are today numerous options and one has the option to go into computer-related courses. Also undergraduate courses are available in biotechnology, biochemistry, and microbiology. Some universities offer courses in say, bio-medical sciences. The Chennai-based Sri Ramachandra University offers a very wide variety of para-medical courses and those who are interested can easily get lucrative jobs after doing such courses. For example, consider the B.Sc(Hons) courses in Medical Laboratory Technology, Health Informatics, Medical Microbiology, and Environmental Sciences. It is extremely difficult to find such courses in many Universities. The need is to be informed about such courses and counseling needs to be professional in terms of making students aware of all such possible careers and the courses.
There are numerous options for those who fail to get into a good engineering college of repute. They can also choose to do the BCA and then the MCA courses. Or they can do the B.Sc(Physics) course and then go right up to the doctorate level to enter into prestigious organizations like the Indian Space Research Organization. Those with undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics have options to study further in a variety of courses in institutions such as the fabulous Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The option to do the MBA course immediately after graduation is also available. However, every eighth or ninth standard student needs to be shown a good video on all the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to get the career-orientation right. It ought to be appreciated that the students of both schools and colleges need to know the full details of every possible career path and how to get there.
The basic requirements for course entryIt is just not possible to undergo any major course if the student is not having all details of the entrance tests and the basic requirements. There are Universities where the graduation or the school final marks or both are taken into consideration for any course. The details of the cut-off marks and such other details ought to be told to the students to enable them to prepare for the courses properly.
Details of the entire coaching ecosystemThere are so many professional coaching centres for various professional examinations and these are increasingly making their presence felt in the smaller cities as well. It is understood that the IITs will soon start offering several courses in liberal sciences. There is also a need for all school students and college students to access such facilities and wherever possible, make available such support at a highly subsidized cost with Government support. This becomes all the more relevant for the children who do not have such resources. For example, the Government of Tamil Nadu is extending some support for coaching students to take on the NEET examination. Such efforts should multiply manifold and students should be made aware of all such facilities.
Professional inputs on the use of Information TechnologyThanks to the superb search-engine called Google, every piece of information, including the information about the best colleges abroad, are now available through the internet itself. However, it should be noted that IT is only a tool. The information that is collected needs to be fully explained to all students, particularly in schools in the rural and semi-urban areas, in the local language that everyone understands and not only Hindi or English. The aid of career fairs conducted by even some newspapers, generally in May every year, can come in very handy. However, access to such career fairs makes a big difference. It will be fine if such career fairs become regular events every year, for just two districts of a State, not separated by a distance of more than fifty kilometres. Sponsorship from the local traders and philanthropists can be obtained for plying as many buses as possible from the surrounding areas so that all students get to know the full details of all courses, admission procedures, and so on.
Imagine a group of school students from say, Karaikudi, a small district headquarter town, visiting the Ramachandra University, Chennai, with prior permission. The chosen students should be from the Government colleges and the entire trip should be sponsored by the local traders. Where there is a will, there is a way. If concerted efforts are made to tap such resources, the sky is the limit and the students can get first-hand information. When they go back home, the students should be made to compulsorily share such information with at least another two hundred students. This knowledge transfer will facilitate a large number of students becoming aware of such new careers.
Continuous career-orientation through coordinated efforts at all levelsThe aforesaid steps are important but the coordination between various agencies including the placement officers and the career counsellors is a must. There are numerous scholarships available for the weaker sections. When this information becomes available, even those with limited resources will be motivated to study further.
The entire range of career-oriented information needs to be systematically organized and disseminated. The task is not an easy one. For example, there is every chance that at least one hundred poor students will go on to do any under-graduate course without any aim, and just transition from one Government school to another Government college in a nearby town situated some twenty-five kilometres away. If the students are from the backward or even the scheduled castes and tribes, the presence of a deemed University, just one hundred kilometres from their place, and connected by thousands of buses and ten trains, can make a whale of a difference, if they chose the better course to study. It is here that the coordination between the school and the college teachers needs to become more professional.
As far as higher education in commerce is concerned, it is a rather straight-jacket piece of information, and students of even rural areas are increasingly becoming aware of good professional courses like the ICWA or the ACA or the ACS and even courses like the CFA, ACCA, CMA and so on. There is someone or the other who guides them. Yes. There are gaps here too, but the gaps are less when compared to students who graduate with Biology and are from the rural areas. All that needs to be done is to identify gaps and then systematically close them to the maximum extent possible.
ConclusionThe sky is the limit for innovation for both information about careers and the career-orientation. It is indeed gratifying to note that the metro students have a good career-orientation. However, the non-metro students and the rural area students deserve a better deal. The exact finer details may vary but hopefully, some activities organized on the steps discussed above will bring about desirable change.
The students and their parents in our country have a typical mindset where making a career means only engineering or medical and if not these two then go for IAS. This is somehow engraved in our minds since we were small children. There was a time when engineering and medical were the top opt the careers but today the situation has drastically changed. Many new areas have emerged where good career options are being seen. Now we are talking of digital marketing, data scientists, coding professionals, and many new areas where companies and industry is looking for young people. Even the old professionals in big companies are learning some of the new things just to remain in business otherwise the young aspirants would replace them anytime.
There has been a paradigm shift in the ways we now are looking for job types and career making. Things are becoming obsolete in no time and catching with the latest is on the anvil. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of things (IoT) are emerging as new weapons to hunt a job. Students are doing multiple courses in order to gain more in less time. Remaining attached to old time favourites like engineering and medical streams would not serve the purpose.