Ranjit Nandakumar's IT career was progressing well for eight years. He started as a programmer and was given three onshore opportunities. Soon enough, he climbed up the ranks. Meanwhile, his managerial role lacked application of newer technologies, nevertheless Ranjit felt secure in his position. However, the situation changed by mid-2016. Moving towards automation and technological advancements, his company decided to trim the workforce and lay off mid-level managers, whose jobs could be easily automated. Ranjit's seniors at work were given pink slips citing lack of new skills as a key reason. Only then did the realization dawn on Ranjit that upskilling was the only option to keep his job and stay relevant. As more news about IT companies downsizing started doing rounds, Ranjit enroled for a data science training course. The training helped him validate his technical skills and also got him an opportunity to be part of a newer digital project.
Today, millions of IT professionals like Ranjit face a threat to their cushy jobs. The IT industry, as we all know, had the biggest success story of modern Indian economic history. This industry impacted millions of professionals and contributed toward their social mobility. However, today, the IT industry is going through rough patches in the wake of rapid technological advancements.
Up-skill - the only way out
Recently, The Times of India carried an article about the challenges that IT firms face while hiring skilled professionals. What was surprising to read was that almost 70% of IT professionals in India cannot upgrade to newer skills. While the new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and cloud have created a dearth of skilled talent, I disagree with the view that most of the IT professionals or even fresh graduates cannot be upskilled in these newer technologies.
In this current situation where the industry is stung with layoffs, there's a sense of eeriness floating around. Seeing their peers and friends losing their jobs to automation, professionals are not secure about their jobs anymore. However, this fear will result in a positive impact as it will push individuals to move out of their comfort zone. This era of digital transformation has left us all with an adapt or perish scenario. It's an alarming reminder that upskilling or reskilling is the only way out to remain employable and relevant.
Be it young professionals who seek rapid career growth or mid-level professionals who are facing career stagnation, the need of the hour is to have the willingness to learn. Everyone is armed with basic technology and aptitude skills, so there is no reason why a professional cannot upgrade him/herself. If there is a motivation to learn, even the most complex technologies and applications can be learned easily. We live in a world where teaching individuals on hard/technical skills is easier over training someone on soft skills. Moreover, professionals have easy access to robust learning platforms like Udacity, Simplilearn or Udemy, today. The emphasis is on continuous learning and enhancing their skills set through outcome-based learning. With tangible impacts like pay hikes, alternate job roles, better projects, IT professionals in India can adapt and stay ahead in this fast-changing digital economy.
Digital training at the workplace
On the other hand, IT/ITES firms are investing large amount of money as they train their workforce to keep up with the increasing demand for digital projects. Many large enterprises have their own learning universities and communities to inculcate the culture of continuous learning across teams and functions of the organization. With large workforces to train, companies are partnering with training companies who offer updated and globally relevant courses in some of the most sought-after technology domains. Companies have also started including learning new technology skills as a key parameter to their employees' quarterly performance cycles and go on to offer rewards and perks when employees complete their courses successfully. Initiatives like these keep the employees motivated and also help the company boost employee productivity and business ROI.
Up-skill the white collared workforce
India is at the crux of rapid technology changes, and as a nation we are also scaling up to become a knowledge economy. It is interesting to see how professionals are taking upskilling seriously as companies are emphasizing on skill development like never before. While the Government of India has invested a great deal in initiatives such as "Digital India" and "Skill India", a lot more can be achieved when the Central Government, India Inc., and the education ecosystem, including new-age ed-tech companies, join hand and come together with a larger nationwide initiative to up-skill the white collared workforce of India.
Millions of engineers graduate from our universities every year and the IT industry contributes 9.3 % of the nation's GDP with revenues of USD 143 billion. It's about time we look at empowering the future workforce and this ecosystem at large. It's a giant step to get closer to realizing the dream of Digital India.
Note: This article was originally published in Business Insider