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How Prepared Are The Graduates Of 2021?

BW People spoke to educators to understand how these digital natives would survive in the new remote workspaces.

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In the next few months, the first batch of students who have nearly spent the entire pandemic year learning virtually will enter a job market that is staggered by localised lockdowns and rising unemployment. 

The students of the 2020-21 academic year are different. In what has been a year of virtual classes and exams, many students will complete college education on their laptops at home this year. The first batch of students who have been tutored virtually in their final year will enter a job market that is both competitive and remote with soaring unemployment rates. BW People spoke to educators to understand how these digital natives would survive in the new remote workspaces.  

Different From Predecessors  

The 2021 batch has experienced an anxiety level much higher than their seniors, with the forced exchange of online learning instead of campus life. However, academicians feel that both students and educational institutions have shown a remarkable level of resilience. Professor Padmakumar, Head of Media Department, Christ University Bangalore explains how amendments have been made to the curriculum, universities have collaborated with other online educators and pedagogy has undergone a major upskilling with teachers adapting and navigating the digital realm.  

Students who adapted to these changes are expected to have lesser levels of dissonance adapting to remote working styles. Professor Kamal K Jain who teaches Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at IIM Raipur opines that there are some aspects of online learning that train students for remote work. “Online learning requires self-motivation and an individual drive, which are quite similar to the skills required to succeed at a work from home environment. Online education will prepare students to be better self-starters and remain self-motivated. It will also make them better at written communication and they will be more mindful of email ethics,” Professor Jain adds. 

‘Dear Graduates’ 

Graduation ceremonies add to the much deserved sense of achievement that comes with accomplishing a significant life event such as completing college. This sense of achievement can be diminished by the ongoing health scare and pervading uncertainty.     

“This might not be the best time to enter the job market but that doesn’t reflect the worth of the students. If there is a job matching their tastes and liking they could pursue it, otherwise they could use the time for upskilling. Taking up remote internships, online learning or pursuing higher education will help them build their core skillsets,” advises Professor Padmakumar. 

The pandemic has dissolved geographical boundaries and highlighted a variety of options for the online learner. Inclined students can pursue courses from different universities and simultaneously gain skill sets that don’t fall under the purview of traditional syllabi.  

Professor Padmakumar further believes, “Self-driven learners thrive immensely in the pandemic context because they look for betterment at various modes that go beyond formal education and use online spaces for strengthening their academic rigour.” 

Effects Of E-learning 

Studying online chips away at social and interpersonal skills that students can use in the workspace. 

“A major compromise of online learning is the impact it has on peer learning and Interpersonal skills. In my assessment, students stick to people that they already know in the online mode and they don’t widen their circle of contacts and influence, thereby missing out on group dynamics,” Professor Jain comments.  

A silver lining to e-learning and entering virtual workspaces is that the new graduates will not be exposed to the bureaucracy of ‘the office’. There is greater flexibility and productivity observed among well managed teams when elements of red tape and office politics remain outside office walls.  

Thus, combined with their digital native upbringing and the past year of virtual training, these graduates stand a real chance to assimilate into the workforce as we recover from the pandemic. Not only do they possess a more amenable mindset for change but also require lesser technological upskilling when compared to their predecessors, making them a new breed of graduates for the new workspace.