Thursday, April 23, 2015

The SIM Model of Employability

In my conversations about Skills Training and Employability, I have started using the SIM model. This is indeed based on my various conversations over the last five years with employers and educators, and attempts to understand why the Employment-to-Education gap persists. And, indeed, SIM is the shorthand for the three dimensions of this gap, Skills, Information and Mobility, which I wrote about earlier. (See here)

Instead of seeing Education-to-Employment gap as a massive cognitive failure for the Educators, or an original sin emerging out of narrow self-serving attitudes of the employers, this model allows me to see why such a gap may exist. Indeed, over time, I have come to feel that I should be speaking about the problem in plural, or problems, because these three dimensions are really three distinct challenges to be overcome. And, anyone focusing on any one aspect of it is likely to be frustrated by the outcomes.

Consider the frequent complaints from the Skills Training providers and the policy-makers in India. They complain that they can not meet the targets because people do not want to move, while jobs and people are in different areas more often than not. Focusing on skills development, they tend to overlook that mobility is part of the problem that they were paid to solve. The more focused Hiring Departments spend a lot of time on Information part of the equation, reaching out to as many college campuses as they can, but remain disengaged from the skills part of the equation. And, while educational exchange programmes target mobility and cultural familiarity, they often become social exchanges disconnected from the skills aspect of the discussion.

Indeed, the problem is not just about partial perspective, but even within categories. Employers often define their requirements in hard skill terms, sending educators scrambling to prepare people for Analytics or Cyber-security, while looking implicitly for softer abilities such as ability to learn. The employers have no handy metric to ascertain such softer aspects, and the leading employers, being at the top of food chain, do not feel the necessity to lead the way. On the Information side, the real time change in skills and jobs are poorly understood by the educators, and often too disruptive for their content-heavy model to adapt to. And, finally, education mostly remain a place-bound activity, made attractive by an idea of social life and middle class stability, and the question of mobility remains somewhat uncomfortable, at least in the developing societies where such mobility is perhaps most needed.

My work, and some of this blog, will be now focused on developing this model further, as I plan to do in my work context. 


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