Google, Intel are offering MOOCs, setting up labs to upskill graduates
How do you study for a field that’s changing all the time? Software engineering graduates from three years ago have to start from scratch when it comes to aspects of artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and robotics. Professionals are finding the very nature of their jobs changing, in sectors that range from software engineering to banking and telecom.
Now, tech companies are stepping in to help. In collaboration with governments and academia, they are offering upskilling courses online, designed for professionals as well as fresh graduates.
In 2017, technology giants Google, Microsoft and Intel began to tie up with massive open online course (MOOC) platforms and set up their own online virtual labs to offer courses on emerging technologies. While Google collaborated with e-learning platforms such as Udacity and Coursera to offer free programmes in Google analytics, android development, full stack web development, mobile web specialisations and cloud certifications, Microsoft set up three e-learning platforms of its own – the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA), the Microsoft Imagine Academy (MIA) and Microsoft Professional Programme (MPP), offering free modules for absolute beginners and also mid-level professionals, and paid-for certification courses for IT students, teachers and engineers.
Intel launched the AI Developer Education Program, a self-paced learning course for developers and students looking to understand the fundamentals of machine learning and deep learning. More free online courses being added by Google will include a machine learning crash course and an Android Basics one, both for non-engineering beginners and professionals.
“At Google, we believe that India has the potential to become a hub of innovation for mobile and cloud technologies. Our goal is to create a highly skilled tech workforce pool that is readily employable by the industry and helps spur innovation,” says William Florance, global lead for developer training and programs at Google. Anyone can sign up, adds Ishan Gupta, MD of Udacity India.
“We keep talking about getting ready for the future, but really the future is now,” says Mona Bharadwaj, university relations leader at IBM India. “Companies such as IBM are tying up with colleges today because we see a huge requirement of blockchain and other emerging skills going forward. More so because there is not much skill available in the market. So we want to align students with the industry in some sense before they join us.”
Google, for instance, has tied up with the Internet and Mobile Association of India as well as state governments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to create ‘academies of skill and knowledge’. Also, in a joint effort with Pluralsight and Udacity, they sponsored 130,000 scholarships last year to help existing developers gain access to advanced learning curricula in emerging technologies.
In 2018, meanwhile, IBM tied up with the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), an online learning platform funded by the central government, to co-teach a course in blockchain. “We co-offered this course with IIT-Kharagpur. IBM has been hands-on in designing the course structure, the rest is done by the IIT professors,” says Bharadwaj.
Universities across the country and institutes like the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun have tied up with IBM and Google to embed some of their courses into the curriculum.
“Now we don’t have to scramble in the last semester to catch up with what is happening in the industry,” says Shreya Pandey, 21, a computer science student at UPES.
Jimit Jayswal, 24, an app developer from Ahmedabad, spent a year, just after he graduated, finishing five e-courses in Android development offered by Google. He did all the courses from home. “They offered a mix of application and theory, with a good number of assignments that were quite intensive, so it felt as good as working in the industry,” says Jayswal. “By the time I applied for my first job in 2018 I had already made an app through the course assignments, which I could present at my interviews. And the courses were free. I just didn’t opt for the Google Developer certification, since that would have cost Rs 6500.”
Jayswal is now continuing his self-upskilling with a free AI certification course via Coursera.
This approach is just what the tech majors were hoping for.
“Amid growth in these new technologies, it will be critical for us to get talent ready fast, given the supply is of one sort and the demand is of another. If we succeed in bridging this gap, it could represent a massive opportunity for us as a nation,” says Amit Aggarwal, VP and CEO of the IT-ITeS Sector Skills Council at the National Association of Software and Service Companies or Nasscom. The association estimates that there are about 140,000 job openings in these forward tech areas. “So the whole industry is coming together for what we’re calling the ‘future skills initiative’ that aims to fill these gaps,” Aggarwal says.