COVID-19 has created an unprecedented situation globally, which is leading to a lot of unpredictability in the business ecosystem. Organizations will need to go back to the drawing board and rethink their business strategy. They will have to revisit their plans for cost optimization, hiring and growth. Additionally, they also need to take a revised approach to do away with an outdated way of functioning. Optimizing infrastructural cost, adopting remote working methods, incorporating technology for employee engagement, re-skilling, and creating a pool of productive talent pool through apprentice engagement, etc. will all be crucial to sail through the post-pandemic situation. The mantra for survival and moving forward is to take a long view, adapt to the situation and innovate.
While it is very premature and difficult to predict the exact future, it is definite that the job scenario will undergo major changes. Some roles will change, some will be re-aligned, etc. However, what will be crucial would be to have the talent to man these roles. With lockdown and the subsequent reverse migration, many corporates are unclear on how to manage once the lockdown is eased. It will call for exploring multiple avenues for manpower sourcing. It will require corporates to engage continuously not only with their employees but also with their apprentices. While the government recently mandated companies to ensure stipend pay-outs for the apprentices, however, the key challenge for organizations will be to engage with the apprentices. Engaging with the apprentices will not only enable companies to build human capital and maintain continuity in the capacity building but it will also help them to recover rapidly once things go back to normal.
Some of the key aspects that employers should focus on are:
- Invest now so that they can yield better results tomorrow: Traditionally the industry has grappled with the shortage of skilled manpower. Recent studies reveal that there is a shortage of 130 million skilled people worldwide. The way COVID-19 lockdown has changed things clearly indicates a strong possibility of a growing gap between the demand and availability of talented resources. A Professor of Economics from The University of Oxford, Margaret Stevens, has suggested two models which can help in addressing the skill requirements – one is to hire keeping in mind the future requirement and the second one is to train people now to be better prepared for future. Hence the more prudent choice for employers here is to continue training their apprentices.
- Remodeling the apprentice mechanism: Given how social distancing has become the norm now, it does put certain constraints in imparting on the job training. Employers can re-look at the apprenticeship model and adapt it to the current situation. There needs to be a paradigm shift to virtual learning so that the corporates can maintain effective training and interaction with the apprentices. Employers need to also look at amalgamating other digital tools like gamification, simulations and augmented reality to create a conducive social and group learning ecosystem. Learning can be easily imparted using handheld devices; through advanced digital platforms/tools. In the current scenario, virtual training can cater to skilling/training requirements from across sectors like hardcore manufacturing to the services segment. In fact, some of the industries that are well deploying virtual apprentice training solutions are retail, healthcare, BFSI, and logistics. As the situation becomes normal gradually, virtual training could be blended with on the job training making the learning process more powerful and outcome-focused.
- Better preparedness against talent migration: The lockdown has created a situation of extensive labor migration and the future of getting back migrant labor is still not foreseeable. This is likely to create a dearth in the obtainability of skilled talent. Hence engaging with the current apprentice workforce will enable organizations to create a stronger localized supply chain of skilled manpower. Not only this, continual virtual learning which employers should do, will also hone the skills of the workforce for forthcoming requirements.
The uncertainty of the future has built up a lot of anxiety amongst the workforce who are looking for greener and safer pastures. On the other hand, for employers, the focus will be to accelerate the recovery and growth process. Human capital will be key to achieve this and ensuring continuity in apprenticeship training/engagement will equip organizations with a highly productive workforce for the future.
Post COVID-19, globalized trade will see a transition to being more local and regional, compelling countries and businesses to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. There would be a need for newer skills and more skilled people which creates a strong case for employers to be invested in apprenticeship.