Article: The skilling revolution is here, where are you?


The skilling revolution is here, where are you?

While COVID-19 pandemic led digital disruption was definitely a tour de force, the undercurrents of these changes have always existed and reared their head.
The skilling revolution is here, where are you?

Skilling is a global concern

Technology changes & upgrades everyday and that,my friend, is the only constant. And one would be underestimating the pervasiveness of technological impact if one considers that the effects are limited to a few firms or selected strata of the society. When even your neighbourhood coffee shop is using your data to create AI enabled personalized offerings, there is no escaping this inevitable future. The momentum of this change is not only catching up with people as consumers but as creators as well. The workforce of the world may soon have to reckon with the multiple ongoing ripples of change that are turning into waves of disruption of the world as they know it. The potential impact of these changes is expected to be significant and far-reaching enough for the ILO’s centenary declaration to be focussed on the “Future of Work”. 

While COVID-19 pandemic led digital disruption was definitely a tour de force, the undercurrents of these changes have always existed and reared their head. Advances in technology are so ubiquitous,that one need not work in a so-called “tech sector” to be impacted by them. Even traditionally “non-tech” organizations are pervasively becoming technology companies – embracing data & new tech as a driver of competitive advantage in order to unleash higher productivity and accelerate innovation -- challenging the status quo and envisioning a new future. With the organizations changing so rapidly, it is natural that the skills expected from their employees are also changing at the same pace. However, the expectation that employers have from prospective talent pools is not being met, either due to lack of skills or lack of the requisite level of expertise

This changing job landscape is leading to the shortening half lives of the skills of the workforce which manifests in three ways

  • Job roles are continually evolving: Slowly but steadily, job roles are evolving and creating the need for new skills for the same job description. For example, whereas a decade ago a lot of business analysis was done using excel, new tools like Alteryx, Tableau, SQL etc.Marketing, which used to be once only a creativity and brand building based exercise, is now increasingly relying on deep consumer insight made possible by analytics
  • Job roles are no longer relevant: The use of technology is making many jobs redundant. e.g. , factories are increasingly automating their production plants, using 3D printing and cutting out the jobs of many conveyer belt workers/assemblers etc.
  • Job roles are continuously being created: With the advances in technology and rapidly changing socio-economic dynamics, new skills are being added to the landscape. E.g., Social Media manager, User Experience Designers, Virtual reality designers etc. are examples of few job roles that have rose to prominence over the last decade or so

Economy takes a tremendous toll due to this skills mismatch, whether as underskilled workers or as overskilled workers not working in their expertise area due to supply-demand chasms. In OECD countries, skills mismatch affects two out of five employees, and BCG estimates that the world wide impact could be as gigantic as 1.3 billion people and a 6% annual tax on the global economy in the form of lost labor productivity.  A study by NASSCOM indicated that 50% of the workforce in the IT sector in India will need significant reskilling over the next 3 years.  Thus, organisations need to shift their focus from upgrading skills for near term advantage to the larger reskilling agenda that addresses the system wide need to fill emerging roles with reskilled talent by empowering the L&D function. 

India feels the need for a robust skilling agenda acutely 

As these global winds blow, India is not immune from their impacts or side-effects. By 2030 India will have more than 90 million people joining the workforce due to its existing demographic dividend. While the supply side of the employment equation looks promising from a volume perspective,it stands to question whether the demand side feels the same way wrt to the quantity and quality of skilled talent that is available to them.There are many challenges that threaten the viability of a sustainable skilling ecosystem. 

The story starts right from the talent  that enters the supply pool → While Indian education system leads in the number of software engineering and technology graduates every year(~2 Mn per year,) it is potentially lacking behind in matching the expectations of employers. The absence of upfront involvement of employers regarding what skills are employable - long term or short term, results in a curriculum that does not fit the job roles students vie for. Aspiring Minds finds that the employability of Indian engineers has not changed on aggregate level since 2010, referred to as  ‘Stubborn Unemployability’. As many as 80% engineering graduates are considered unemployable in the knowledge economy. Around 3% engineers possess new-age skills in areas such as AI, Machine Learning, Data engineering and Mobile technologies. 

