In 4 years, India will have the world’s largest population of working people, about 87 crore in all. India’s capability to utilize the opportunity that the projected demographic dividend is going to give is not assured. Our labor force or working population, the enhancers of GDP, will be outgrowing the number of people who depend on the GDP. According to a paper written by Shekar Aiyar and Ashok Mody, it is projected that over next two decades in India, the increasing demographic dividend could add 2% points per annum to India’s GDP growth. However, this number is dependent on the efficient policy decisions to provide a solid base for this number, and lack of such policies will turn the demographic dividend into a big disaster. One such policy investment is skilling India. The present government realizes and recognizes the problem and is investing in initiatives to equip millions but at a very lower cognitive level of jobs. The real question is, do we have enough policy infrastructure which will skill India in the emerging technologies?
Additionally, the job scenario in IT Industry is undergoing a transformation due to adoption of automation and emergence of newer technologies (including disruptive technologies). Due to this, new job roles requiring different skill-sets are appearing and earlier jobs based on older skill-sets are losing their relevance. It has been indicated by NASSCOM that the total employee base of the IT-BPM Industry in India (as on FY 2017-2018) is around 3.9 million. However, due to growing automation, emergence of disruptive as well as new technologies, etc., about 30% of the existing workforce would require re-skilling to stay relevant and about 50-60% of the workforce would require re-skilling on continual basis.
The solution for skilling has to be multi-pronged and can expand to multiple spheres of society and economy. The target audience that needs to be skilled can have its own exclusive skilling mechanism to train. The expansive target audience can be – student’s part of the high school ecosystem, students graduating in STEM courses, pool of students graduating and searching for jobs, IT/ITeS sector employees, etc. Based on the target audience, there are probable solutions that we can explore –
Educational Institutions (High School) – Catch them when they are young
India has a large pool of students graduating from school. Their curriculum revolves around the subjects like Science, Commerce, and Humanities. The target industry for skilling India should focus a lot on the budding population that will come out of schools and will enter colleges. To train them on the foundations of futuristic technology early in their life will help them in taking advance studies revolving on subjects whose future we are certain will be more complex. National level initiatives to propose skilling policy can include a month long training on the Foundations of futuristic technology or probably open incubation centers in each school and promote the technologies to inculcate participatory learning from students to self-invest in their learning.
Higher Education (STEM Institutes)
According to a report published by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Technology and Innovation Report, India leads the world in the number of students getting bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. The UGC reports, in 2016-2017, 10.7 million students were studying science, engineering/ technology or computer science. UNCTAD stressed on the rapid technological progress which will require to skill the labor force on broader range of skills, to secure livelihood and increase employability. UNCTAD warned that the educational establishments were not keeping pace with technological advances during the current transition period. This requires the educational institutions to revamp their core curriculum structure to also include the foundational and advanced courses on futuristic technology which students can opt for during their years of higher education. A collaborative central and state effort is required to provide awareness to these educational institutes on the imminent threat of these technologies, and the importance of making sure their students are ready before entering the work force.
Learning Systems within Industry
Industry is increasingly realizing the need to reskill/ upskill their existing workforce on new technologies for them to stay relevant for new job roles that are coming up with this wave. They are investing in doing deep diagnostics to learn about the status of their workforce and designing suitable career pathway for them to pursue. They are building extensive learning ecosystem to continuously train their employees on new skills and technologies. Since it will be challenging to create/maintain physical training infrastructure to match with the emerging technical requirements due to the high rate of technological obsolescence coupled with faster peaking of newer technologies appearing on the horizon, practically within about 6-12 months’ time. Also keeping in view that the working professionals may have difficulty to attend regular class-room based training programs, hence, offering them with an additional choice of on-line platforms for learning with multiple skilling options would be a better choice to encourage any-time, any-where, self-paced learning for acquiring newer and Industry relevant skill-sets. There are multiple online learning ecosystems which are coming up to provide the space to easily learn new technology, however the completion rate of courses, as reported by these platforms, is very low. Industry collaboration is needed to create a common resource pool for the employees to benefit from, and create rewarding system so a self-participatory life cycle is created.
To cater to these requirements, a ‘Re-Skilling/ Up-Skilling Framework – FutureSKills’ platform which is technology enabled, for the employees of IT sector, was set up by an Industry initiative. Futureskills platform for the B2B skilling was launched by the Prime Minister of India in February 2018, and it provides an online ecosystem and marketplace for industry to engage in skilling journey of India.
Government created learning spaces
Government too has realized the need to Skill India, with schemes like Skill India, DDU-GKY, PMKVY etc. launched this term to address the mass skilling need. However these schemes do not focus on any of the disruptive futuristic technology. Government’s policy architecture needs a shift towards creating spaces to skill its large population on technology which will change the landscape of every industry. To even realize the billion dollar dream from this industry, the catalyst behind it needs to be skilled and well trained. Also, there is an urgent need to create a robust digital infrastructure to realize and enable the existing skilling dream.
Public Private Partnership Model – Government + Industry + Academia
The rapid pace of the 4th industrial revolution will disrupt every industry. Localized efforts will not be able to reap a lot of benefits from the upcoming trend. Therefore a totally new idea is needed to create a huge skilling ecosystem. The three institutions – Government, Industry, and Academia needs to join hands together to create this infrastructure. This mechanism needs to start from the scratch – from building industry verified curriculum, creating and using course aligned to the curriculum, developing a platform to propagate the content, analyzing the end result of the learning through assessment, etc. This framework will seek to maximize learning and participation by creating a one stop solution for Indians to understand, learn, and skill themselves on the new wave of technology, and be ready to adapt with the changing world.
Hence, my idea of an ideal scenario would be that the Government of Indian must supplement the efforts of Industry by strengthening and institutionalizing the framework from both the sides – supply as well demand. A joint action by Government, Industry and Academia, as Team India Model, for Re-Skilling & Capacity Building will be the best solution.