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IT job crisis: Upskilling only path to survive for techies as automation era feeds on disappearing jobs

Here are some headlines from the past year - More than 30,000 employees laid off by tech giants Wipro, Infosys, TCS and even some tech startups, between 2015-17. The Information Technology sector is undergoing massive layoffs and structural transformations. In 2015-16 Karnataka (home to Bengaluru – the IT hub) saw a 65 percent decline in revenue from exports of electronics, IT software and BT, from the previous year. Around 65 percent of IT employees not re-trainable and 80 percent of engineering graduates considered unemployable.

The world around us is changing drastically and extreme headlines are only a blink of an eye away. Apart from all the wide-ranging effects it will have on our lives and society, technology is really beginning to displace millions of people from their jobs. The IT sector, the sector that was largely responsible for the growth of India in the 90s and early 2000s, is one example of this change.

Observing the past shows us that jobs have consistently been predicted to become obsolete with the advent of technology and machines. When the washing machine was invented, those who professionally hand-washed clothes faced large-scale unemployment and redundancy. But is India in a better position to weather this inevitable change that comes knocking every few decades?

Between 1980 to 2010, 90 percent of world labour force growth occurred in developing countries and about 500 million new workers emerged in India and China alone (workers went from 260 million to 470 million in India, between this period). India is all set to power most of global growth in labour in the coming years. However, while it’s true that we are moving towards a massive labour pool, we are also possibly riding a low-skill, low-wage cycle to get there. If this is going to be the case, the aspirations of millions of new workers getting added to the workforce annually, are going to be unmet and leave much to be desired.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

The country is on a trajectory that involves a surplus of millions of low-skill workers, whereas most nations, including India, will be demanding high-skill workers more and more.

Do we really think then that robots will usurp our place in the jobs economy? The answer is a resounding, NO. While some jobs will surely become defunct, technology also presents opportunities for many other job types. Where routine work is decreasing, knowledge work is increasing. Labour adept at managing high-end technology will be high in demand as our processes become more complex and disruptive.

So what are the new types of jobs and industries coming up and how can we ride the wave of change, you ask? Well, a host of innovations are changing the world as we know it. It has been predicted that fully autonomous car technology will arrive within two years, full-fledged usage of drones is being witnessed already, data driven leadership has become inevitable for companies that want to succeed in a competitive world and understand their consumer best, even robots are becoming a common feature. Tools like digital curation and preservation, data mining or big data analytics are already beginning to shape professional jobs.

Most industries are undergoing a digital transformation, and skills relating to key technologies like mobility, cloud computing, business intelligence, machine learning, nanotechnology, 3D printing, etc., are gaining relevance and in some cases become indispensable to day-to-day operations. Whether it’s making prosthetics or printing whole houses with 3D printing; or the software behind Siri on your iPhone which is nothing but artificial intelligence at play, these technologies are already impacting our lives.

Even the IT industry is estimated to grow by 22 percent through 2020. How does this make sense in light of the information shared at the beginning of this article? Well, revenue from digital technology projects is growing 7 times faster than from traditional projects and offers us new opportunities – 2 million existing IT employees can be reskilled in digital tech and 1.5 million new employees can be skilled in the sector by 2025.

But how do we tap into this massive opportunity? The answer is simple: By focusing on upskilling ourselves. The options are plenty; weekend programs, crash-courses and boot-camps are some offline options. Online options offer flexibility and manage resource constraints (time and money) for working professionals who cannot afford to leave the job market to go back to campus. Courses in data, digital, management, technology, products and entrepreneurship are abundant.

If a young professional today wants to have that big career, house, job satisfaction and all the other comforts we saw many in our parents’ generation work hard for in conventional jobs; we can’t follow the same approach. Working for a company for 10-20 years is becoming nearly impossible when company lifespans are averaging 30 years and 65 percent of children entering schools today will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet! It’s time to get smart with career planning. It’s time for continuous learning.

(The writers are co-founders of Upgrad, an online higher education company)


Published Date: Feb 07, 2018 17:13 PM | Updated Date: Feb 07, 2018 17:13 PM

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