In a bid to increase Employability or Employment Quotient of graduating students, professional colleges and institutes conduct intermittent trainings under the umbrella term “Personality Development Programme”. The topics covered range from technological expertise to soft skills – basically anything not covered in the syllabus but is certified by industry as relevant to placement prospects. And the trend is catching fast without much introspection into Return on Investment (ROI). But reality cannot be ignored for long. Most programmes are followed by expressions of displeasure over wastage of time, effort and money. This is simply because behavioural changes expected in the participants are not visible even after huge investments. To minimise complaints we need to improvise. But the question is – What should we change? Content is not the only culprit. Even the delivery mechanism has lesser role in making a training ineffective. In all likelihood it is the planning or layout of the entire programme that governs the course of action on either side of the platform, both trainer and trainee need a definite connect at emotional and psychological levels.
Simply put, most students who attend (because it is mandatory) strongly believe that these issues exist only in the lives of others. For example if the session covers issues related to “Emotional Intelligence” none of them will care to look at themselves and evaluate their own inerpersonal skills. They pick up the theory part of the session and each one stares at others to find faults against the newfound scale. So the crucial point is preparedness of the mind that undergoes training to increase receptivity so that thoughts and words are put to action.
A couple of years back, the Dept. of Libray & Information Science, Mumbai University revamped their 2 year PG degree syllabus to include an entire paper on “Soft Skills and Communication” in third Semester coursework. For the last three years I have been associated with the course and seen some amazing transformational leaps taken by those students who really got into action. The whole idea is to improvise upon the IMAGE QUOTIENT of a student at the time of admission to take it to a higher level so as to increase his/her job prospects at the end of the course. Year after year as number of success stories will grow we can expect to see a gradual change in the stereotypical professional image of the LIBRARIAN .
In this case the FOUR factors that worked in favour are listed below :
1.Embedded Curriculum : Within the curriculum these classes are timed somewhere halfway through the degree course, by then students are well aquainted with the professional skills and attitudes that they will need on-the-job. When we started with Soft Skills sessions one year of libraianship course work had already enabled them to understand their prospective professional roles and goals. As a result when they were subjected to activities during training sessions they could think innovatively and perform better in interactions and role-plays thereby strengthening their grasp on the concepts.
2.Duration : Under one day – one topic strategy each session extended for 5 to 6 hours. Because the trainer spent a day with the students as opposed to just delivering a lecture for 2 hrs, everyone had enough chances of discussions, offhand advice and personal interactions with beneficial consequences such as motivation from instant gratification. This freedom to incorporate theory and practice into a day long session interlaced with breaks-at-ease helped to develop confidence in the trainees who opened up with the trainer easily. Less inhibitions meant more learning.
3.Frequency of Contact : For 2½ months I was meeting the same group of students every week and got to spend a day with them. This helped a great deal in refreshing the previous topics, taking a follow-up and keeping a tab on the progress without the pressures of formal evaluation. In subsequent sessions the students could be motivated time and again as some needed to be pushed into taking action. Creating a little bit of competition students actually worked hard to change their Appearance, Behaviour and Communication and build a Personal Brand stronger than the others. It was overwhelming to see how they started helping each other to learn and grow on an everyday basis.
4.Evaluation Method : Since the training programme is a part of regular course, there is an academic compulsion on all stakeholders. Syllabus has been designed with defined learning objectives and topics aligned in a logical sequence. The department invites the best available faculty in the industry, some experts are not just trainers but libray professionals with years of experience. They understand the dynamics of academic milieu and keep a balance between fun activities and committed teaching-learning process. Students know that they have to undergo formal evaluation at the end of semester and with not many ready-made books available on these topics, they direct their efforts towards classroom learning. Regularity, punctuality, participation and responsiveness follow automatically.
Just engaging the audience is not enough, the art lies in taking them on a train of thought which halts at stations called Realization, Acceptance and Willingness (I call it RAW Tunnel) and strictly in that order. However, the final destination called “Visible Change”is still afar. Even at the end of the tunnel, chances of dropout are high because agreeing to take action needs to be followed by actual “action”. This is the longest and most difficult terrain. Partially because both trainer and trainee are confused over who drives the engine and who blows the whistle. In a planned curriculum there is no such confusion. An efficient way of minimizing the aftermath of blamegame, is to think ahead at the very outset.
Other Colleges and Institutes who care to increase the (new) EQ – “Employability Quotient” need to take cues from this small department and contrive their training activities with more precision and relevance to the evolving demeanour of the market. The most important consideration here should be that one cannot choose to work on selected components of Personal Branding, rather it is a composite exercise involving multifaceted growth of an individual in conjunction with the Image of the Profession. And we are looking forward to changes in behaviour of human beings so it should be more like teaching and less like training.
“Your Beliefs Become Your Thoughts, Your Thoughts Become Your Words,
Your Words Become Your Actions, Your Actions Become Your Habits,
Your Habits Become Your Values, Your Values Become Your Destiny.”
– Mahatma Gandhi