When was the last time I prepared for a job? Let’s see - when I was going for a job interview, I had to read up about the employer (preparation). I had to put in some work before I could switch jobs. However, outside of a college degree and my confidence, I didn’t think I needed to prepare much. Here’s the thing though - the job market changed, employer preferences became a thing, and candidates started coming in with more skills. No longer did candidates want to have the basic skill set. They wanted to be the complete package so no one could reject them.

All this led to a drastic change in what employers looked for in prospective employees. The college degree still matters and it always will. However, skills became almost as important as the degree. After all, the degree is the foundation but the skills showed the world how good the foundation really is. I don’t think this trend is changing any time soon and that means our work is to prepare our kids today for this reality.

Why the focus on skills, you may ask. The answer is simple - every skill makes for a more well-rounded individual, someone an employer always seeks. Say, a person is good at computer coding. This tells us a few things about the person like he/she is a process-driven individual and can sift through bucketload of information with ease. After all, these traits help him/her write and fix codes.

This all brings me to the million-dollar question (or possibly, the billion-dollar question) - how to prepare our kids for tomorrow? I have a few ideas for that. The first of those ideas is to allow them to fail. Now, I don’t want parents to tell their kids that it’s okay to fail in exams. NO WAY! What I am saying is use the Lego approach. In Lego, the blocks can fit together but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the desired result. For that, you will have to pay attention to what you’re doing and sometimes, that means failure too. On the plus side, kids will learn the value of putting in effort and lose their fear of failure.

Now, allowing for failure is great and all. Kids will also need an environment where they can be fee to be themselves. Playgrounds offer such an environment. Another environment where kids can be themselves is the virtual world. A big reason why mobile gaming is so popular with kids is because they only compete with themselves. Why not have curriculum that involves these games for kids to participate in, and learn new skills from. On the plus side, they will learn the values of practicing their craft, patience, and competitiveness.

Keep giving kids new challenges to test their limits and keep growing. Challenge them to excel at a given task in a set amount of time. It requires meticulous planning on your behalf. Think about the result of that planning on the kids. Here's a personal example - as a kid, I used to read my elder brother's literature books. Some years later, I realized I had a knack for history and languages and was quite good at them. This was in part because of the stories I used to read and the information burden I reduced beforehand to work on my language skills. I used to be told to improve my language skills. Today, people ask me for tips to improve their language skills.

Today, we have technology at our disposal. It allows us to provide experiences that weren't thought possible earlier. We can show (in great detail, I may add) the working of a complex machine. Technology also helps us interact with these intricacies, giving us new perspectives to solve a problem for. Ford staffers use Augmented Reality to design a car and both design and engineering teams collaborate in real-time on the process.

The purpose of the above example is to show just how beneficial technology can be to kids. Instead of showing them photos of different things, we can allow them to interact with machines, monuments, etc. in the virtual world. This single step will help widen children's horizons and develop interest in new academic fields. These same kids will later on be able to build on the strong information base (provided by technology) to develop innovative, sustainable solutions to teething problems like environmental degradation, wildlife protection, transportation, etc. Most of us didn't have these tools at our disposal when we were growing up. This means we should provide these tools to our kids to make their studies interesting and help make the world a better place.

Some say education is a process making humans social beings. Some say it is a process that helps humans sustain themselves by acquiring new skills. No matter what is said, everyone agrees it is a process. Like every process, it needs to evolve. Assessing the latest trends in education will help us know how it will evolve and what it means for masses worldwide. That said, let’s take a look at some major trends in education industry around the globe.

  • Competency-based Education
  • Among the biggest concerns for students today is high education cost. This is because of the all-rounded education courses that happen to prepare students for work in various fields of a domain. Competency-based education courses flip the script here by offering students a few benefits. Firstly, they cost less as students can pick what they wish to study. Second, these courses are self-paced. Most importantly, students can tailor them to fit their career path.

  • Online Education
  • Educational institutions have limited space to offer to students. What happens to those who can't make the cut? Online education course help here as they are not constrained by the lack of physical space. In some cases, they can be stacked into regular degrees, making them quite lucrative and useful. Low cost and convenience are other advantages of online education courses.

  • Skill-based Learning
  • Skill-based learning is different from traditional courses. Traditional courses act as a platform for students to build their professional life upon. Skill-based learning helps them keep abreast with latest trends. Various short-term courses like stock trading at BSE are essentially skill-based courses. Similar is the case with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for which various institutions offer skill-based short-term courses.As skills continue to gain prominence, this type of learning will only become more popular.

  • Demographics
  • The focus of education is shifting from one area to the other. As life expectancy increases in developed regions, more people continue to exit the 18-35 age bracket. Due to reduction in productivity years of people in developed regions, companies are looking elsewhere for younger, more productive people. The educational policies and techniques are being tailored for people from these new regions than for those in developed areas.

  • Student Experience
  • Students are no longer interested in just brand value and recognition an institution brings about. They are looking at aspects like career prospects, study costs, how welcoming an institution is, and even the accommodations. This is especially true for foreign students. These aspects are making education institutions focus on developing their facilities to attract new students, especially those from abroad.

