Educated – yes; but are you employable?

Educated – yes; but are you employable?

Dr S M Sapatnekar
Director Clinical Research Education &

Management Academy (CREMA).

We are in an era of specialisation. Everything around us is complex and we need specialists to deal with every small issue. Today, the job opportunities are aplenty. universities and colleges have sprouted like beans; and available courses offer plenty of variety where one reads all types of alphabets in a degree or a diploma. Paradoxically, an aspirant finds it difficult to get a job and retain it. Companies form, dissolve, merge, diversify, integrate, compete, form alliances and do many things at a fast speed. Even a senior employee feels insecure, inadequate or outdated. There is no certainty of a smooth career path. Imagine if an employee witnesses two accelerated promotions, four transfers and three retrenchments in his company within a single month. Even a Diwali bonus may not bring smile to him–even if he is not affected.

Managements have not become more vicious, rather, the order of the world has changed with globalisation. Dynamic changes will now be the order of the day. If your company has to survive, thrive and grow, it must withstand changes that take place on a day-to-day basis. Earlier, this was year-to-year basis. So need of corporate world today is to produce quality goods or deliver quality services–on time and at globally competitive rates. Your company therefore needs people who are knowledgeable, productive and ambitious; those who are eager to acquire new knowledge and master new skills; and those who adapt to changing times smoothly. Who can say this is unfair?

Yet, we have some worrying facts. A white paper by Sabita Rebecca reveals certain paradoxes. U R Rao Committee Report observes that ‘India will require well over 10,000 PhDs and twice as many M Tech Degree holders for meeting its huge R&D needs. But then, currently, India churns out barely 400 PhDs a year’. Only 25 percent of Indian Engineers (campus) are hirable. The Indian biotech industry has been growing at the rate of 38 percent annually. It is projected that at this rate the biotech Industry will cross $ 5 billion by 2010. On the other hand, till 2005, success rate of campus hiring in the biotech institutes in India was between one to three percent.

This paradox has been noted all over the world. The impact is particularly felt in India for two reasons. First, India is a favored destination particularly in pharma sector (contract manufacture as well as drug discovery and development). There are a large number of visible opportunities. Yet, when only ten percent of qualified persons are absorbed in the corporate system, the unemployment in the remaining becomes a point of frustration for the individual and an idle human resource that the country cannot afford.

Let us examine what are the qualities that an employer is on the look out for. The first is core competence. Today, it matters much more as to what you can do rather than what you know. So a demonstrable skill or ability will be valued much more. Next important quality is your ability to gain new knowledge and inclination to acquire new skills. Lastly, the most important aspect is your abilities to be a team member–to follow always and to lead sometimes. Industry essentially means team work. If you are a loner, industry is not the right place for you.

To achieve these, today, irrespective of your title, you will need to multi-task. That means relearning and reinforcement of what you already know. You may have passed with 50 percent marks; but in a job your output must be 100 per cent perfect to retain the job. And 110 percent perfect if you want a promotion. Yes, the extra 10 percent is called value addition that you have done. It needs imagination, trial and error, discussion with colleagues and many other things. If you do it, you show that you can go beyond the pale of your job chart.

With changing times, new knowledge and skills become necessary. It is not sufficient to take a sabbatical for that. Your section head will decide this. If you cannot do this, you may not lose your job–but you may stagnate in your post till such a time your junior is your boss. After a few years, you may be construed as ‘dead wood’ and may qualify for a ‘pink slip’.

The team work has more to do with your nature and attitudes than formal training. Yes, formal training is needed. But the training will be fruitful if you have the positive frame of mind. There are two broad areas.

First is introduction to managerial sciences. The era of thousands of employees with water tight compartments of materials, production and marketing is now relevant only to large scale manufacture. A sector like drug discovery and development needs your involvement at every step. You need to know basics of material management because your requirements are so specific and specialided that it cannot be left to imagination of purchase department. You must know not only basics but advanced aspects of packaging because you may be sending a blood sample to another city and it will be treated as bio-hazardous material. You must know at least the mere fundamentals of financial management to the extent these are relevant to project management. You may be leading a few small projects; participating in a few medium sized project or you may be at the periphery of a large project; yet you must know the broad picture and your role in it. Project management will teach you that. You will have to learn planning, organisation and scheduling because you are expected to deliver an output on time for which, some other section in your company may be waiting. All this knowledge will not give you a diploma in management; but it will make you a better manager. You will perform the same tasks; but as a professional–not as an amateur.

The second area is ‘Soft Skills’ (as against your hardcore skills, which is your specialisation). These include skills of communication (listening and speaking), art of negotiation, corporate etiquette, language skills (interpersonal, telephonic electronic) etc. Soft skills can be classified into corporate skills, employability skills and life skills. These are generic in nature. Certainly the list is not exhaustive.

One needs to decide which ones more are relevant to a particular industry. Training in these areas is scalable. It can range from a brief weekend lecture or a two day workshop as a part of periodic corporate training program. Or else these can be integrated in formal curriculum along with hardcore skills training.

Soft skills are an area where in needs assessment must be done by training institutes in consultation with the Industry. Our experience while seeking inputs from the clinical research industry has led us to incorporate some modules in our syllabus, keeping the the curriculum elastic. For example, business communication for a pharma marketing trainee will be vastly different than the one who is aspirant for clinical research or for clinical data management. The first needs emphasis on verbal communications; the second on interpersonal communications and third is tied down mainly to electronic communications. Thus, the faculty has to fine tune the curriculum to the needs of the job profile.

Managerial sciences provide the context to the student. Hardcore skills are needed for the student to perform as a professional. Soft skills show the way as to how to go about it. The employer needs the entire package ready to undertake challenge of the job!