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Re-skilling can help solve the employability problem

The threat of job loss is driving everyone from freshers and mid to VP level professionals to delve into an environment of continuous learning.

education Updated: Apr 03, 2019 19:32 IST
Mohan Lakhamraju
Mohan Lakhamraju
Re-skilling,IT,ITES
Re-skill is the current buzzword echoing off corporate walls as companies are driving large scale initiatives among the existing workforce to build a continuous learning culture. (AFP/File)

To say that technology is rapidly reshaping our workplaces and redefining what constitutes ‘talent’, is stating a cliché. The sheer survival of professionals in any sector today, be it IT, ITES, BFSI, manufacturing, consulting, hospitality or healthcare, depends on their ability to reinvent themselves and adapt to changing skill set requirements. The reality is that even mid-level and senior executives need to cope with the changing skill demands by upskilling and reskilling themselves. The threat of job loss is driving everyone from freshers and mid to VP level professionals to delve into an environment of continuous learning. In fact, it is mid-career professionals with 5-20 years of industry experience who are driving the demand for courses in trending technologies, followed by early-career executives. The skills that are most in demand today revolve around disruptive and transformational technologies like Business Analytics, Data Science, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT).

Indian IT is one of the key industries that is feeling the heat of automation and digitization. According to NASSCOM, the number of IT professionals who need to be reskilled stands at 1.5 million, which is almost 40% of the Indian IT workforce. Skills that were in demand three years ago are outdated today. Owing to the growing number of roles that have been rendered redundant, the number of IT layoffs in 2017 touched more than 56,000.

Traditional jobs and roles are under threat. Besides the shortage of skilled manpower, automation is threatening to upend human expertise, taking over at least 10% of existing jobs in the IT sector within the next few years. Some experts go as far as saying that automation will render more than 70% of the workforce irrelevant. Amidst reports of the country facing a ‘jobless growth’ phase, recruitment drives have taken a nosedive in recent times as a result of the employability gap growing wider by the day. One of the biggest challenges hiring managers face, is finding talent with the right skillset. Rapidly emerging, disruptive technologies are making existing roles obsolete and creating new job profiles, the skills for which are hard to find in India.

RE-skilling opens new windows of opportunity

Re-skilling can not only help people stay relevant in their industry, it can also enable professionals to achieve meaningful career transitions. A large number of working professionals have experienced transitions within the same or different industries post re-skilling with significant salary hikes. Take the case of Richa Agarwal, a business analyst at ICICI Lombard, whose primary role involved creating excel sheets and dashboards. Upon completion of her course in Business Analytics, she landed offers from JP Morgan and Fractal Analytics, choosing to take up the latter organization as a Lead Senior consultant.

It is also not uncommon for professionals from non-tech domains like healthcare, to make successful transitions within their own stream or to entirely non-related fields. Take the case of Dr. Ashwath Prathapani, a doctor who took up a program in Business Analytics and built a model to predict the adverse effects of continued drug abuse on patients of different age groups. Today, he is part of the clinical trials wing of a leading hospital, where he is fine-tuning his model to increase its reliability. Another example is that of Navneet Srivastava, a professional from the shipping and logistics industry who, after taking up a course in Data Science made a transition to a leading MNC Bank as part of their Data strategy and insights team.

For some professionals, upskilling in new technologies fuels their entrepreneurial drive. For instance, Vinesh Chawla, after completing our course in Business Analytics, was able to launch his own company, Ministri cycling, specializing in performance fabrics for cyclists. Similarly, Tushar Sharma, Karthikeyan Sivasubramanian and Ramars Jilleja, during our course of their program in Business Analytics, decided to leave their jobs in the IT industry and start their own analytics consulting firm called Vokse Digital. Nowadays, senior industry professionals indicate that most of them, in their hiring decisions, focus on the candidates’ knowledge and competence rather than the degrees they possess. The demand for jobs is outpacing their supply as the focus of companies shifts away from recruitment and more towards upskilling and re-skilling existing employees.

Continuous learning opportunities

The IT and ITES industry is expected to employ about 7.5 million persons directly by 2022, according to a National Skill Development Corporation report on skill requirements in the IT and ITES sector. The NASSCOM Sector Skill Council has identified 55 new job roles and 155 new age skills that it foresees as relevant for jobs of the future. Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning and AI feature prominently among them.

Machine Learning (ML) will open the doors of innovation in sectors like manufacturing, travel, hospitality, retail, financial services and healthcare. Demand for Artificial Intelligence (AI) roles have more than doubled in the last three years, according to job search engine, Indeed.

This year will see a 60% increase in demand for Machine Learning and AI specialists, as per industry sources. Additionally, around 350,000 Cloud Computing roles are expected to be opened this year, thereby underscoring the demand for professionals with Cloud skills.

The way forward

Re-skill is the current buzzword echoing off corporate walls as companies are driving large scale initiatives among the existing workforce to build a continuous learning culture. Technologies are changing at such a fast pace that no one can afford to ‘rest on their laurels’. Highly capable automation will replace almost all cognitive and routine manual tasks sooner rather than later. In preparation for such a scenario unfolding before us, investing in an environment of continuous learning will better equip organizations and individuals for jobs of the future.

(Author Mohan Lakhamraju is the founder and CEO of Great Learning, an online and blended learning platform for working professionals to upgrade their competencies. Views expressed here are personal)

First Published: Apr 03, 2019 19:32 IST