Bridge the Gap between Skills Acquired and Skills Needed

November 21, 2015

 

Psychology in India is finally on the verge of receiving the recognition it deserves. It has been studied since time immemorial. It may not have been a specific, singular subject, but studying human behaviour has been a fascination of many, including mine.  

 

And so I did. For seven long years. Finally, I completed my Post Graduation in psychology and started my very first job. After six months of working I have come to the realization that there is a huge difference between the psychology that I have studied and the psychology that I am currently using, which amounts to almost nothing.

 

 

This has led me to wonder how many more people face this issue of being unable to apply their education to their work. Since, I have no experience in other fields; I will stick to Psychology and try to put forth reasons as to why this is happening. To understand this better, dear reader, you first need to understand my subject. So, I will try to sum it up briefly as sadly there are still many who are unaware of the relevance of this subject.

 

 

For those who have little or no idea about psychology, psychologists cannot read your minds, (that territory belongs to the psychics). We definitely cannot make your children more intelligent or your personality more attractive. And unfortunately, in most cases we are not those stylish men and women who use this behavioural science to catch criminals like they might show in popular television series like Criminal Minds or CSI (“In most cases”, there is still hope!!!)

 

 Psychology actually comes from the Greek words, ‘psyche’, meaning life, and ‘logos’, meaning explanation or reason. Psychology can be defined as the science of human and animal behaviour; it includes the application of this science to human problems. (Morgan et al). Studying human behaviour, as you may have guessed encompasses a lot. So naturally, psychology is divided into branches or specialities and not limited to treating mental patients as many perceive it to be. These specialities or areas extend from child psychology to geriatrics (elderly) psychology, from cognitive to neurosciences, educational, clinical, industrial etc. The last branch, Industrial and Organizational Psychology is my area of work.

 

The APA (The American Psychological Association) defines Industrial and Organizational Psychology as:

 

The specialty of industrial-organizational psychology (IO Psychology) is characterized by the scientific study of human behaviour in organizations and the work place. The specialty focuses on deriving principles of individuals, groups and organizational behaviour and applying this knowledge to the solution of problems at work.

I hope by now my readers have the very basic idea of what psychology is and isn’t.  At last, I come to the crux of my article.

 

In my experience the issue that I and many face in regard to not being able to apply psychology to their work is because of the following reasons. 

 

 

Awareness: Lack of awareness is a root cause of many problems faced by society and unfortunately psychology is a victim of it too. Even in our so called modern times, taking help from counsellors is considered a taboo by many. So many of my own friends and relatives are unable to comprehend- “Exactly what am I studying?” or “What jobs will I get?” Let me tell you, this is very frustrating and infuriating.

 

 

Having said this, the future may not be so bleak. Many psychologists in India are doing extremely well, great researches are being conducted and various beautiful therapies are being practiced. This trend has started in a few cities and now it’s upon us to carry it forward through more advanced courses, social media, workshops, sensitization programs etc.

 


Educational Institutes: Let be begin by saying that we are not all together bad in this front. India has many renowned institutes that are doing great work in this field. Delhi  University, Banaras Hindu University, IIPR (Indian Institute of Psychology and Research), Nimhans (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) to name a few.

 

These are like the IIM’S of Psychology and hence it is not possible for everyone to attend them. Largely, however, there is a dearth of good institutes that have psychology courses. This problem not only creates lack of qualified graduates but also teachers.

 

 The novelty of this field means not many are studying it or are inclined towards it, many go abroad to study it and then settle there. The few experienced and passionate professors available opt for the big institutes leaving the rest with the less qualified faculty.

 

Another issue that I have personally faced is the syllabus. From the time I began studying Psychology in my 11th to my Masters which is almost 7 years, there has been almost no advancement in the syllabus. I am not saying that I have studied the exact same thing but a large number of topics have been repeated throughout these years. Some of course have been more detailed as my classes advanced but some of the subject matter has been identical in all these years.

 

Largely, colleges do not have the resources or the faculty to offer students the various areas of psychology as subjects. Therefore, the most common psychology course one will find will be clinical psychology, industrial and counselling taking the second place. Some may provide diploma courses in child psychology and few therapies and that’s about it.


This according to me is the biggest problem that we are currently facing. Due to this we are unable to be the cool, stylish people who solve crimes by studying the criminal’s behaviour or provide the much needed psychological assistance to our soldiers, or children with cognitive disabilities, or a married couple who wants to give their marriage a second chance. All of this and more only because a select few colleges actually provide these courses.

