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Right Skilling for a Better World

Today, Knowledge is ubiquitous. It is constantly changing and growing exponentially. While knowledge is free. There is a lot of competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world cares about what you can do with what you know. The change that has occurred in the world economy during the past twenty years is staggering and phenomenal. Given that the rate and scale of change is increasing exponentially, it is inevitable that everyone will have to deal with significant degree of professional changes. These changes could be seismic to the degree that the very nature of an industry or profession can be transformed forever. One of the most effective ways of achieving growth without compromising on the redistributive aspect of it is employment generation. It is the foundation of inclusive growth. The new development paradigm considers inclusive growth as the most powerful symbol of a nation’s universal prosperity. Unemployment is a global problem with more than 73 million youth unemployed worldwide. In India, the unemployment rate among youth is almost at 13% (compared to a 4.9% overall). Underemployment is even higher. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), there are currently nearly 31 million unemployed Indians.

The missing link that underlies the growing unemployment is ‘Skill Development’, which is the key ingredient to robust economic growth. With the dilutions of the old ‘iron bowl’ of employment protection the idea of lifelong secure employment has now been shattered in the present perish or perform era. The 2016-17 annual report of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship says that less than 5% of the total workforce in India has undergone formal skill training. Technology is advancing faster than we can adapt, upending the job market and delivering unimaginable shocks to both our values and or patterns of thinking. While Repetition-based jobs are stagnating in the world over and will soon disappear, most children entering school today will do jobs that don’t exist yet. Many of the children now being educated in the old system will find norms, institutions and patterns of working and civic life they were trained for a scrambled hurdle, when they actually enter the adult world. Tools of the job are in a state of extreme instability. Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and other boardroom documents have all been changed by the cloud sharing and group editing platforms which are the new norms in business.

While capacities for specialized problem solving and mass communication, until recently controlled by a few elites, are now accessible to anyone with Smartphone’s, tablets. Our educational system and other institutions remain geared towards the conventional and hierarchy based repetitive system leaving young people ill prepared for the cascading changes coming ahead.Young people also need to get out of their comfort zones and look outward. They need to get out of their zip codes and experience situations different from the ones they are conditioned to expect. Their success will depend much on how well they can navigate a world of diverse cultures and beliefs.Yes we are increasingly moving towards a world where evergreen skills like communication, empathy, social listening and the ability to ‘play well’ with others are more valuable in the job market. Empathy is foundational to social and relational intelligence. Empathy is the invisible giant. It is naturally hardwired into our brain and when harnessed, plays a crucial role in innovation, change making, and solving systemic problems at work.

It’s no wonder a growing number of universities are enriching their curriculums with real-world knowledge and empowering students with practical learning experience. Universities will have to increasingly infuse practical elements in learning systems and cross culture communications.By deploying its Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) capital on skill development projects, the private sector stands to benefit enormously from availability of a large skilled and disciplined workforce. This can parlay into better levels of customer service, increased productivity and efficiency, reduced absenteeism and employee turnover, along with lower wages and optimized recruitment costs. The results of several such programmes have, however, been mixed. Programmes have reported high dropout rates, low employment percentages and continued attrition post-placement leading to dissatisfied employers as well as frustrated youth.

Providing ‘Skill-training and Certification’ alone cannot be a solution to the problem. There is clearly a case for going back to the drawing board to good old multi skilling. The new emphasis on skill training should focus on a holistic lifecycle approach which looks at all aspects of skilling, from the aspirations of people before training to counseling and following up with beneficiaries during their employment. Adopting a lifecycle approach to skilling will make sure that the skills imparted to trainees are marketable and linked to the available jobs present in the market. It is also important to ensure that specific skills are not scaled across multiple areas in the same region as it saturates the market with limited opportunities for those who are trained. There are hundreds of organizations and agencies engaged in honing vocational skills and promoting entrepreneurship. While these successful efforts demonstrate the critical roles that employers and social sector plays in the development of a healthy workforce, they are not able to achieve system-wide change as they fail out on the holistic planning aspect where we have a differentiation as an IBM business partner.

Businesses, governments and think tanks need to adopt a collective approach and synergize their latent strengths. Closing skills gap requires that educators and employers work together more closely to provide best form of skilling and game adjustment mechanisms which they can implement at both personal and professional walks of life. We also require a more coordinated and collective impact approach from the various stakeholders if we want to enlarge the network of training programmes and ensure that training is closely aligned with specific demands of the industry.This would require developing a clear common agenda around the entire ecosystem of workforce training. One of the most demanding needs will be digital fluency. It is a much wider concept than the metaphoric digital literacy and refers to the ability to leverage the myriad digital tools and resources at our disposal to complete a specific job.

Assimilation in digital culture would require learning the nuts and bolts of technology. All these disruptions will eventually have to be addressed though a change making strategy. A key factor of success for any society going forward is what percentage of its people are change makers and it’s the new literacy that will be there for time.

About the Author:-

Joseph Jayakumar is a prominent IT thought leader and services professional who has spent nearly four decades in the IT sector. He is a member of BCIC, MSME, CSI, ISTD and NASSCOM to name a few. He has worked with several IT giants starting as a grassroots field officer to a program manager and a policymaker and decision maker in IT.

Thank you for reading. In addition, your thoughts and inputs will genuinely make a difference to us. Please drop a line and help us do better in our reskilling initiative.

Joseph Jayakumar,
Director, Amstar Technologies.

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