‘Is Re-skilling Solution to Current IT Situation?’

By: Manish Bhatia, Director – IT, Spring Professional

Over the past few decades, IT giants in India have hired thousands of science graduates to tap high-end business opportunities. As their careers have progressed, many candidates who have gone on to become managers have lost touch with their basic technical skills. Now, faced with increased competition and the lack of qualified workforce at the middle level, re-skilling and rebooting have become crucial for these companies to keep pace with the rapid changes. In this context, the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ has great meaning. Digital technologies have the potential to reshape markets faster than any force in history. Therefore, the only solution to beat the bottleneck is Re-Skilling.

Learning is a continuous process and one should not be afraid to try something new every day. Even while you are employed, learning new skills would open more opportunities for your career. A NASSCOM report says up to 40 percent of the estimated four million workforces in India need re-skilling over the next five years to keep pace with automation and changing skill needs in various industries. Otherwise, they are likely to lose jobs to automation by 2020, unless they are skilled in emerging technologies. However, as a contradiction to the news of a slowdown in hiring in the IT sector, NASSCOM asserted that the industry hired around 1, 70,000 new workers in the fiscal year 2016-17. This indicates that the layoffs are not just because of automation but also because of the fact that when the company switches to new technology, many employees fail to adapt to that.

As per an Adecco Group study in collaboration with INSEAD and Human capital on Global Talent Competitiveness Index – Talent and Technology, the combination of big data, cloud computing and IoT is enabling increasingly autonomous and intelligent machines that do a better job than humans in an expanding variety of jobs. The survey also states that even some of the high-level tasks performed by C-suite executives such as analysing reports and data to operational decisions could be automated.

IT layoffs are about a shift from volume to value skills. Their focus has shift from vanilla skills to emerging skills like, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Fintech, Internet-of-Things (IoT). Such disruptive technologies are taking over the vanilla skills jobs. Hence, resources should be re-aligned as per today’s needs of IT organisations and we already are witnessing the workforce re-alignment occurring with global giants.

At the same time, one cannot blame automation alone for the recent IT layoffs. We need to up-skill the existing workforce and ensure qualified, experienced people are equipped for new or evolving roles, and similarly, re-skill people who are re-entering the workforce after a period out. Lifelong learning will be an imperative. Even engineering colleges have to re-look at the prospectus to ensure that they generate more employable freshers equipped with the requisite technology and soft skills. The curriculum must be in line with the needs of the industry.

In times of cost-cutting, it is best to go back and assess the skill gaps because industry sectors demand regular enhancement of knowledge and skill. This is because of the need for new technology advancements or fundamental changes in business models. This has commonly become business necessity. Single skills are becoming repetitious, the whole idea is to grow and build new skills and competencies in technologies that are now sought after. I echo that one should develop skills that will be relevant even five years from now and hence continuous learning should become part of our life. The working professional should stay abreast of new developments in their industry, and technological changes that are impacting it. This is not a difficult task.

I would suggest online learning as it is an effective and easily accessible method in today’s environment. If you are a fresher or an experienced professional, online learning provides a good way to learn quickly. It allows for personalization of learning with online assessments and tailoring of learning paths to align with your career path. It’s also important to implement what is being learnt in your daily work. If your work is not related to what you are learning then I will urge these professionals in getting practical experience by working on projects during their free time or collaborating with colleagues to work on projects available on open source platforms. Interestingly, it is also seen that e-learning platforms are providing scholarships for laid off professionals so that they can build and develop skills. Professionals with new skills in a specialised field can fetch decent hikes.

Additionally, soft skills are equally important. For instance, collaborative problem solving, a deep understanding of the root of the problem and combining judgement and rigour can help one advance in their career.

Start-ups in the IT sector are actively engaging with engineers who have graduated from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. But most of these startups observe that there is a lack of soft skills such as communication skills among the graduates even if they are equipped with the requisite technical skills. Hence, these enterprises spend additional time in training them in soft skills to increase overall productivity.

To working professionals and freshers, if you want to survive the automation wave, then surf smartly. Now is the time to innovate and follow a path to continuous learning. Starting now, educational institutions need to encourage our future potential engineers to imbibe students with better problem solving skills and good reading habits rather than note learning. By adopting continuous learning, working professionals can be prepared in advance and even use change to their advantage. Skill categories that current professionals and aspiring candidates can focus on reskilling are software development, digital infrastructure, digital experience, data analytics, and cyber security such as ethical hacking, network vulnerability analysis certifications.

Every professional has to unlearn and relearn new skills to endure in today’s changing world called “DIGITAL”.

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