Can startups play a role in bridging the ‘skill-gap’ to increase youth employability?

Amit Garg

Can startups play a role in bridging the ‘skill-gap’ to increase youth employability?

Amit Garg, CEO & Co-Founder, Agrim

As many of us know, startups are predominantly viewed as organisations responsible for job creation, technological and economic advancement. However, the radical socio-political change our world has witnessed over the last decade has led to a tectonic shift in perspective – highlighting that corporate institutions must better acknowledge societal needs, adopt sustainable practices and accept greater social responsibility – in order to stay relevant. In light of this, one of the most pressing issues our global society faces today is the crisis of youth unemployment, wherein each year about 71 million educated (rural and urban) youth are classified as unemployed or underemployed. These staggering stats are only said to rise by an estimated half a million over the next three years! Therefore, in order to understand this problem in greater detail, let’s examine the most basic question:

What makes an individual employable; a truly ‘skilled’ worker?

In a strictly conventional sense, one might say – an educational background, a degree of work experience and/ or a set of references – should suffice. However, the problem extends beyond this and is seemingly more complex than just ticking off a few boxes. For instance, a young woman who receives a Business degree from a local community college in Ohio may not necessarily be considered on par with a young woman who graduated off Business School at NYU, despite the fact that both individuals might be just as tenacious, intelligent and zealous. Yet most of us know what sets NYU apart from community college. In a similar vein, a rural youth from Northern India on minimum wage might possess the same qualifications as the daughter of an upper-middleclass businessman in Mumbai, yet faces numerous barriers towards finding decent employment. This mismatch or disparity is famously termed as a skill gap which refers to a visible gap between jobs that require a certain set of skills and the able candidates available to fill these positions…leading us to ask the following question:

Can startups play a role in bridging the ‘skill-gap’ to increase youth employability?

Can startups bridge this skill-gap between education and industry by upskilling or reskilling those who are unable to access the best opportunities?

The short answer is, yes! According to sociologists, economists and entrepreneurs, there is much evidence suggesting the effectiveness of such a link. Today, upskilling has become a buzzword that is tossed around in multiple corporate contexts. That being said, it is important to understand how startups could potentially establish this link and upskill youth workers who lack basic employment competencies whilst simultaneously contributing to social responsibility and economic growth.

In response to this, our team at Agrim has adopted a step-by-step, education-focused approach that aims to effectively tackle these problems in a systematic manner. We also think that in order to address the larger issues of unemployment, and more specifically, to bridge the skill-gap, the right kind of foundational education needs to be provided and made more accessible. Currently, Agrim has three major projects in the works, each in alignment with our vision to improve societal well-being. These projects aim to:

  1. Promote social inclusion and equal opportunities to education for young people from marginalised & oppressed communities (currently affected by the coronavirus pandemic) by increasing accessibility to digital study aids.
  2. Generate more employment-ready youth by developing tailor-made educational programmes that cater to the subjective strengths and needs of individuals in-relation to the current job market.
  3. Increasing the number of highly competent, relevant and skilled workers from different countries on a global scale by executing specialised training interventions (vocational/ on-the-job etc.) that focus on upskilling and/ or reskilling these potential workers.

Agrim believes that investing resources to upskill people from different backgrounds is the best way to uncover society’s largest reserves of untapped potential. Better employment opportunities provide the working population with a greater sense of financial freedom, improved quality of life & well-being as well as a sense of purpose & accomplishment. We believe this creates a chain-effect of sorts, a healthier workforce -> greater productivity -> faster attainment of business goals, which in turn boosts overall economic growth. In this way, the modernistic, revitalised entrepreneurship ecosystem at Agrim will continue to step up to impact active and long-lasting change through innovative projects that strike a balance between social responsibility and economic prosperity.