Jul 1, 2005

Lots of jobs, but where are the skills?

In this earlier post I had reviewed a growth in India's employment figures. That seems to be true but a Businessworld article says that maybe all the jobs may not be so easy to fill.

From mining engineers to patent agents at the more complex end of the job spectrum to sales people at retail establishments at the less demanding end, India is throwing up a tough challenge to employers: the dearth of right skills in a workforce that is reputedly the most highly qualified in the developing world.

Does that sound scary? It sure does. Especially as the shortage is in critical areas like middle management and high end skills that add to the bottomline as well as the top-line.

Recruitment firms say that healthcare, telecom, automobile industries and auto
ancillaries lead the pack followed by pharma, hotels, oil & petrochemicals, power (yes, power), education, training & consulting (ET&C) and textiles. It would appear that almost every sector that the recruitment agencies are surveying is showing a sizeable increase in the intake of staff. Overall, it's a bullish scene after several years of jobless growth. Hiring agencies are trying to fill the mandates for senior people in the life sciences, pharma research, biotech, FMCG, and travel and tourism. In short, just about everything.

So that should comfort those folks who fear that the growth of the Indian economy might be skewed towards the "call centre types" (Yes, Charu I am talking about you :-)

The encouraging thing about the boom is that it is also being driven by smaller firms that are professionalising management in smaller towns. This is forcing high volume recruiters like Adecco People One and Ma Foi are opening their shops in smaller towns like Hubli, Mysore, Bhopal, Tirupati, Allahabad and Nashik to Dehra Dun, Vijayawada and Ludhiana. In fact the industries most being hit with the skills shortage are Engineering firms and Financial Services.

Pandia Rajan says Ma Foi's experience is that that at any given time 80,000 vacancies remain unfulfilled because of the demand-supply gap. For instance, in ITES, the company finds itself unable to fill two-thirds of the demand; for every person it hires, it wades through an average 41 applications and rejects about half of them in the first instance itself.

The number of PhDs as well as their quality will have to go up substantially if the Indian technology industry is to become globally competitive. This shortage has affected the ability of the Indian IT industry to innovate, although a services industry may be able to make do with M.Techs and graduate engineers.

Now that's scary ! I think it's high time Industry associations like CII got out of the lucrative conference business and got down to addressing these nitty gritty issues that will KO business in the long term. I hope organizations like The National Innovation Foundation will address such issues too !