It’s been 15 long months of uncertainty for students at all levels, particularly those completing their higher education – whether certification, diploma or degrees – and preparing to enter the job market amid the looming fear of a possible third wave of Covid. Will we get the job of our choice? The question is writ large on every face. There is no easy answer, too. Yet, all is not dismal, as jobs are on offer in many of the sectors that are looking up.
MercerMettl, a global leader in talent assessments, in its ‘The State of Talent Acquisition Report 2021’ states that although job cuts and rising unemployment rates were reported in 2020, the data looks promising on the hiring front in 2021. Recruitment managers are optimistic about returning to the pre-pandemic hiring levels in 2021. This outlook gains more credibility as nearly 60 per cent of companies surveyed said they were looking to hire talent for new positions.
RP Yadav, Chairman and Managing Director of Genius Consultants Ltd, which provides staffing solutions to scores of multinationals, says the job market is definitely moving upwards since June 10 when unlocking began and economic activities started reviving, though unemployment would be around 9 per cent. “In industries that are doing well, there are large employment demands like in the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, retail, telecom, IT and logistics. Sectors like manufacturing, consumer products, and infrastructure are still to gather pace. On the other hand, all tourism-related services, mass transportation and entertainment industries, including cinema halls, continue to be in bad shape,” Yadav says.
Wage trends are industry specific. The sectors that are seeing a spurt in demand and grappling with a shortage of manpower have thrown up a trend of higher wages being offered while scouting for talent. But in those yet to step out of the Covid blues like aviation and hospitality, wage slabs have fallen, says Yadav.
The pandemic has also brought about many changes in the jobs scenario. For one, it has shifted the entire fresher hiring process from the campus to the virtual world, points out Sushant Dwivedy, Managing Director for businesses in India and the Philippines at SHL. Apart from conventional skill sets for all job functions, “companies are now looking for agile and reliable freshers who are self-learners, have strong work ethics and have the ability to adapt to changing situations”, says Dwivedy, referring to survey responses from a large number of companies. “Soft skills indicative of remote work success are an important part of the recruitment criteria.”
The largest hiring market in India continues to be driven by technology and IT services, as they are the highest demand creators. Latest Naukri JobSpeak Trends reveal that the IT-software sector continued its recent surge of 14 per cent sequential growth in May 2021 to record a further 5 per cent hike in the following month. “It remains the key performer in terms of hiring activity, achieving an all-time high growth of 52 per cent, as compared to the pre-Covid levels of June 2019,” states Pawan Goyal, Chief Business Officer at Naukri.com, one of the major placement companies in the country.
Goyal says hiring has also picked up significantly in the hotels/restaurants/airlines/travel (more than 87 per cent) and retail (over 57 per cent) sectors between May and June 2021 after the authorities relaxed pandemic-induced restrictions on movement. Sectors such as insurance, banking and financial services, and pharma and biotech have shown recovery from their recent slump with more than 38 per cent, 29 per cent and 22 per cent growth, respectively.
As far as cities are concerned, hiring activity in Tier-II cities was higher than in the metros with an average growth of 23 per cent and 15 per cent.
Highest growth of roles is seen in marketing, advertising, medical representatives and public relations at well over 39 per cent, sales and business development at 32 per cent, human resource and administration at over 31 per cent and banking and insurance at more than 31 per cent. A sequential rise in hiring activity was also noted in production and quality at over 22 per cent and accounts and finance at over 20 per cent in June.
Another study by Mercer Mettl reveals that companies are creating multiple new roles while reviving some dominant ones in this new environment. About 53 per cent of industry leaders are looking to hire candidates for product and technology-related roles, followed by operations at 39.42 per cent and sales at 39 per cent. Data suggests that equal employment opportunities are moving to the forefront in 2021 as companies shift towards a future-looking approach, which is essential to hiring a resilient workforce. “Practices such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are altering hiring processes. Such outlook among companies is likely to nurture a feeling of belongingness and create a robust talent pipeline – which is critical for organisational growth,” Siddhartha Gupta, CEO at Mercer Mettl, says.
If one goes by the response to job placement exercises at Indian School of Business (ISB) and IIT-Delhi, the industry response has been quite positive and strong. At the ISB, some of the standout jobs have been consulting, which has traditionally been one of the top power engines for B-schools. This year, the industry came out with big numbers of consulting job offers, accounting for almost 33 per cent (388) offers. “All the big names, including McKenzie, Bain, Deloitte and Accenture, came up with large job offers across strategy, technology, and transactional and operational consultancy. We also had a good representation of product management and technology (15 per cent), sales and marketing (almost 14 per cent), followed by finance and operations,” says Uday Virmani, Senior Director for Career Advancement Services at Indian School of Business.
Women accounted for 40 per cent of the 99 per cent placements at ISB, with 24 per cent bagging leadership roles from leading companies which participated in the campus placement exercise held online in February.
The yield per company was definitely high this year at 6 plus while offer yield per candidate was almost 1.8. The CTC has also shown a healthy growth as the average was Rs 28.21 lakh per annum and, by the end of the placement week, it was Rs 28.29 lakh, a growth of almost 9.93 per cent compared to placements in 2020 ahead of the Covid lockdown.
Because of the pandemic, there is a greater appreciation of people with technology knowledge and understanding of business and people management.
“At one time, wireless was a big thing. If you were a communications engineer there was a huge demand, but now the same holds true for artificial intelligence and machine learning,” says Sanjit Krishnan Kaul, Associate Professor (ECE) at IIT Delhi.
Based on the response to the B Tech programme in CSAI (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence) and also PG programme in AI and data science that IIT Delhi launched in the last few years, there is certainly a huge demand for such courses as there are many areas where AI methods are being applied.
“The problem we now have is that students desperately want add-on courses that train them in AI and ML. We have communications students who want to have a course in ML, so we have adapted and made our curriculum flexible to help them learn about its applications in communications too. So, unlike two years back, we now offer additional courses to students studying apart from those doing B Tech and M tech,” says Kaul, a wireless expert, who has recently availed of the opportunity to learn new skills. AI has many applications, including in the environment, wildlife protection and smart city planning. Many companies like Google and Microsoft are getting into the space of AI for social good, which includes collecting data. Though data collection has become much cheaper, the problem lies in analysing it. Therefore, there is now a push to find people who are willing to learn, apply and keep up with the evolving trends.
On the blue-collar job roles, OLX People Employer Sentiment Survey 2021 report states that more than 70 per cent employers confirmed that they have resumed hiring. Among these, nearly 16 per cent are hiring 100 per cent of capacity, while 54 per cent are hiring up to 50 per cent of capacity. Around 60 per cent of employers state that they have faced no challenges in availability of talent, despite the fact that a large number of gig workers had preferred to return to their native home at the height of the pandemic.
“With employers optimistic about the general recovery of the economy, buoyed by the mass-scale vaccination drive and a large number of businesses getting back to work, the positive hiring sentiment for blue-collar workers is a steady” says Tarun Sinha, CEO of OLX People.
The job market presents a mixed picture. If you meet the skill set requirements, there are jobs for taking and the wages are on the rise. But there are challenges ahead.
In the next two to three years, Navnit Singh, Chairman and Managing Director (India), Korn Ferry, a global organisational consulting firm, foresees: “There will be a serious talent crunch at the bottom of the pyramid as there are not enough trained, skilled and educated employable people available. So companies will have to hire and train youngsters graduating from different courses for at least six months to make them job ready.”
The concern stems from the fact that the curriculum of most courses have not kept pace with changing technology and job market requirements.