Explore the Impact of AI and Emerging Technologies on Employability: AR Ramesh, CEO, TeamLease

Ramesh Alluri Reddy, CEO of TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, delves into the pivotal role of AI in reshaping the landscape of employment, exploring how it influences job matching, education, and career counseling.

Punam Singh
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Ramesh Alluri Reddy, CEO, TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship

In today's rapidly evolving world, the intersection of technology and employment has become a focal point of discussion. As industries undergo profound transformations driven by advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and the cloud, questions arise about the future of employability. In this discussion with Ramesh Alluri Reddy, CEO of TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, we delve into the pivotal role of AI in reshaping the landscape of employment, exploring how it influences job matching, education, and career counseling. Additionally, we examine the broader spectrum of technological innovations impacting the future of work, including blockchain's role in ensuring data integrity and the cloud's contribution to seamless storage solutions. Through this exploration, we aim to gain insights into how individuals can navigate these changes and future-proof their careers in an increasingly digitalized world.


DQ: How do you envision the role of AI in transforming the future of employability?

Ramesh: I believe AI is revolutionizing every industry globally. It's no surprise that the talent supply chain industry will transform too.

Considering that employability is a crucial aspect of the talent supply chain process, it's evident that AI is transforming it. Now, I'll outline how AI is making a difference. Firstly, let's look at job matching. We have apprentices across various sectors, from white-collar to blue-collar roles. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS), commonly used in standard hiring processes, is highly valuable for identifying suitable apprentices, particularly in white-collar fields. This is a primary area where AI significantly enhances contextual searching, ensuring the right match for each job requirement. This is especially crucial and intricate for apprentices, as it goes beyond simple resume or educational degree matching.


Now, apprenticeships come with a set of rules. You can engage in apprenticeship programs for up to three years, which fall under the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) or the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS), regulated by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labor. These programs often entail on-the-job training, and certifications are integral. Education also plays a significant role. Under the new national education policy, individuals can enroll as apprentices. Upon completion of every six months, you receive certifications from the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the industry partner. For instance, after the first year, you obtain two certifications, including a diploma. In the second year, you gain two more certifications every six months, culminating in an advanced diploma at the end. By the third year's completion, you also earn a degree, accompanied by the six certifications upon finishing the apprenticeship program.

Degree apprenticeships can be pursued through NAPS. NAPS offers opportunities for both technical and non-technical roles, with a duration of one year for technical roles and three years for non-technical roles. This complexity arises from various combinations, necessitating careful tracking. Under the NEP scheme, modularity is permitted, enabling individuals to transition between apprenticeship and other pursuits. For instance, one can work as an apprentice for a year, earn a diploma, and then choose to pursue further studies or alternative endeavors. Returning to apprenticeship after a three-year hiatus allows you to pick up where you left off, with two years remaining to complete the program. Previous diplomas and certifications remain valid, offering credits upon re-enrollment. This underscores the need for an ATS that is both highly complex and efficient in ensuring accurate matches during candidate searches. AI plays a crucial role in achieving this precision, making it one of the primary use cases. However, ready-made ATS solutions tailored specifically for apprenticeship are scarce, given its novelty and uniqueness in the market.

So at TeamLease, we're developing a product powered by AI to address these needs. Additionally, we're enhancing trainee interactions through various touchpoints. For candidates not yet enrolled, chatbots provide updates on application status. Once enrolled, chatbots assist apprentices with tasks like accessing stipend slips.


It can assist with attendance details, and basic queries, and provide support to trainees where needed. For programs like work-integrated learning not under NAPS, where students become apprentices while enrolled at a university, practical knowledge is gained. For such schemes, industries are encouraged to pay ESIC, leading to potential queries on ESIC matters.

So, all these queries can be handled through chatbots, powered by AI. That's another use case where artificial intelligence makes a big difference in touchpoints. Another useful aspect is during candidate screening. Take blue-collar jobs, for instance. In manufacturing industries, when hundreds line up for apprenticeships, AI helps manage contract notes and government portal registrations by scanning and converting PDF documents into database entries, streamlining the process.

Apart from that, in white-collar interviews, AI brings in interviewing skills. You can configure and train it. For example, in basic Java competency interviews, a virtual assistant can conduct the interview. AI can assist with such interviewing capabilities. Last but not least, education and career counseling are crucial. Students need guidance on their next steps to reach their career goals. Questions like which certification to pursue next or whether to opt for a degree in mechatronics or business administration arise. Education and career counseling are vital for apprentices, providing them with options based on their interests and goals. While some cases may require human interaction for specialized counseling, AI can handle basic counseling effectively.


DQ: Apart from AI, what other technological advancements are influencing the future of employability? Can you give a brief about that?

Ramesh: From a technological perspective, the world is undergoing numerous transformations. Firstly, there's the metaverse, leveraging computer vision, holograms, AI, VR, and AR. Secondly, blockchain is reshaping industries. Thirdly, the cloud is democratizing data usage.


