The employability of fresh MBA graduates is at an all-time low. Recruiters increasingly report a gap between the skill-sets they require and what B-School graduates have to offer. In 2012, MeritTrac, a testing and assessments company reported that only one out of five MBA graduates in India are employable. The employability index has only fallen thereafter, except for IIMs and a few other top B-schools. Industry experts blame it on the mismatch between aspirations of students and their level of preparedness. The problem gets compounded as most of the recruiters expect their MBA hires to be job-ready from Day One.
Where is the sync missing?
One factor that definitely led to the low employability of graduates is the mushrooming of MBA institutions without any quality parameters. Today, recruiters have options to put more filters to their recruitment process as the availability of MBA graduates have multiplied in the last eight to 10 years. So if the employability is to increase, there will have to be a proportionate increase in the number of job opportunities.
The other aspect is the industry sync that recruiters look for. Recruiters not only look into candidates’ adaptable and flexible approach, but also their market awareness and sector-specific knowledge and skills.
Bridging the gap
Even as many B-schools acknowledge this gap, they point out that by asking for ‘job-ready’ candidates, recruiters actually look for ‘company-ready’ candidates whom they expect to be familiar with the way in which the company operates. B-School directors say this is not possible as MBA programmes prepare students to deal with diverse challenges with the same set of specific management knowledge and skills. “One has to understand the difference between education and learning. No MBA programmee can prepare a student for a particular company in a particular industry,” says Dr. Gautam Sinha, Director IIM Kashipur.
According to Prof. Anindya Sen, Director-in-Charge, IIM Ranchi, the term ‘job-ready candidates’ coined by recruiters would not apply to fresh graduates as ‘job-ready’ MBAs can be recruited only through lateral entry. “It is not the job of the B-schools to prepare students for particular sectors, but to give them a toolbox they can use to analyse real life situations and arrive at optimal decisions,” he says.
Many B-schools, though, take on the challenge by periodic update of curriculum, based on changing requirements and expectations of industry. Even then they would fall short on meeting the requirement of each and every industry and company.
Ten qualities recruiters look for
Making students ‘job-ready’
B-schools claim that they take measures to sync the skills that industry is looking for and what their graduates possess. While activities like business leaders’ lecture series, industry workshops, conclaves, case studies, alumni meet, live projects and internships take students closer to industry, many B-schools take extra measures to help students become the ‘best-fit’ for a sector or for domain-specific roles. For example, IPE Hyderabad involves recruiting company Talent Sprint in offering specially designed modules on business communications, BFSI/IT orientation, start-up connect among other activities, right from the beginning of the academic year. “We take sufficient care to keep our students job-ready from Day-1,” says Director, Dr Ramkumar Mishra.
Similarly, with changing requirements of recruiters, some B-schools have communication and critical thinking as mandatory courses in the first year. A few MBA colleges have ‘design thinking’ in-built in their curriculum to sync their academics with the emerging industry requirements.
Relevance of certifications
Many B-schools encourage their students to join relevant certification courses. Dr. C.N. Narayana, Director General, Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies, says, “Besides encouraging joint research, live projects and longer Business Immersion (BI), we also encourage students to look at certification courses which may further improve their chances of good opportunities. New courses are also one such way to minimise the gap.”
Similarly, Dr. Harivansh Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH says, “We encourage students to qualify for KPMG’s Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, IIBA Certification on the Fundamentals of Business Analysis, Oyster.com’s online project participation and others.”
Besides these, some of the B-schools have experiential learning programmes where the first-year MBA students mentor underprivileged children from the neighbouring schools. These mentorship programmes are integrated in the curriculum with due credits. Such activities aim at giving students the ability to develop mentoring skills and build nuanced understanding of urban poverty.
Don’t complain, participate instead
Considering that every organisation has a different work culture, environment and protocol, training process provides the newly hired managers with understanding of the company- specific products and businesses that they are expected to handle. Besides, the training also serves as an orientation programme by indirectly exposing the newly hired managers to the organisational culture and people, which enables them to merge with the existing workforce seamlessly, and later contribute effectively as a team.
Thus, B-schools, argue that training is essentially a part of the job. However, they believe that a higher level of engagement between recruiters and hires after the placement process can help graduates to be job-ready from Day-1. Further, the skills MBA students acquire are just a few compared to the knowledge part. Therefore, B-schools believe that pass-out graduates can be made company-ready only if recruiters pass on specific elements of their company-specific training to B-Schools after making job offers at the campus. “Most companies do not have a clear picture of what they want from an MBA. If this last gap, the training part which follows education is to be bridged industries need to meet academia halfway, and the students undertake this while on the campus,” says Dr. Sinha.
Prof. Shivganesh Bhargava of SJMSoM, IIT Bombay agrees with recruiters’ concern to a certain extent. However, he says that they can solve this problem on their own by “introducing quality induction and orientation programme for all and particularly the fresh students.”
B-schools also suggest a closer tie where industry and academia exchange their resources to create a better system. They say that B-schools should have industry people as adjunct faculty and some faculty should spend time in industries through sabbaticals. Though a drastic change may not happen overnight, it’s high time industry and academia came together to explore a shared space for India’s management education to reach greater heights.
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