Equipping young people with international skills standards before they migrate abroad

Punjab has a serious brain drain problem. IELTS (International English Language Testing System) centers have mushroomed like anything to become a mini-industry of the unorganized sector, catering mainly to rural youth, who aspire to soar to the developed world with more big dreams. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between young talent in the state and their desire to secure better placements in countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia. Even political parties promised to fill this critical gap in their manifestos during the recent assembly elections. They promised free IELTS coaching to bring young people into their fold. Wacky commitments to encourage the emigration of young people without the required skills are nothing but a cruel joke, which must be avoided and the challenge of unprecedented underemployment must be accepted.

It was however good to see our political parties in Punjab talking about the placement of state youth in foreign countries. It was certainly no small feat. How to help young people find jobs in foreign countries – being part of Punjab party manifestos should be seen as a positive sign. The development of an ecosystem for placement abroad must be a priority and must be part of a legal framework so that our young people and their families are not cheated. Right now, they are being misled by so-called placement agencies who not only charge them exorbitant fees but also put their lives at risk by sending them to wrong countries in collusion with their agents.

India International Skill Centers (IISC), an initiative of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), did not materialize. Indeed, there is a requirement for IISC across India, equipped with a global ecosystem to match the international skill standards required by global employers. Without matching skill parameters, young people are forced to do odd jobs to survive.

Nothing should be overlooked to ensure that young people are exploited by bogus illegal immigration companies. IELTS is not a tool to get a good job. It’s not a skill. We must ensure that our young people who aspire to go abroad have a working knowledge of English or the language of the country they wish to go to. In addition to IELTS, basic country know-how should be shared with candidates.

If school dropouts can pass the IELTS tests, then what is the need for them to interrupt their studies. The need of the hour is to explore and ensure to what extent our young people can be educated in other foreign languages ​​while equipping them with skills of international standards before they apply for a work permit. This will not only help them become part of the decent workforce overseas, but also open up multiple opportunities for them.

According to one estimate, 35% of the population of Punjab live in 237 towns and the remaining 65% reside in 13,006 villages, depending on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood. The versatility of employment in the agricultural sector still needs to be strengthened. Consequently, much of the labor force engaged directly in agriculture does not earn a decent living, pushing rural youth largely to Canada, Australia, the Middle East, the United States , UK and other countries looking for better opportunities. Legally or illegally, they land in these countries but have to struggle to get a decent job due to lack of communication and skills.

Unemployment is a multifaceted problem. This happens when there is a lack of job opportunities. It also occurs when the level of employability of job seekers increases. Unemployability of job candidates due to lack of desired or required skills is a painful situation. The skills development courses offered have poor placement records. The Punjab government is to create a globally certified talent node for skill development courses. Our technical institutes and universities should synchronize their skills courses with foreign institutes and employers.

Punjab is an Indian state from where maximum migration takes place every year. It has a widespread diaspora known for its hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. Punjabis have settled in many countries of the world. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, 5.78 lakh people from Punjab left the country for employment from January 2016 to January 2022 and 2.62 lakh youths for higher education. Punjab is ranked third in the country after Andhra Pradesh (2.82 lakh) and Maharashtra (2.64 lakh) from where young people are going abroad for higher education to fulfill their dreams of jobs income and a better lifestyle.


Government jobs are limited in number compared to the growing demand for gainful employment. At present, the weak business climate, growing inequality, weak demand and slow economic recovery are posing serious impediments to the Indian labor market. In order to exploit overseas opportunities for truck or taxi drivers, construction workers, agricultural workers, nurses, beauty and wellness professionals, IT professionals, cooks, chefs, plumbers, carpenters, managers and supervisors of retail stores and food services, the right skills of young people should undoubtedly be a high priority.

Unfortunately, government initiatives aimed at improving or imparting skills to our young people have not been very successful in the past. This hints at a systemic issue that affects the talent ecosystem in the state. Think of a young woman considering her next career move. How should she go about finding her vocation? Where should she train? And what kind of jobs would be open to him? This is a common dilemma for many young people today. They have a strong desire to do better in their lives, but they cannot find employment due to lack of skills.

A major challenge that our unemployed youth are currently facing is the mismatch between their skills and the needs of global job providers. Search costs are prohibitive for employers and a candidate’s qualifications are difficult to verify. There seem to be many jobs available on different platforms, but there is no real way to establish the quality of professional roles. For someone to successfully navigate this maze would be nearly impossible. Similar problems plague the area of ​​skills. Candidates looking to upskill themselves find it difficult to connect with credible skills providers, and so-called “certified” trainers often lack the skills required to make them decently employable globally.

The outcome

About six lakh students from Punjab undertake IELTS preparations every year. This is an area that needs to be addressed as a priority. If possible, IELTS coaching can be provided by government Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and even in schools as well during their secondary and upper secondary level courses. This will prevent our students from being duped by private IELTS trainers, who charge high fees even if they are not qualified and specialized.

The government should immediately put in place a standard operating procedure (SOP) for all private IELTS centers upon their establishment, accreditation and management. It will also put a stop to ghost immigration consultants and put an end to fake immigration.

Study Abroad, Indian International Skills Center and Placement Cell in every district of the states to facilitate youth migration through legal channels. The District Employment and Enterprise Offices (DBEEs) should be strengthened to carry out this task. If such concerted efforts are made to create an ecosystem for overseas placement, things will change for the better.

The author is co-founder and MD, Orane International, training partner with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), network member, India International Skills Centres, an initiative of the GoI. Opinions are personal.

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