And much to our chagrin, this conundrum does not go away for the employees who have been a part of the workforce for a while. Post the funds spent on education, and rising living costs, many employees may not consider discretionary spending on additional skilling post university/college necessary. This is especially true if such learning is not directly tied to any clear tangible outcomes like certifications, or a clear line of sight in career advancements.Even for people who have decided on to choose the skilling route, the path is fraught with challenges : 

  • Lack of understanding on where they currently stand in their expertise and what the planned approach to reach the desired skill level should be 
  • Absence of a skilling plan linked to standardized job roles  - while NSDC in addition to sector skills councils is publishing job standards, many firms are yet to internalize it and then subsequently follow through with them for their talent demands
  • Employees who may equip themselves with technical skills still may not be able to land the jobs they desire, because today “soft skills” matter just as much, and are not always curated in skilling plans
  • Lack of proactive efforts by employees - In situations where their organisations do not offer skilling opportunities (due to paucity of resources, inability to match the speed of fast paced disruptions etc.), the onus is on employees and not everyone is rising to the challenge or rather the opportunity.
  • Understanding such challenges,many industry stalwarts, from conglomerates to  Indian IT giants, have been investing resources to address the reskilling/ upskilling requirements of their employees given the magnitude of the challenge. For example,  a leading IT services and Business process consulting firm recognized the need for skilling in the areas of designing, building, and implementing innovative solutions using digital technologies to drive value for their clients. CGI decided to use the FutureSkills platform to immerse their 16k+ strong workforce in self paced learning programs across multiple beginner, practitioner and expert proficiency levels.  They also decided to use the National Occupational Standards framework to design their new job roles.  

Hope remains : First steps of this long journey have been taken

Given India’s tremendous talent pool and prolific demand, it is important that India doesn’t just follow but leads the way in defining the blueprint of a collaborative framework of government-industry learning ecosystem suited to the country’s unique needs. Govt. of India, and especially MSDE, has launched multiple programmes and schemes that can help in fulfilling the skilling goals. It is advised that not only organizations but also individual learners take advantage of these opportunities.

  • SWAYAM/NPTEL: To advance the case of self-paced learning enabled by digital media, SWAYAM has been set up as a platform that facilitates hosting of all the courses, taught in classrooms from Class 9 till post-graduation to be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. All the courses are interactive, prepared by the best teachers in the country and are available, free of cost to any learner. NPTEL is a similar undertaking by the MHRD that focuses on courses provided by seven Indian Institutes of Technology (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Largest online repository in the world of courses in engineering, basic sciences and selected humanities and social sciences subjects
  • PMKVY: Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) implemented by National Skill Development Corporation. The objective of this Skill Certification Scheme is to enable a large number of Indian youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood. Key aspects of the scheme include : Short term training, special projects, placement assistance, Kaushal and Rozgar Mela, Recognition of Prior learning RPL). As of today, under RPL, the scheme has seen 6M+ candidate enrolments and ~5M certified candidates
  • Atal Innovation Mission[AIM]: Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. AIM’s objective is to develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness and create an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country. AIM is fulfilling its objective by launching Atal Innovation Labs, Atal Incubation centers, Atal community innovation centers etc.
  • FutureSkills Prime: FutureSkills Prime aims to help bridge the gap between what industry requires from its talent, at what expertise and how the talent itself is getting trained whether before or after joining the workforce. In order to serve skilling needs across the varied spectrum, the platform offers basic digital literacy skills to foundation level courses to deep skilling courses. The content is industry certified, aligned to NSDC’s NSQF curriculum and offers SSC certified assessments. 

The existence of these programs points to the significance being accorded to the skilling ecosystem by all relevant stakeholders. These programmes provide opportunities that every learner must embrace, in order to advance the goal of making India a #DigitalTalentNation, #DigitalBharat and #SkillIndiaMission.


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Topics: Skilling, #GuestArticle

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