You arrive at work, engage in discussions with a digital twin as if conversing with another person, and find yourself transported to the virtual world. Now, how can this be beneficial from an employability standpoint? Let's consider the discussed use cases, such as career counseling. I'll begin with career counseling as an example, then we can move on to interviews. With this setup, there's no necessity for a real career counselor. Instead, you can utilize a digital twin of the counselor. The initial level of counseling through AI can be facilitated by this digital twin, integrated with augmented reality itself.

Similarly, interviews can be conducted using digital twins. Instead of relying solely on chatbots, conversational AI can be employed. You can engage in discussions with the digital twin for various needs, whether it's regarding your stipend slips, ESIC, attendance, or any career-related doubts stemming from previous counseling sessions. A conversation with your digital twin can span across all these areas. The Metaverse is a technology poised to make a significant impact. Excuse me, but this represents an upcoming technological advancement. If we examine blockchains, we observe a plethora of regulations, particularly in the realm of apprenticeship, which is closely governed by the government.

We must ensure that people do not misuse government-provided programs. It's essential to utilize them to enhance India's employability. For instance, if you're in NITs and possess technical skills, even with less than a year of experience and a PF account, you can enroll as an apprentice for one year. However, non-technical individuals can participate for three years in the apprenticeship program. Typically, if you're not a graduate and not applying through NAPS, you won't be allowed to enroll as an apprentice if you have a PF account. These rules are crucial and must be upheld to maintain the integrity of the system. It's important to abide by the spirit of the law. If someone deliberately conceals previous employment experience or PF identity to enroll as an apprentice, it's unfair and undermines the intended purpose. Blockchain technology becomes vital in this context, as it ensures data integrity and prevents manipulation.


Your resumes, updates on your progress, completed tasks, earned credits, and PF history are all encapsulated as non-fungible tokens. These assets become locked within the blockchain due to their non-fungible nature. Through blockchain technology, there is a potential for revolutionary advancements in ensuring maximum compliance. Another technology worth noting is the cloud. Although not new, the power of storage has significantly increased and become more affordable, thanks to the pay-as-you-go model. This has been widely popular in industry, but it's also beneficial for students. Platforms like DigiLocker allow students to access their ABC IDs if enrolled in an educational institute. Similarly, students can utilize their cloud to maintain a record of their educational certifications and credits earned through the NEP. This provides them with a convenient and secure way to keep track of their academic history for personal reference.

Additionally, you can use this data to create a resume. Cloud services can also be beneficial for business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions, catering to students and apprentices alike. Universities can explore the potential of uploading data onto the cloud to establish a public identity for individuals. These are some considerations regarding alternative technologies apart from AI.

DQ: How are organizations adapting their hiring strategies to accommodate the changing nature of this industry?


Ramesh: If you consider manufacturing as an example, the demand in this sector fluctuates seasonally, often on wafer-thin profit margins. Consequently, these industries may struggle to absorb all contingent staff or trainees due to limited financial resources. However, they may still require a substantial workforce for short periods, such as one year or six months, to meet production needs.

In such cases, I've observed that these industries leverage training or apprenticeship programs as an innovative solution to their people supply chain. One managing director of a company even remarked that this serves as free branding for them. They don't mind if apprentices leave after one year, as they often go on to work for competitors, but they proudly associate their training with the company, providing free marketing and branding.

From an innovation standpoint, many manufacturing companies utilize apprenticeships to upskill India's youth while also benefiting from the learning opportunities it offers. Even if they cannot absorb all apprentices permanently, they still see value in participating due to the visibility it brings and the social responsibility it demonstrates. Additionally, some companies can claim apprenticeship programs as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) benefits.

Now, shifting focus to industries with more financial resources, such as global captives or global command centers (GCCs) established in India, they are actively seeking talent. These companies are drawn to India due to its abundant talent pool, with the average working age being in the late 20s and a high number of engineering and MBA graduates produced annually.

These companies explore various strategies for talent acquisition. Some are compelled to innovate through apprenticeship programs due to government regulations mandating a minimum of 2.5 percent of the workforce to be apprentices.

We need to have more than 30 employees. So from that perspective, they first onboard apprentices, but I have seen that after doing so, they find value in these individuals. The stipends they offer are not just the bare minimum; they attract well-skilled people by providing competitive stipends. This approach is initially for compliance, but it often becomes a valuable practice. One of the CHROs I know, who is our customer, actually joined an MNC as an apprentice.

He is vocal about apprenticeship programs and believes they are a great way to build a talent supply chain. Another reason why industries look into this approach is to ensure compliance and to establish a robust talent supply chain. So far, we've covered three reasons: the fluctuating demand requiring short-term solutions, compliance needs, and the desire to create a try-and-buy model.

Speaking of the try-and-buy model, allows companies to thoroughly evaluate apprentices for 6 months, 1 year, or 3 years, depending on the apprenticeship's nature. This extended period provides ample time to assess the apprentice's capabilities, receptiveness to feedback, and overall performance before considering permanent employment.

