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Why Skill Gaps Are Keeping CEOs Awake In The Night?

Nearly 40 percent of India’s total workforce needs re-skilling over the next 5 years, to keep up with the technology trends that are transforming every sector

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Recently a bank in EMEA declared that they would need more than fifty thousand data science engineers in the next 12 months. The problem is they have no idea where to get that many people from. Skills and Talent have started to emerge as a key narrative for the markets and shareholders from CEOs of not only IT companies but banks, retailers, pharma and consumer companies. Cutting-edge technologies like AI, big data analytics, IoT, blockchain, data science and augmented reality are transforming several industries including IT, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. 

This has transformed the speed of innovation and execution that is required across various levels of the organization. These are now the basic ingredients for competitive differentiation and growth that every CEO desire. This wave of new technologies and digitization enables providers to connect with and serve a larger number of consumers, more efficiently providing great customer experiences. But with it, also brings in changes to the skills required to undertake these initiatives. According to a NASSCOM report, nearly 40 percent of India’s total workforce needs re-skilling over the next 5 years, to keep up with these technology trends that are transforming every sector. CEOs and Industries are waking up to the harsh reality of widening skill gaps and the ever-increasing demand of skilled workforce. 

The Widening Skill Gap and the Opportunities Ahead

Following close behind China, India currently has the second largest workforce in the world and is expected lead by 2020. It’s also estimated that 64 percent of India’s population will belong to the working age group by 2020. This means the demand for jobs will be considerably more than it is at present, posing a major challenge for an already volatile job market. Adding to an already precarious situation in the job market is the fact that the number of skilled individuals accounts for a mere 2-3 percent of the country’s entire workforce.

According to the report, titled 'Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in the Asia Pacific', by IDC Asia Pacific and Microsoft, the digital transformation will contribute an additional USD 154 billion to India’s GDP. In addition, the study also states that the economy’s growth rate is expected to increase by 1 percent, while 60 percent of India’s GDP will be derived from digital products or services, by 2021. Considering these developments, reskilling & upskilling has become a necessity for businesses in India to keep up with the changing landscape. The conversation, today, has shifted to how this transformation can be achieved. 

The Key to Bridging the Skill Gap and Leveraging the Ongoing Digital Revolution in India lies in careful planning with key business stakeholders and taking a strategic approach towards learning vs a “tick mark” approach.

Paving the Way for Digitally Enabled Skillset 

With a keen focus on digitally empowering India, the government initiated the Digital India campaign and enabled people to avail government services electronically. Fintech industry emerged as a key enabler for the digitization of payment solutions & lending services while the government’s efforts towards the same have contributed significantly in the growth of digital financial services. Last year, NASSCOM had introduced FutureSkills - a platform to develop skills in eight varied technologies with the aim to up-skill two million tech-professions and skilling another two million potential employees over the next few years. Perhaps, one of the most notable skill-building initiatives in the country’s corporate sector was the one launched by TCS and World Economic Forum in 2017 to re-skill & up-skill 10 million people across the global workforce by 2020. With it, TCS aims to retrain 1.2 million people, including professionals, students and empowering women to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. 

Establishing a Culture of Skill Building and Professional Learning

New-age jobs require one to deal with unpredictable and challenging circumstances with dexterity against the backdrop of an ever-changing and fast-evolving digital landscape. It also requires skilled workers who are agile, adaptable, and capable of leading fast-paced change. To achieve this, the focus of learning & development leaders of large organizations has shifted towards ‘reskilling & upskilling the workforce’ multiple times in their careers to stay relevant. 

Re-Skilling & Up-Skilling: The Need of the Hour

Reskilling refers to learning new skills for a new job role while upskilling, on the other hand, essentially means enhancing one’s capabilities by learning new skills to perform multiple, and often interconnected, roles. This is especially crucial to equip individuals with complex problem-solving skills, the ability to think critically and creatively and take on leadership roles eventually. 

Another critical area of focus in the digital economy is providing upskilling and career-building opportunities to women. Worrying enough, the contribution of women in the overall workforce has not grown as it should. According to the India Skills Report 2018, the number of women in the Indian workforce dipped from 32 percent in 2016 to 23 percent in 2018, thus underlining the pressing need to correct the situation. 

A Strategic Approach towards Skill Development

At Skillsoft, we enable businesses to develop a targeted and robust skilling strategy aimed at ensuring a smooth transition of young graduates and experienced professionals into the workplace environment with job-ready skills. The focus of any skilling program must be on content and curation for relevance to role and expertise needed coupled with industry standard learning journeys, assessment, coaching, mentoring and certifications which should enable candidates to be ready to step into the role with confidence. The mantra often adopted is “Skill to Bill Time” in the context of the IT industry but today it may well apply across the industry. 

Besides helping enhance the technical skills of students and professionals, practical training programs should focus on developing social and management skills, along with leadership capabilities among employees. Since soft skills are indispensable in any job role, special emphasis needs to be laid on these aspects as well. In order to thrive in a highly competitive and digitally vibrant business landscape, enterprises need to urgently deploy corporate learning systems to facilitate upskilling and reskilling of their human resources. Doing so would not only ensure a promising future for the job market but also prepare the business landscape to capitalize on the emerging opportunities in a new digital economy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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skill gap talent nasscom jobs digital india future skills

Mr Kamal Dutta

The author is MD- India for Skillsoft, a global leader in corporate learning.

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