Article: The new age of learning and India's slow steps forward

Learning & Development

The new age of learning and India's slow steps forward

With countries shifting to a more knowledge-based economy, learning has gained a lot of interest in recent times. Rapid skill changes and evolving talent demands reflect a need to keep up with what the markets demand. Can technology be efficiently leveraged to solve this growing demand?
The new age of learning and India's slow steps forward

One of the largest impacts of technological advancements—and its often consumer-driven nature— has been in the way we consume information. Not only have methodologies advanced owing to a shift in technological applications, but there’s also been a definite rise in the need to remain knowledgeable to function better. Learning has been ever more prevalent in what today is slowly becoming an increasingly knowledge-driven society. And businesses remain no exception to this.

Learning, for most parts of modern human history, has been the result of institutionalized education. Although personal experiences form a large part of an individual’s learning, it’s been the case of a superior, institution-driven, certification based form of learning that’s gained importance. Businesses too followed suit and began preferring to hire from the best of institutions, taking certifications as a given mark of excellence. But if one looks closely, the existence of such institutions have always fallen short of their demand. Over the years this has resulted in sub-par education institutes coming up to fill the gaps and passing candidates who may be unqualified to procure well-paying jobs. Those passing out of such schools and universities often find themselves to be unemployable upon entering the jobs market. This has been one of the many systemic reasons that drive over 80 percent of the working population into the unorganized workforce. 

This mismatch of quality and education is further compounded by the fact the nature of jobs themselves are rapidly evolving. The shelf life of skills, especially the tech-related ones, are quite short in comparison to the one's decade or even years before. Today not only do the millions entering jobs market require skilling opportunities, but even managers and professionals with years of experience also find themselves on thin ice. 

The culmination of these factors has led to the often-quoted trend of skills-gap, one that has become a major culprit, among other economic factors, in the problem of jobs lost in recent times, especially within India. As newer technologies emerge and their adoption within businesses rises, such skills gap only gets more pronounced within economies.

The response to this lies greatly in how learning methodologies evolve to keep pace and the quality of content rises to meet external demand. As it turns out, how we learn forms a key part of the solution. Addressing prevalent learning needs has to be an important way of addressing the skills gap. Especially in a country with a growing young population that’s looking for work.

Today not only do the millions entering the jobs market require skilling opportunities, but even managers and professionals with years of experience also find themselves on thin ice

The nature of the skills gap

The skills gap today is prevalent across countries. Both within developed and developing economies, such an increasing application has resulted in workforce restructuring; making certain professions and their related skills completely obsolete. With technological applications within businesses evolving more rapidly than the rate at which universities and skill development programs impart new age knowledge and skills, the phenomena of skills gap have become a common occurrence. While addressing learning needs might help bridge this gap, it's important to understand the nature of such a skills gap first.

The symptoms that a labor market is being hampered by an overarching skills gap exhibit themselves in different forms. In some cases, the rapid changes brought on technological advancements raise the barrier to entry just by their requisite qualifications which end up impacting many young people looking for jobs. In other cases, its impact is felt across midcareer professionals, especially within tech fields, who have lost their jobs and must now adapt. With businesses unable to stay away from the benefits of tech adoption and transforming their processes in turn, sectors like IT, Banking, BFSI, and retail all stand effected. Many companies as a response have expanded their scope of reskilling workers to create better mechanisms of updating skills without losing portions of their workforce.

But such pace has been found wanting of a cohesive approach.

And it's not only that companies and candidates that suffer because of the skills gap that persists in the economy. Whole economies stand to lose on economic productivity if it fails to solve the problem of the learning and skills gap. An Accenture study found recently that if left unchecked, the problem of skills gap could prove a major hurdle in front of countries. The G20 economies could stand to lose up to US$11.5 trillion in cumulative GDP growth in the next ten years if skill mismatches in the economy are left unaddressed. India with one of the largest work pools and a fast-growing number who enter the labor market looking for jobs would face a major brunt of this cost. The threat of automation and AI poses a further challenge as jobs become obsolete and require the workforce to respond to changing talent consideration.  

A vital part of successfully designing future-looking learning programs is to be able to predict and anticipate skill changes

A collaborative effort

A vital part of successfully designing future-looking learning programs is to be able to predict and anticipate skill changes. And to be able to increase the reach of better quality learning materials— one that has indeed been a problem in the past, as an Accenture report from 2017 notes Indian business leaders and workers agreed that difficulties in identifying learning opportunities prevent them from developing new skills— which in turn would make both corporate and public learning initiatives more robust. But to address the learning needs of tomorrow, no single stakeholder can solve the problem alone 

The increased scope of collaboration has been one of the major welcomed offshoots of technology redefining our everyday. Addressing the rising skills gap cannot have a single pill, a clear antidote that ails all problems but rather would be the result of a collaborative effort. Right from learning professionals to policymakers and even recruiters need to both update their understanding of the potential of learning tech and better address talent needs.

Recruiters, often the first point of contact need to understand how learning new skills have importance over certifications and how skills like empathy and creativity need to be addressed. For learning professionals, the commercial use of learning tech has today resulted in a plethora of services and tech applications like experiential learning and VR, enabling many to address the change in softer skills as well. Companies are also depending more on online learning solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce. At the same time, businesses are also in need to take a fresh look at how they hire people with the right skills. Certifications and degrees are slowly making way for a focus on better skill proficiency. 

For policymakers, technology can greatly benefit and strengthen the existing education system and enable them to become more responsive to employability needs. This also means that traditional focus on a merit driven perspective should be broadened to a more holistic attempt to build learned individuals.

To tap into the potential of technology in restructuring how we learn and gain skills, although immense, is certainly bound by our use of it. By using relevant content and delivery mechanisms that are appropriate to the context, together India’s learning needs can be greatly met.

 

Topics: Learning & Development

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