Lastly, I want to touch upon the IT services sector, which is undergoing significant changes due to global shifts, not only economically but also in terms of work dynamics. With the availability of off-the-shelf code and the rise of micro-services, the demand for traditional coding skills has decreased. Consequently, IT services firms have witnessed a decline in pressure hiring over the last two years. This shift has led to a reevaluation of training infrastructure investments. Managed training services, like the ones we offer, provide a solution by handling training responsibilities, including apprenticeship programs. This allows IT firms to focus on their core business while relieving cost pressures and optimizing their P&L perspective.

 In summary, these five approaches demonstrate how hiring practices are evolving across various industries.

DQ: As we witness numerous layoffs globally, could you share how individuals can future-proof their careers in this era of rapid technological advancement?

Ramesh: The world of work is changing drastically. As I mentioned, off-the-shelf micro-services are gaining popularity rapidly. This trend is making a significant impact. Additionally, artificial intelligence is displacing jobs, rendering many roles obsolete. With these changes, one might wonder if employability will become an issue and if job opportunities will diminish. However, we firmly believe that humans possess superior intellect and capabilities compared to machines. Therefore, we anticipate that humans will continue to outpace the advancements in AI and other technologies.

There will be new jobs created. Let me provide you with an example. If you observe global trends, you'll notice that alongside the emergence of new technologies, business models are also evolving rapidly. Take the field of Edtech, for instance. While technology acts as an enabler, innovative models are being developed to offer customized learning experiences tailored to each individual's IQ or learning pace. Technology serves as a tool, but the new business models drive this innovation.

Similarly, consider the rise of 10-minute delivery services as another example. Over the past year, we've seen the emergence of Instamarts and other rapid delivery models. While technology facilitates efficient delivery operations, it's the human brain behind the innovative business models that makes these ventures successful. These evolving business models are reshaping industries worldwide, from personal safety to healthcare. Wearable technologies, for instance, are revolutionizing individual safety measures. Additionally, recent reports, like the one in the Economic Times, highlight the use of robots for surveillance purposes at construction sites by companies such as Boston Consulting.

So, who is responsible for safety? Robots or AI are merely technological enablers. While they monitor and provide alerts, it's humans who ultimately take action and make decisions. What we're witnessing is a significant evolution in business models. As technology advances, it not only creates new jobs through these innovative models but also fosters the development of new technologies. Individuals must maintain a positive outlook. Despite technological advancements, there's no need for despair. Remember, humans are inherently more intelligent than machines. Throughout history, we've demonstrated our resilience and superiority across various species. We've endured and thrived, thanks to the remarkable power of our brains.

Now, while technology serves as an enabler, the nature of jobs is undergoing significant changes. Instead of solely focusing on becoming core technology engineers, individuals will need to reorient themselves toward roles that utilize the outputs of technology. This shift presents opportunities for upskilling and job creation.

I would like to credit the government, particularly through the National Education Policy, for emphasizing the importance of life skills. Soft skills, which are often overlooked in educational institutions, are becoming increasingly crucial in a world where technology is displacing many traditional jobs. Proficiency in various life skills such as negotiation, business acumen, financial literacy, and empathy, especially in leadership roles, will be invaluable. Acquiring these skills opens up a multitude of roles in diverse industries.

Therefore, the emphasis on reskilling, upskilling, and staying relevant in the job market cannot be overstated. Despite layoffs, in countries like India, where we are amidst this revolution, the rate of unemployment has decreased in the last quarter, according to reported numbers. This indicates that there is room for optimism rather than despair.

It's essential to recognize that the nature of work has always evolved. Just as our grandparents had different occupations from ours, our children and grandchildren will likely have roles that differ from what we currently do. Adaptability and continuous learning are key to thriving in this dynamic environment.

DQ: How does TeamLease degree apprenticeship contribute to enhancing employability in the current job market?

Ramesh: I believe the TeamLease degree apprenticeship program is making significant strides in enhancing employability. Firstly, we pride ourselves on our innovation and uniqueness. We view ourselves as a combination of three elements: one-third ITI (Industrial Training Institute), one-third employment exchange, and one-third education provider. What this means is that we offer vocational training by placing apprentices in various job roles, and providing hands-on learning experiences. This vocational aspect constitutes one-third of our identity.

Secondly, we offer educational courses to enhance knowledge and skills, making individuals more employable in their desired fields. This educational component forms another one-third of our identity.

Lastly, we function as an employment exchange. Following completion of our apprenticeship program, many of our apprentices transition into permanent employment or join the contingent workforce. This aspect of facilitating employment opportunities constitutes the final one-third of our identity.

So, we serve as an enabler for our apprentices to become employable and enter a sustainable work environment with confidence. Our hands-on training programs, spanning one year, two years, or three years, are particularly unique. From an employability standpoint, I believe we have made significant strides and offer something truly distinctive to the market.