India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, set to surpass the economic dominance of the US and China within the next two decades.

India also has a demographic dividend – a large pool of young people entering the workforce who will continue to drive this economic growth.

However, there is a large gap between the skills of young urban graduates and those in rural colleges. This is leading to an employability gap, whereby students from urban colleges are far more likely to land a job in India’s booming economy than their rural counterparts.

But India also suffers a skills gap, particularly in the technology industry, and it needs more capable workers to plug this gap.

A Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) program in India aims to provide a hitherto invisible pool of talent with the confidence and skills to enter this workforce.

Plugging the gap

India has many good engineering and science colleges that offer students good prospects for employment.

However, in rural colleges, there is a lack of good-quality teaching in English and computer skills which affects the employability prospects of otherwise very capable students. More than 60% of undergraduates lack aptitude skills – a benchmark test of employability.

In addition, some of the students in the rural colleges suffer from the historical constraints of class and marginalization.

“Some of these students are both socially and economically underprivileged, and they don’t get access to job opportunities,” explains Vishal Sonwalkar, Project Manager, IT Employability.

“But the big corporations in India need a constant pipeline of talent if they are to continue to contribute to India’s growth story, they need access to good people, and this is an invisible pool of talent in rural India that they should have access to.”

The 18-month IT Employability program is designed to equip the rural students with the skills that they lack and give them the confidence and aspiration to set these large employers in their sights.

The students spend three semesters learning technical and digital skills, such as coding, as well as business English and softer skills such as communication and teamwork. The courses run over the weekends and are in addition to their continuing studies at the college.

The program is delivered by TCS employees voluntarily – and for free.

“This alone gives the rural students a sense of confidence and purpose, they appreciate that TCS employees are willing to give up their weekends to spend the time teaching them,” says Vishal.

“And because the programme is delivered by TCS, students get an early exposure to industrial needs, which helps them hone their skills and personality.”

Ready for the workplace

The result is that the students’ employability – and their chances of getting a job – skyrockets.

One third of the trained students have been placed in prominent corporations in India. More than 60% of the students trained and placed are female, leading to significant empowerment.

Miss. Rashmi GM, Assistant System Engineer at TCS, is a past participant in the course and credits it with getting her where she is today.

“We didn’t know about the corporate world and no company had ever come to teach us in this way,” she says.

“I know that I got my job because of the skills we learnt on the IT Employability program. We were taught the aptitude skills, but also how to communicate.”

Another participant, Miss Sushma R, Junior Developer at System Plus Transformations, adds: “I learnt how to change tone and style according to the audience, whether it’s talking to a colleague or explaining something to a client.

“Today I am working on a project with a UK-based client and I can communicate directly without the help of a manager.”

Sharing the benefits

The IT Employability program not only contributes to TCS’ Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, it helps it unearth its own talent pipeline. More than 80% of the students selected for TCS through this program join the organization and their retention is high.

The program also impacts existing employees in a positive way.

“Employees tell us through a survey that they feel an increased sense of belonging to the company and they feel privileged to be offering opportunities to others that they were lucky enough to receive,” says Vishal.

Moreover, the reputation of the colleges that are taking part in the program is rising and they are finding that corporates are beginning to take notice. There has been an average 50% increase in the number of students who now get placed into a job in all the participant colleges.

The IT Employability program has so far been implemented in 33 engineering colleges and five science colleges in 12 states across India. TCS is set to increase the number of colleges that participate.

“There is no limit,” explains Vishal. “The goal of the program is economic empowerment of rural families with the disadvantaged students earning their first corporate job, resulting in sustainable, inclusive growth.

“The real job is allowing bright young minds to showcase their potential and turn them into confident young workers.”