Article: Upskilling - Critical need or simply overhype?


Upskilling - Critical need or simply overhype?

As robotics and automation improve processes, the quality of quantity of jobs available in a flourishing economy is only going to increase.
Upskilling - Critical need or simply overhype?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Skill India’ initiative has the grand vision of deploying more than 40 crore skilled workers in the country by 2022. The intention is to grant them vocational training and to improve their employability. If this vision does become a reality, it represents a huge number of employable workers who would enter the market.

While education and skill development remain high-priority focal points for the government, the fact remains that there is still a massive gap between the skills that employers need in today’s digital age, and the skills that employees enter the market with. Literacy levels are undoubtedly on the rise, but the real challenge is to convert learning into a tool of empowerment and productivity for the economy.

With e-learning, digital transformation and the fourth industrial revolution upon us now, the need of the hour is reskilling the existing workforce to fill employability gaps. Technology is not only changing the way consumers consume goods and services, it is also transforming the nature of jobs, reorienting skill development across schools and colleges and preparing the workforce for brand new jobs in ecommerce, data science, aggregation platforms and more.

The need for continuous learning

Continuous learning is crucial for any country, especially one at the crossroads that India now finds itself.

As industries and services transform, it is important for workers and employees to evolve their skills as well. India has all the talent and tools in place to become stronger in areas such as AI, data science, cloud computing, IoT and robotics. But an inability to keep up with these changing times could mean that the Indian workforce potentially falls behind the learning curve.

Workers in all fields thus need to be nimble enough to change constantly and fill the employment gaps that are sure to arise. Every industry, irrespective of how much human involvement truly exists there, can only succeed based on how quickly this change occurs to keep them relevant and profitable. In fact, the need for upskilling cuts across all industries unilaterally and this is increasingly being seen in varied fields such as medicine, education and many more.

Is upskilling ultimately reactive or proactive?

The question that is often asked is if upskilling in the era of automation is a reactive process due to the fear of losing jobs. The answer to this is probably not. As robotics and automation improve processes, the quality of quantity of jobs available in a flourishing economy is only going to increase. While the Indian market may generally be a bit slower to adopt these trends, this disruptive scenario is nothing new and they are redefining the workplace.

The advent of machines has changed everything. New jobs have emerged for which new skills have become essential. The nature and pace of evolution has also increased the competency and competitiveness of the marketplace. Even though machines are incorporated into new tasks and roles, they still need to be manufactured, maintained and monitored. For these, we need people with specialist skills to focus on two key areas – competitive advantage and user experience.

Every new skill needs to have these goals in mind, which will ultimately be focused on driving and generating more revenue. Companies thus need to build products that are predictive in nature and also prepare themselves for a better tomorrow. This may create a minor blip in current revenue cycles, but the ultimate aim should be to smartly invest money to make people future-ready by upskilling them.

What needs to be done?

In order to achieve the country’s upskilling goals, the education system needs a revamp from the bottom up. It is crucial to deliver these skills in the right context. The skill gap at the workplace can only be bridged with the help of training and competency building. Additionally, while technology skills have evolved so much over the past few years, people skills also need to undergo similar progress. With the workplace made up of different generations and dominated by millennials, a change in mindset, culture and policies is also crucial. While organizations can provide their employees with the platforms and tool for this transformation, ultimately the employees themselves need to take the initiative and drive this change.

The key to this transformation that is enveloping the world is of course, is data. This data needs to be collected, analyzed and actioned and for this purpose, skills such as machine learning are very important. The hardware and software is already in place to make use of this data, but companies need people with the right skills to drive this process. In order to capture this data and build apps around it, skills that never existed even a few years back are now needed.

The ultimate aim here is to create a pool of resources that is relevant to the current and future needs of the economy and companies. The rapid pace of technology evolution today dictates that as soon as someone graduates, some skills are already obsolete. In this context, constant learning, relearning and upskilling is necessary.

Behavioral analysis and online learning can seep into every industry today, so upskilling is going to be relevant everywhere. While some roles within industries may be less impacted than others by automation and thus require upskilling, the fact remains that anything impacting the end customer will give the competition the upper hand if it is ignored.

Learning, whether it is at an individual or national level, is a constant and never-ending process. All that is required are time, commitment and resources. With so many online tools and resources at disposal though, there is no seniority level or industry that can stay away. Every individual in the workplace should be looking to upskill and reinvent themselves to meet the country’s their personal objectives.

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Topics: Skilling

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