With the COVID-19 outbreak changing the way we live and work, millions of Indians are adjusting to a new normal. People working from home are learning to cope without the familiar support systems of an office environment. Among the many new, competing priorities that have emerged for professionals, ‘developing new skills’ should be high on their list. Given the far-reaching impact of this crisis on the economy, it has never been more important for Indian workers to actively drive their learning journey, starting now.
Upskilling, a way to future-proof your career in any job market, just became critical for Indian workers. India’s slowdown is the worst in several decades, signaling extreme consequences for the job market. Companies are already revising hiring forecasts and employees will have to navigate a period where job losses and pay cuts become the norm.
Professionals, especially those in sectors severely impacted like aviation and travel, may have to chart new careers. As companies cut manpower costs and re-evaluate the skills they need, specific skills will rise in demand. The onus now is on individuals to build capabilities that can boost their employability in a difficult job market. A look at why, how and what Indian professionals should learn to ride out this crisis.
‘Why’ and ‘how’ to boost your skills
A decade ago, a crisis of this magnitude would have had an irreversible impact on people’s careers. Because then, going back to college was the only way to prepare for a new career -- never a viable option for those with families and commitments. Today, with digital and technology-enabled learning, professionals can choose to learn while they earn, without relocating their families or pausing their lives. This is especially relevant now, when professionals need to pivot to the skills that employers will require most in a post-COVID-19 world but cannot afford to take a sabbatical. Depending on their circumstances, Indian professionals will have to either consider reskilling -- acquiring completely new skills as they make the shift to a different career -- or upskill, where they enhance their current skill-set for competitive advantage and better prospects.
Online learning platforms can open up instant access to cutting-edge, industry-relevant courses such learners need to reboot their careers. This model of learning offers a flexible path for professionals in India to build in-demand and future skills taught by leading experts from the world’s best universities and organizations -- from Stanford to Princeton, and closer home from IIM Calcutta to ISB -- that companies will demand in the very near future.
Especially now, while balancing work and family, people need flexibility and convenience to learn on their own time and at their own pace, which online learning platforms offer. Depending on their goals, strengths and experience, professionals can explore new career paths on online learning programs that can help them build skills in a range of fields, from information technology to healthcare or even graphic design. They could even consider reskilling for emerging opportunities in the gig economy, to find a foothold outside the traditional work system during this turbulent period.
What you should learn: In-demand, job-ready skills
The profound changes taking in all our lives, I see the demand for skills across emerging digital technologies rising very sharply across industries. Every industry will be looking to ramp up its digital channels on a war footing to stay prepared through future crises. Consider the use cases for technologies like IoT, with connected devices needed to help us work remotely. Or AI and automation, so factory production wouldn’t stall even with restricted mobility of workers, and robots who could efficiently serve patients in hospitals. With immersive technologies, shoppers would be able to virtually try on and buy a pair of sunglasses through an augmented reality experience, for example, even in a lockdown.
Given the renewed focus on public health, we have seen a massive uptick in enrolments (up 3,000%) for epidemic/pandemic courses like ‘Epidemics: The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases’ from the Pennsylvania State University and ‘Outbreaks and Epidemics’ from Johns Hopkins University. New careers and job opportunities would undoubtedly open up in this field, with the demand for healthcare specialists spiking.
In the coming months, building these industry-relevant digital skills will be invaluable not just for India’s vast number of tech industry professionals, but also for students entering the workforce -- they have a particularly challenging journey ahead. New graduates will have to focus on becoming employable as quickly as possible by acquiring valued online credentials that employers recognize and demand.
Professionals have to now evaluate opportunities and build skills in fast-growing areas, with available jobs. We were already seeing learners on various platforms choosing to build digital skills. Last year, learners here looked to stay agile by focusing heavily on AI, through courses like Machine Learning, Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python), Neural Networks & Deep Learning, AI For Everyone and What is Data Science. Specializations in Cloud and IoT, like Architecting with Google Compute Engine and An Introduction to Programming the Internet of Things (IoT) were also popular.
But now, a much wider and larger base of professionals will have to accelerate acquiring skills such as these -- that employers will need in a post COVID-19 world -- to stand out. The current pandemic will severely dent the job market. But today’s professionals can act early to find their own opportunities, staying agile and a step in front of the turbulence ahead.