People wait in line to enter a job fair in Uniondale, New York. Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Incorporating the established “Western” best practices in the career counseling domain in India is propitious. Varied measures are and have been taken that pave the way for self-discovery by the candidates through career counseling. The case in India, however, is different – given the magnanimity of the demographic dividend, the current state of counselor-trainer strength and the counselor-candidate ratio.

Internationally recognized and followed modus operandi of progression meets at facilitating counseling, encouraging candidates to pursue their preferred training course and, finally, generating employability and employment – self or salaried. So is the case in India. However, opportunities for further enhancement still exist. Adjudging, understanding and incorporating novel practices followed in other countries could improve the career-counseling status quo and enable candidates to make appropriate training and career choices, as well as earning a livelihood for themselves.

Creating awareness of training and employment opportunities involves not only imparting market information, but also facilitating an all-around development of the candidate starting from school level. Foundation of the same lies in designing course modules inclusive of assisting understanding of digital responsibility, for instance, which is one of the prime areas of concern for the government currently.

The responsible and secure usage of digital technology clubbed with financial literacy could perhaps be a game-changer. It would not only enhance knowledge of the female candidates who were not able to become secure because of a lack of financial know-how but also help them become independent. Similar is the case for bringing in gender sensitization to modify stereotypical communal behavior and engender roots for an equal social and economic sphere with equal opportunities. Imbibing elements of sustainable development and leadership and life skills could bridge gaps to improve interpersonal skills.

In addition to providing encouragement to the market-ready labor force to participate in the economy, giving awareness on computational thinking and encouraging (female) candidates to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses is to be advanced. This could act as the foundational stone to an increased labor-force participation rate, especially by women. Several innovative pedagogical techniques such as collaborative classrooms involving both parents/guardians and students, student-led learning, and so forth could pave the way for a more inclusive and cordial learning environment.

As practiced in Sweden, technological aids through publicly funded Web services for students, parents and professionals could be taken advantage of. Benefits through customer service mechanisms of telephonic helplines or video-call facilities supplementary to the public employment service (PES) offices could be made available for an immediate help. Moreover, an inspectorate to supervise and monitor school-level vocational and educational guidance systems could prove to be an advantage.

Like the Swedish PES exchanges, Japan facilitates giving career guidance employment through free-of-cost “job cafes” whereby walk-ins are encouraged whereby students and professionals get training and career and mid-professional guidance to help them make informed decisions. It is like a curriculum vitae of the candidates exploring job prospects wherein their work-experience details are mentioned to negotiate and find livelihood opportunities. Job coaches for persons with disabilities are also provided to students to find their best-fit jobs. Onsite training clubbed with the mainstream formal education is also practiced, giving the students an essence of the work culture and the workflow processes in companies or their areas of interest.

Likewise, simulated work-based learning assignments are facilitated in the US to give market-ready candidates industry-recognized skills and knowledge. In addition to providing leadership and management skills, these also aim at enabling them to manage their work and strike a balance with their personal life. Affiliations with peak bodies in the career counseling and guidance domain could interact with those of Western countries for knowledge exchanges – as is also done by the Australian government. Furthermore, Australian search engines specializing in “find a counselor” type searches wherein a candidate can find a domain-specialist career counselor is something to go in for. Similarly, public-funded research and startup funds, apprenticeships and aboriginal training programs are also to be looked forward to – to be adapted in the Indian context.

In Turkey, the practice of assigning jobseekers, employers and schools to each counselor is widespread. It solves the purpose of making sure that all the stakeholders are in synchronization when conducting a job fair or a career-consultation workshop. It also enables extending market-relevant information to a wider population base. City-level coordinators are also present in the guidance and research centers in PES-like offices to help candidates make the right career choices.

This is a time when the Indian government is making effective policies to cater to the widening demographic dividend. This is also the time to give career-critical information to the candidates – males, females and transgenders – to enable them to participate effectively in the economy and be self-dependent.

It is time to unleash the talent of the market-ready Indian populace by making them aware about themselves, their aptitude and their aspirations.

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Tanya Kapoor is a doctoral researcher specializing in energy diplomacy. Her major areas of interest are sustainable development, geopolitics and career guidance. She lectures girls’ battalions of the National Cadet Corps, India, to encourage them to pursue their interests and contribute to the economy.