 

The gap between learned skills and required skills: Is teaching and providing courses enough? Certainly not. Application is what is important.  Now, this is the problem most of my classmates and me faced this year. I must have learnt over 3 dozen theories if not more during my post graduation. I have been working for 6 months now. How many theories have I used? Probably ten or less. This is

not because I am not well versed with them. But, mainly because the application of theories was something we never practiced. This becomes a critical problem in psychology as the subject is cramped with theories without actually understanding how to practice them. I am not saying that studying has been a waste.

 

Many concepts like TNA, performance management, recruitment etc have been very useful in my job but I was still not prepared for the intricacies of it all. For example, we studied training but never really learned how to make a lesson plan or design the content. We were not aware of the specifications that are needed in today’s market. Yet, we were still in a better position to handle things as our professors went out of their way and the syllabus to inform us about a lot many things. Other college students were not so lucky.

 

 

has been almost no advancement in the syllabus. I am not saying that I have studied the exact same thing but a large number of topics have been repeated throughout these years. Some of course have been more detailed as my classes advanced but some of the subject matter has been identical in all these years.Largely, colleges do not have the resources or the faculty to offer students the various areas of psychology as subjects.

 

Therefore, the most common psychology course one will find will be clinical psychology, industrial and counselling taking the second place. Some may provide diploma courses in child psychology and few therapies and that’s about it. This according to me is the biggest problem that we are currently facing. Due to this we are unable to be the cool, stylish people who solve crimes by studying the criminal’s behaviour or provide the much needed psychological assistance to our soldiers, or children with cognitive disabilities, or a married couple who wants to give their marriage a second chance. All of this and more only because a select few colleges actually provide these courses.

 

 

Health and Neurosciences) to name a few. These are like the IIM’S of Psychology and hence it is not possible for everyone to attend them. Largely, however, there is a dearth of good institutes that have psychology courses. This problem not only creates lack of qualified graduates but also teachers. The novelty of this field means not many are studying it or are inclined towards it, many go abroad to study it and then settle there.

 

The few experienced and passionate professors available opt for the big institutes leaving the rest with the less qualified faculty. started in a few cities and now it’s upon us to carry it forward through more advanced courses, social media, workshops, sensitization programs etc.

 

 

Another problem arises in job opportunities. Since psychology can still be considered a new field, my classmates and I did not expect millions of job opportunities. However, most of us found jobs in the first three to four months of finishing our Masters. What we have realized, rather I have realized is that the real world is much more different from our cosy classes.

 

I suppose this is true for every student that makes the transition from campus to corporate. And so I don’t want to talk for everyone, even students of psychology but only from my own experience in I/O psychology. What I have identified is that there is virtually no recognition or understanding of I/O to most people. Most big companies or MNC’s may have a vague idea or some even complete knowledge of I/O but still the level of acceptance is very low. This results in fewer job opportunities for IO psychologists especially over MBA students. 

 

  The industries are not solely to be blamed. The root cause could be the little or complete absence of a bridge between companies and colleges. I cannot stress enough the significance of this partnership. My batch mates and I learned this the hard way. Our final year dissertations and practicum’s were a nightmare, especially for IO kids. No company was ready to give us internships or opportunities for research and data collection, even if it meant a free analysis of their company or employees. Not that it stopped us; we were quite determined to convince people about the value of our field.

 

We all managed to finish our dissertations and practicum case load, presented our research papers in international and national conferences and won college to state level competitions. Our clinical batch mates did not disappoint either and came up with some unique researches that were also recognized in many national and international conferences.

 

Besides our amazing professors, the credit for this goes to the handful of individuals and companies who were willing to accept and work with our field. One of my classmates even got an internship opportunity, wherein she got to learn a great deal and also put forth her own thoughts from various psychological perspectives.

 

This is exactly what is needed. If the gap between the skills acquired by students and the skills needed for the jobs are not filled, then the companies will face the problem of finding the right candidates and the students will not find jobs. Therefore, for the perfect job fit the companies and colleges need to work hand in hand. This will help in aligning the college curriculum with the current job market place, thus solving the problems faced by the students and the companies. Once, these problems are tackled there is no stopping psychology.

 

 

Psychology is slowly but steadily making progress. Many colleges are now giving psychology its due credit. And, like I said the fact that almost my entire class got jobs indicates a bright future for this subject. There is a lot of hope and scope for budding psychologists. However, now the responsibility of taking psychology further is on our shoulders.

 

The proverbial baton/torch has been handed to us and now it’s our duty to run our course and hand it safely and proudly to the next generation. So let’s promise ourselves that from this coming New Year we will do our best to further the future of psychology in every little way we can. As Frost said (of course my rendition of it), 

 

Psychology is lovely, dark and deep,

We have promises to keep,

And miles to go before we sleep,

And miles to go before we sleep.

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