  • Experiential learning
  • One of the biggest movements happening in education industry is learning by experience. Students are presented a problem which they have to solve. They are shown interactive virtual diagrams of objects. Technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are making inroads into classrooms, making learning for students easier than ever.

  • Emergence of Niche Courses
  • As new innovations keep happening, the need to innovate and better the existing stuff will always exist. Niche courses will help fulfill that need by allowing people something new and become experts in a field. Something of this sort happened when crypto-currency came to the fore. People started learning about blockchain and today, there are courses teaching the fundamentals and workings of blockchain technology.

  • Demand-Supply Disconnect
  • One can see a disconnect between employer demands and student education today. Various surveys have come to a common conclusion - colleges are unable to prepare students for employment. This is leading to a change that's subtle on surface but has big implications. You see, employers have started working closely with educational institutions to ensure they get people who are prepared to fit the roles they are going to fill in an enterprise.

  • Student Mobility Restrictions
  • Various researches have shown the developed countries are preferred by students for higher educations. USA is among the most popular education destination for foreign students. However, the immigration policies in place put students in a tough spot. They can come and study but have little to no work guarantee. Some might not even be able to stay in the country they are studying in once their course is done. While immigration policies are shaped by various uncontrollable factors, these decisions usually affect students the most. Hence, education institutions are looking at ways to engage foreign students in a way where they stay insulated from the effects of immigration policy decisions.

  • Focus on Sustainability
  • There is a renewed focus on sustainability as one of the principles of education today. Corporate and political agendas have always influenced education and they continue to do so. Curriculum has slowly been changing to reflect this emphasis. It aims to make students seek answers to questions like how can environment be saved or how urban areas can be less congested. This is also leading to new ways of solving a problem and fostering innovation.

Yes, you read that right. Indians are unable to find jobs and they are not at fault here. Most of the working Indians today are 18-35 years of age. The Indian labour pool is an envy of many a nations. The 1.2-billion strong India's 2/3 population is aged between 18-35. Think about that number for a second. Now, the whole problem is not about the workers' age but making them productive. You see, it's one thing to say that we have the biggest workforce ready to be put to use. It's quite another thing to say that we don't have enough jobs for them. Time to get to the heart of the problem.

The first problem is the delayed focus on making India a manufacturing hub. At the turn of the century, the focus was majorly on attracting BPOs and service industry players. Manufacturing industry was playing second fiddle to service industry, which itself was playing second fiddle to agricultural industry. This was a result of two important considerations. Firstly, India has always been primarily an agricultural economy. No government wanted to even think about tinkering with this reality. On the other hand, BPOs and service industry pulled in foreign investments and who can say no to the US Dollar, right?

All these things resulted in leaving the workforce as is. If the workers were unskilled, they stayed that way. On one hand, everyone lamented the lack of focus on manufacturing sector. On the other hand, no one focused on equipping the workforce with skills needed to kick India's manufacturing sector into high gear. All this screamed for some major labour reforms in India, which were about to come soon.

At the turn of the decade came the Make-in-India initiative. It aimed to make India a manufacturing powerhouse by promoting indigenous production of goods. On paper, it all looked and sounded good. Execution became a different story though. Who would join the manufacturing sector workforce? Most people came from the agriculture sector. These people weren't equipped with the necessary skills to make the cut for the manufacturing sector. Today, most of these workers have moved back to agricultural industry.

It isn't just the semi-skilled and unskilled folks that have been affected. In order to make India a manufacturing powerhouse, our policy makers wanted Indians to get the best education possible. When it was all limited to computers, technology, engineering, etc. everything went fine. The problem emerged when niche courses began coming up like those in biotechnology, robotics, etc. These educational courses came before the relevant industries could even be set up. We ended up with highly-qualified individuals who couldn't get a job because the industries they could work in didn't exist.

You see, in all these scenarios, it wasn't the fault of the job seekers. Half-hearted execution of plans led us to this problem. Indians are some of the most sought-after workers around the world. We don't shy from working long and hard. We try to learn new things and try to stay ahead of the curve in terms of skills. Most importantly, we still hold a job in high regard. The issues that we face boil down to two problems - wages/salaries and jobs that can make use of our skills. No wonder you can find bus drivers and conductors today who have completed a Master's Degree. Where else would you find that around the world?

The biggest problem with this is slow adoption of technology in various fields. How will that helps Indians find jobs? It's simple actually - learning about technology involves learning new skills. Remember how there was a time when everyone used to mention MS Office as skills in their CV? The same can happen today, just that MS Office can be replaced by things like machine learning, AI, reality technologies, and more. There is no degree yet in, say, Augmented Reality. However, there are people who have developed systems using this technology. Skills, right?

All this brings us to the enterprises functioning in the market. They have to be fast in adopting new technologies. This will push job seekers to learn new skills and become better suited for jobs. After all, technology is the way forward for various industries, farming included. If people have the necessary technological skills to accomplish tasks, they can work as micro enterprises themselves. That will any day be better than being unemployed. Plus, the more productive the people are, the better it is for India and our economy too.