Labor shortages continue to be a wide-reaching concern for multiple industries operating in India. A cursory analysis of the employment trends in India points to two specific patterns, among many others, that contribute significantly to skilled-workforce shortages in the country. First, more than half of the students are reluctant to pursue a career in their respective domains (specializations) upon graduation and, second, graduates invariably change their industry shortly after entering the workforce; thereby leading to very high levels of graduate drop-outs and attrition at the early stages of career. Experts attribute much of the above-mentioned undesirable outcomes to students' 'career indecisions', making it increasingly difficult to successfully transition from graduate school to work. These 'indecisions' manifest as a result of many challenges that the students encounter, which further restrains them from planning and deciding on a meaningful career path. Some of the key challenges that students face include, but are not limited to, the very dynamic nature of the labor market, inadequate information about different jobs and the available career paths within different sectors, unclear and sometimes unrealistic role expectations, lack of understanding of their respective field of specialization, and lack of readiness to meet the industry rigor with a logical/analytical acumen/bent of mind.
Teachers at Nitte Deemed to be University’s Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management believe that strong academic and organizational mechanisms together can, in fact, effectively counter career indecisions that students encounter by potentially augmenting students' confidence and self-efficacy beliefs. A point worth noting, in this regard, is that the importance of the concept of the 'self' to the career development of students has been well researched and documented in the vocational psychology literature. Accordingly, students with a strong sense of self-efficacy, for instance, are expected to demonstrate higher levels of assurance, poise, and efficiency in problem-solving, decision-making abilities, and their respective career choices.
Against this background, Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management has integrated the concept of 'Management-In-Action' (MIA) projects over and above the university-mandated internship(s) in its core curriculum. MIA initiative is primarily driven by student teams — supervised by dedicated mentors/teachers. Under MIA, students assume the role of project consultants and, in the process, identify problems or opportunities in specific companies and use contemporary management concepts/tools to give them real-time solutions. In fact, MIA is extremely beneficial for the industry, institute, and students alike. First, students gain valuable practical (hands-on) exposure from the MIA projects. These projects have, in many cases, significantly improved students' abilities to reason logically, articulate ideas, identify the relevant problem(s), and engage in root-cause analysis. Over time, such exposures have also improved students' overall academic performance, intrinsic motivation, skills, confidence, and employment prospects. For organizations, MIA projects have opened up avenues for innovative ideas and opportunities that they believed never existed. For the institute, MIA projects have offered greater opportunities to strengthen academia-industry links and have allowed the institute to contemporize course curriculum in line with the industry's needs and expectations.
In essence, for students, good MIA project exposure and experiences have worked as springboards at the inception of their careers. In fact, students' ability to adapt well to their future work environment is contingent on their ability to construe meaningfulness from their respective work experiences and their ability to initiate specific actions focused on pursuing one's chosen problem to solve. MIA projects offer tremendous opportunities for students to assume different developmental and task roles. These myriad roles facilitate students in acquiring adaptive strategies that aid them in addressing their current and impending tasks deemed important for their careers. Not only do MIA projects help students face workplace/task surprises and unfamiliar/unexpected roles, but it also augments their confidence and self-belief by equipping them to ably address poorly-defined problems, manage work-related setbacks, cope with expectation stress, and explore career opportunities. Indeed, enduring MIA experiences have elicited favorable student attitudes and behaviors that are vital for mastering necessary skills and competencies for career success and dealing with unexpected occupational transitions. MIA projects as a strong psychological learning space, allow students to acquire the necessary knowledge and develop competencies that allow for a smooth graduate school-to-work transition.
Learning by doing is here to stay!
Prof. (Dr) S R Badrinarayan
Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management, Nitte
Phone: +91 8722129749