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GCC Case Study: Connecting Employability and Education through Programs in India

Editor’s Note: During the USAID Higher Education Global Evidence Summit, Naveen Shah and Kate Moore presented a session titled “Connecting Employability and Education: Global Career Competency Frameworks” followed by a lively Q&A and online engagement. A transcript of their remarks, including examples of a framework in practice for programs in India, and a downloadable poster follows.

Dr. Kate Moore kick off the conversation.

Picture this…There are two students from Michigan, both excited about their international internships. One – an engineering student – hops in a car and drives a few hours to Toronto, thinking of her upcoming experience in product development. The other – studying communications – takes a shuttle bus then three plane rides – including one across the international date line – before arriving in Singapore, where he will be training with a global marketing agency. Both are prepared. Both are surprised. They appreciate the novelty of new experiences – buying milk in bags while in Canada or sampling foods at an Asian hawker mart – but each worry about connecting with colleagues in a new workplace, balancing online coursework with local cohort activities, and making the very most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. How will they navigate the experience? What will they – and their supervisor – describe as success? Who will understand what they have learned? Where will the apply their training in the future?

The questions can feel singular, but the inquiry is consistent across many stakeholders – students, supervisors, university administrators, government officials, funding agencies, and more. How can we be responsive to the changing world of work – with that change greatly accelerated since 2020? How can we provide frameworks that guide programs and support learners? How can we do our work better? Whether a supervisor on-boarding students OR students navigating internships and apprenticeships OR universities building programs. How can we do our work better?

At Global Career Center we believe there is not a career ladder, but more of a career labyrinth. Our organization provides structure and support for learners of all ages through experiential education programs co-created with our university partners. We love the work we do and know it is never perfect.

Inspired by this, we undertook an applied and iterative research endeavor to inform our work and share with colleagues through ongoing conversations such as this.

To build a framework, we reviewed a wide range of competency based models and existing HR practices while also undertaking surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews. Most importantly we used the principles from our research to inform – and learn from – practice. This includes professional development modules as well as questions used by supervisor and student for ongoing assessments.

While we work with students in a dozen global locations, we thought it would be particularly useful to consider the framework as it relates to among our most intense and impactful programs based in India.

My colleague Ms. Naveen Shah will share her perspectives. Over to you Naveen.

Kate, Thank you for a wonderful introduction to GCC. It is a privilege and honor to speak to the esteemed audience here about some of our global career competence model elements. And my focus today is to tell a story of a student and employer experience in India to illustrate two of the five elements of the model in practice – Managing Complexities and Culturally conscious.

India by itself being a very complex, quite vibrant and diverse by its culture, it has always been an intriguing destination for students to visit and learn something which is very traditional yet modern, filled with challenging experiences to become a better, stronger, confident with the most ASKED EMPLOYABLE skills today to become a global student or an employee. Pre-placement meetings for India are quite different when compared to other GCC locations. We focus on understanding the purpose for interning in India and what cultural difference means to the students where every student must showcase the most complex soft skills during their term here such as problem-solving ability, critical thinking etc. and at the same time, whether he or she would also be open to adaptive, flexible and challenged situations.

I would like to share one very specific example, based on our pre-placement meeting with one of our undergraduate students from UC Berkeley majoring in Human Issues and International studies, who would like to work with a social change organization called Aastha Parivaar. AP’s mission is to work with the KEY POPULATION/Sex worker community to create a sustainable impact; Crisis Intervention, Legal Advocacy, social protection, reducing risk & vulnerability among women and children.

Our student with NO experience working with these communities is continuously mentored to be culturally aware of working with the Key Population community in India. Student is asked to understand the social and cultural norms when working with these community members. It is a collaborative effort from the supervisor, GCC local coordinator to handhold the student right through the internship process.

So, it is GCC who acts as their MENTOR & COACH and keeps regular check on the student’s work navigating through the entire system. We provide structure and support on the ground for both, the student and the supervisor. Student is always nudged to inquire into these human issues while integrating with the community – by meeting the community members at their homes, understand their day-to-day life, the challenges they face as a KP member. Student is encouraged to share her/his experience and the reason and purpose of working specifically with this community. WE believe this will help in building the trust and creating a sense of oneness or belongingness amongst the community and the student. One of the key elements during this process is to be aware and follow the ethics and integrity of the organization student works with and respect law of the land. During internship, critical thinking is featured as one of the major characteristics and we witness this within the student when displayed in a creative way incorporating both their academic and experiential educational components.

The other side of this experience is when a student comes to us with such greater impacts created on their lives that they want to be the immediate change makers to a problem or an issue. One of the things that we reiterate to the students is to NOT BE JUDGEMENTAL and draw conclusions by just these experiences they gained. The hunger to learn, analyze, research should be the constant.

Being out of the comfort zone, constantly probing and questioning the work a student does is supported by brainstorming sessions where we focus on the “five Ws (Who, What, When, Where and Why) and HOW” to bring in solutions or draw conclusions to their study.

So, I think it is always important for an organization as GCC to aim for students to receive a wholistic view or an approach into any sort of project or an internship that they get into. Hence, we try to construct a mindset in the students which is always proactive, initiate deep thinking, problem analyzation and be culturally and socially conscious with their actions. Today, we see our students who announce to become the social change makers or global leaders taking back home the deep impact created on them through their hands on experience, transferable skills and competencies and create strong and assertive awareness for all urgent human and social issues in the global space and JUST NOT IN THE LOCAL SPACE.

Thank you all! Back to you, Kate!

Thanks, Naveen. Before wrapping up, we do have to note that frameworks like this that provide structure and support have become more relevant and perhaps even more rewarding given the dramatic changes to education and employment and everything during – and as a result of – the pandemic.

Universities and students have referenced the ability to articulate a range of their experiences within a framework that is related to employability as a strong illustration of return on investment, especially investment in education. Supervisors and students have appreciated a structure to allow for connection at a time of isolation particularly when host organization may still be in the midst of developing their own policies and processes.

In short, structure and support are useful to multiple stakeholders. Especially at a time of rapid change or new experiences. Building or employing a model that is iterative allows for responsiveness while bridging education and employability provides relevance and demonstrates ROI.

The framework we use to provide structure and the research we incorporate to inform practice is outlined on the poster and described in handouts as the Global Career Competence Model. This is iterative and applied, a work in progress. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about the different clusters within the model, resources and other models we recommend, or competence models in practice…especially in India. Thank you for your time and we look forward to continuing the conversation.

GCC USAID Poster Session Employability
Download PDF • 245KB


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