We have more mentors than professors and trainers. Time to leverage that strength


Appreciate your views online and offline that you’ve shared on my previous blog – Tech Hiring – Who’s the bucking bull?

Towards the end of the blog, I did say that I have some pointers, here they are:

Here is a simplified view:

  • 2 million jobs to be filled in Digital technologies in 3 years.
  • 80% of engineering graduates are unemployable due to lack of digital skills
  • There is a tremendous amount of content
  • It is easy to become the “lonely learner”
  • The only way out is via “mentoring”

Here’s the descriptive view:

We need to immediately increase the supply of skilled engineers if we have any hope of filling the open positions that are piling up in digital technologies. If we don’t do this, it will only be a very large set of companies chasing the chosen few who will increasingly become harder to get.

Here is in my view the steps that can help out:

Increase internships on offer to cover almost 80% of the engineering graduates

Today, internships are not mandatory. Companies do it to identify candidates to be recruited in the future (we do the same). But many don’t. Large tech organizations pay handsomely during internships and are sought after in the tech intern community. Perhaps these large organizations can increase these internship offers tenfold. They can adjust the stipend amount and guide two students instead of one. The primary goal of the internship is not a huge stipend, but a meaningful experience for a student to stream their career ahead.

Students to take up industry-specific skilling program

Make it mandatory for every student to take up one or more industry-specific skilling programs and ensure that the students clear it. There are avenues like Future Skills Prime, Coursera, Udemy, AWS, Microsoft, etc., where these courses are available at a low price. If an industry certification is also achieved, that is icing on the cake, but not mandatory. This must be done under the supervision of a mentor who can guide the students at every step.

Experienced techies to be mentors

Encourage the experienced folks in an organization to double down on mentoring. All of us have learned our rope tricks only via mentoring and on the job. One-on-one or one-to-many methods of mentoring really help. NOTE: I mentioned experienced techies and not necessarily experts. We may have few experts, but there are many experienced folks. The IT industry runs on a few experts and many experienced techies, and it is time to leverage them. These people should be encouraged (monetary or otherwise) to give their time to students who are going through industry-specific skilling programs – either self-paced or instructor-led and help them master the real-world skills.

We did it and it works

At Nuvepro, we had a really hard time recruiting the “experienced” people. We would shortlist a person, offer what the person asked for, and then see that another large organization has made a better offer. After going through the same cycle many times, we took a different route. We started with internships coupled with mentoring based on the requirements for a full time at Nuvepro. We started with 2 freshers and after spending 3 months with them, we can confidently say that they are at a skill level where we can offer full-time employment to these individuals. Based on the success, we will be doing the same to fill at least another 5 to 6 positions at Nuvepro.

Cost is not the concern

On an ongoing basis, all of us need to keep ourselves updated – solving real-world puzzles or projects. This world is changing and those who don’t update themselves will lose out in the end.

All of this need not be capital intensive. You will be surprised to know a few thousand rupees is usually enough to set you in the right path. The gap is typically finding a mentor to talk to or interact with when in doubt.

As an IT industry, we probably have close to 2 million or 20 lakhs working at different levels. If a small percentage of these individuals can help get up to speed with another person, then it is the start. It usually takes about 3 months of elapsed time and about 30 to 40 hours of commitment from the mentor, but it is worth it.

This is a golden opportunity to fulfil the career dreams of all these engineering graduates, let’s hold their hands with internships and mentoring and pull them up.

Can we have large employers such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Accenture etc. come forward and sign up their employees – maybe 15% or 20%, in total we can easily create at least 20 to 30K mentors. This is way more than the number of trainers or professors or teachers. These mentors become the force multiplier to help us meet the job apocalypse.

What about the people already in the industry who need to get reskilled? Well, these people are anyways in luck. Their current organizations are going out of their way in getting them through Instructor-Led and Self-paced learning programs. Classroom based learning is beyond me now (Am I too old?), but I can go through a Self-paced learning program. Speaking for myself, I can say if I have a mentor available, it will help me get through some of this stuff quickly. Even for instructor-led programs, I would say at the end of these programs, it is a case of glass mostly empty. These individuals need mentor-driven real-world projects and assignments. This is how they will get ready.

Do let me know what you think and if this approach would help the current crisis that the industry is facing and of course come out of it even stronger.

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