Are students ready for 21st century jobs?

Update: 2022-02-19 03:15 IST

Are students ready for 21st century jobs?

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest' - Benjamin Franklin

The fourth industrial revolution is already here, driven by new-age technologies like automation, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and machine learning. The transformational changes underway will result in the loss of jobs in a number of sectors as technology replaces repetitive tasks and eliminates the need for manual labor.


Sometimes even expert job profiles are disrupted. AI is doing the rote work of lawyers, simplifying the work of doctors, so on and so forth. Thus, learning new skills and adapting to the inescapable changes has become more imperative than ever. This brings us to the question: Are Indian students prepared to deal with these rapid changes in the employment landscape?

21st-century education vs demand for skills

Despite technological advancements and decades of investment in education, the quality of education is severely lacking in India. According to a survey (ASER, 2018), only 50% of students from grade 5 could read grade 2 text fluently. Moreover, after the 2020 pandemic, the situation has worsened considerably with schools shifting to remote-based learning for those who can access it.

As the dynamics of education and employment change due to increased integration with the international world and the increase in the use of artificial intelligence, our 21st-century learners are not ready for industry-related work and lack relevant skills. According to a report, a whopping 53% of Indian students will leave secondary education without having the skills needed to get a decent job.

Here is a statement from the OECD, highlighting the urgent need to update skills to adapt to change. "A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last their students a lifetime... And success will go to those individuals and countries that are swift to adapt, slow to resist, and open to change. The task for educators and policymakers is to help countries rise to this challenge."

Policymakers, educators, and practitioners now have the onus of determining the future of our country. It's essential to assess the current educational landscape and develop a strategy for developing an employable and skilled workforce that's ready for the workforce.

Covid-19 presents a unique opportunity to move away from traditional learning systems for modern and digital approaches without replacing the essential role of educators and instructors. While technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it can definitely benefit India in the long term if implemented properly.

What can be done to prepare students for the 21st century jobs?

Technological advances and the onset of the fourth industrial revolution have already cost many people their jobs. Despite students having more formal education as compared to their parents, many are struggling to find relevant job opportunities in the current market.

There is a mismatch between the skills industries require and the education system can offer. India has one of the youngest populations in the aging world. It thus has an inherent advantage in terms of productivity growth of its talent pool and excellence in a global world.

As for 21st-century jobs, educators must focus on Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha learners since the challenge here is to keep up with the rapid advancement in technology and innovation. The key players to bring change in education and learning in the 21st century are educators, practitioners, and policymakers because these skills go beyond academic achievement.

An educator can encourage students to engage in developing skills that will always remain relevant no matter the circumstance. These skills include analytical thinking, decision-making, communication, collaboration, adaptability, and time management.

Moreover, although college definitely plays a key role in many careers, they change their curriculum at a ridiculously slow pace. This change in curriculum often does not match the constant changes happening in the industry. As a result, parents can encourage their children to develop skills beyond college or school hours. This will help them develop extra skills, giving them an edge in the competitive job landscape.There is a need to impart learning through developing sustainable skills valued in real life and continuous lifelong learning.

(The author is the founder of CareerGuide which is a career counselling platform that answers about 5 million career queries every year) 



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