How To Stay Relevant During the Pandemic Through Up-skilling

While our education system rightly focuses on providing a strong theoretical learning experience, there always remained a gap in introducing professional skills at the graduate level

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The rise in India’s unemployment rate isn’t just a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s struggle with providing the youth with the right opportunities is attributed to several other reasons and shortcomings. While our education system rightly focuses on providing a strong theoretical learning experience, there always remained a gap in introducing professional skills at the graduate level.

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With millions of students graduating from cities, as well as the remotest corners of the country, job prospects are often limited and competitive. Institutions often do not take notice of the serious dearth of skills training required for professional life. This impacts students when they graduate and enter the job market, as workplaces have varied requirements. The industry is a competitive environment where companies are vying for pole positions in their respective sectors and they are often on the lookout for competent and job-ready graduates. Students neither receive training programmes about the requisite skills nor are they provided incentives by the educational institutions for upskilling.

The post-COVID-19 employment scenario

The COVID-19 crisis provides several opportunities that young graduates and students can take advantage of, provided concerted efforts are made by authorities and educational institutions in identifying the gaps. Additionally, policy makers have been recommending the inclusion of ‘professional education’ into the curriculum across all states education boards and educational entities, in a bid to equip students with skills from the first year of admission itself. On the work front, employers are likely to hire candidates who are highly motivated and possess multiple skillsets, as the nature of work is destined to change completely.

The world is witnessing fast-paced technological changes, where even global conglomerates are either replacing or re-skilling their workforces, as they are in a race to compete with their contemporaries. Indian companies aren’t exempt from these developments, as we currently happen to be the software enablers of the world. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet-of-things (IoT) ecosystem is likely to impact IT-intensive workforces, synonymous with a country like India. Our professionals risk being left behind, if they do not recognize the trends.

Unsurprisingly, IT companies are seeking graduates who are privy to the latest developments in the tech space and skilled in AI, data analytics, blockchain technologies, and the likes. As per a recent NASSCOM report, 40 per cent of the estimated 5 million strong IT workforce needs immediate re-skilling, owing to the current momentum of automation taking place across the spectrum. They will need to be trained over the next five years to be proficient enough to make up for the shortfall of skilled professionals. While there is a wider acceptance about the growth areas and the sort of skills they require, they may vary according to each industry’s specific growth trends. 

The means to upskill in current times

The unprecedented changes brought in by the pandemic have affected financial markets, businesses, employability and the economy as a whole. Companies have begun trimming their budgets and reducing staff, as a measure to withstand the onslaught of trade stoppages and other impacts on global economic growth. However, the essential services sector is growing, owing to the application of tech and the new avenues which are blossoming as a result of social distancing.

In such scenarios, it is important to identify key sectors that are undergoing disruptions in tech and take cognizance of one’s career trajectory by focusing on upskilling. The pandemic is allowing work from home possibilities for those sectors which can conduct operations remotely. People now have ample time at their disposal to learn a new skill, attend courses, and cater non-working hours to improve skills such as AI and machine learning through online courses.

Changes in the work culture in the past few years have minimized the relevance of college degrees, as they are no longer the primary indicator of a candidate’s capabilities. The real-world is more concerned about applicable skills for industry and they are collaborating with experts and academics to provide course options that allow flexibility in learning. Consequently, the personalized theme of the courses allows one to learn according to his/her own pace and learning abilities.

As schools and colleges face challenges with their move to digital classes, edtech companies have already established their platforms, which are seeing disproportionate growth in subscriptions. High school pass-outs and recent graduates shall benefit from it the most as it prepares them for employment, without creating the necessity to learn on the job. Online education provides a far more nuanced and economical alternative to upskill in emerging technologies and courses and this ensures job security. To stay ahead of the curve, young people must, therefore, remain constantly vigilant about new advancements in tech and other spheres, and pursue mediums to learn new skills.