Utilizing Education Technology To Enhance India’s Employability

Investing in reskilling and upskilling will be central to any sustainable effort at addressing the skill gap in India


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A recent article highlighted how India’s systematic skill gap will potentially result in an opportunity cost of approximately $1.97 trillion.

Let us put that figure within a relative context. This figure, spread out over the ten year period between 2018 and 2028, represents roughly two-thirds of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) at present. 

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the inevitable march of the Indian economy towards a $5 trillion valuation. Considering the fact that on numerous occasions ever since, India has been touted to become a $5 trillion economy, this opportunity cost of nearly $2 trillion itself may end up being the most crucial ‘gap’ that policymakers may need to assess at the earliest.

What does this alarming statistic mean for India’s growth story?

This is important within the context of the education sector.

In 2016, a survey conducted nationally covering 27,000 engineers concluded, among other startling findings, that nearly 80 percent of these engineers are fundamentally unemployable. This is particularly drastic in a country that has prized the engineering profession much more than any other in contemporary times.

With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automation and interdisciplinary forms of employment will be rapidly introduced. In time, they will carve newer bastions within the traditional career paths most professionals may be currently accustomed to. 

How then do we enhance employability in such challenging times?

Let us break the problem-solution pairs down into three parts:

1. Addressing the skill gap, investments to build education and skills and making our future equipped with skills which make us job ready

First and foremost, we need to address the prevalent skill gap in India. This can be addressed through a multi-stakeholder approach, involving the education sector regulator, the private education ecosystem, as well as the student bodies that are engaged with the above in pursuit of higher education.

Already, the average Indian millennial invests in reskilling and upskilling endeavors, even if penetration can only increase.

As this excerpt highlighted above derived from a report on ‘Building a Workforce of the Future’ indicates, there is a definite distinction between ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’. The former refers primarily to an employee reacting to external changes that result in a fundamental transformation of his or her immediate job. Examples could include the infusion of a new technology that introduces a more complex work pattern in the same area of work. On the contrary, reskilling refers to the exact opposite, wherein employees are expected to engage in newer roles that are not fundamentally more complex than their existing roles, but often exist in a completely distinct area of work.

Investing in reskilling and upskilling will be central to any sustainable effort at addressing the skill gap in India. In fact, it remains among the cheapest ways to introduce employable skills to the workforce, with a host of educational options as well as a variety of price points to access as well, from free MOOC courses to pricier industry certifications.

2. Inculcate the skills in the school education to strengthen the education system and deliver high-quality education, for example, include AI & ML in the initial years 

Introducing artificial intelligence and machine learning modules in earlier years should be the focus in a machine-centric, digital-premised world that we have come to inhabit. Indeed, while computer science as an undergraduate major has risen in prominence much before the Dot Com bubble of the early 2000s, the prerequisite computer science and programming skills were always playing catch-up in the high school curriculum.

Lately, machine learning and artificial intelligence have emerged as the bread and butter of the entire information technology and software sector, with spillover effects even in other industries that have become platforms of high volumes of data. Data science itself has emerged as a distinct function as well as its own field, and machine learning skills introduced at an early age can only assist in adopting mainstream careers with much more elan. Various internationally renowned institutions such as MIT and Carnegie Mellon University have recently announced multi-billion dollar research centres and full-time course modules on artificial intelligence and machine learning, indicating that such specializations are now extensively available at the undergraduate level itself. 

What was earlier available only at the postgraduate level, requiring students to only think of specialization at the undergraduate level as a consequence, is now available a few years earlier. Indeed, closer home, IIT Hyderabad launched an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence. Surely, one can expect more and more high school students to acquaint themselves with conceptualizations of artificial intelligence at an early age. This can be done most effectively through an introduction of K-12 education technology services, such as some of the suites offered by Pearson through its K-12 courseware. Successful integration of such service offerings into school curriculum can indeed prove to be a legitimate leg up.

This shift itself can be monumental in a country where four-fifths of the engineering junta is currently not employable.

3. Convergence of thought between Govt and Private sector in helping boost education, entrepreneurship, and employability

As per a NASSCOM study, nearly 40 percent of India’s workforce (about four million professionals, recent graduates, and experienced workers) need to upskill over the next five years in the wake of increased automation and changing industry demands. This is a huge number that should stand to caution nearly every member of the ecosystem - potential employees, existing professionals, companies, universities and colleges, and students - of the looming threat that comes bundled with the wide-reaching promises of the digital revolution. In fact, the revolution is not restricted in scope and scale to mere digital boundaries.

A convergence of thought between governments, private sector players, and the student-professional base needs to be at the center of treating education in a novel way.

Indeed, accusations of ‘jobless growth’ have become commonplace in recent times, and if India were to indeed live up to its hype of being the fastest growing major economy in the world, it would need to provide a quality education that manages to transform students into truly employable professionals. Education technology, through reskilling and upskilling options or even through casual forms of learning through the online medium, can only provide the crucial crutch towards a more wholesome transformation.

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


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