Why India must upskill its youth
It’s no longer news that automation will take away millions of manual jobs in the next five years. The technological revolution is rapidly gaining steam, and jobseekers must update their skills in more ways than one to remain employable. Just as automation on jobs will wipe out many low-skill jobs, it will—at the same time—increase the demand for nuanced and highly skilled employees.
It is in this context that emerging economies such as India must shift their focus to upskilling the youth. It is important to address the skills gap with some urgency to increase and enhance employment opportunities.
The future of work is being defined by automation on jobs. While robots can perform prescribed technical tasks to perfection, they will continue to have their limits. That’s where soft skills will play an important part. The demand for communication skills, interpersonal skills, effective teamwork, critical and analytical abilities will only increase hereon. The youth must be enabled to hone these skills and to give these ‘soft’ skills their due importance. Even if jobseekers are looking to apply for tech jobs in the IT industry, these soft skills will matter much more than they have before.
At the same time, universities and other platforms of learning must alter their pedagogy. Instead of imparting lessons in a straitjacketed manner, education should be about enabling the youth to address the real-world challenges. The idea of employability should no longer be restricted to fitting into one or the other kind of job, but it should be more about the ability to adapt, learn and grow (along with inculcating entrepreneurial skills).
An increasing number of employers in India today believe that recent graduates are not adequately prepared for their first jobs. Employees seem to lack the very basic skills that are necessary for efficiency, productivity and success on the job. In that light, it is important for India identify:
a) The professions that are in demand now and those that will be in demand in the foreseeable future
b) The requisite skills to enable employees to perform these jobs
The youth must be encouraged to pursue in-demand transdisciplinary study programmes. Moreover, these programmes of study must impart basic skills such as English proficiency, communication skills, etc., which seem to amiss among current curriculums.
Employers must also be active participants in upskilling their employees. The idea is to move beyond the formal systems of education and to look at on-the-job training programmes. The youth must be enabled actively and progressively. With the robots taking over, India must look to transform itself into a highly skilled, knowledge-based economy.
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