Automation wiping off jobs; innovate, upskill, retrain to stay ahead of career

Thanks to cities such as Bangalore, and increasingly Pune, Hyderabad and even Mumbai, India is not far in the race of rivaling the global leaders of technology. This is evident in how much we have grown through the ages.

In 1999, the age of Indian Information Technology (IT) began with IT giants such as Intel, Wipro, Infosys, and TCS paving the way. In 2010, the global era struck us, bringing with it many more international players to the technology scene – think Accenture, Bosch, IBM, HCL and many more.

The present is the era of start-ups. Start-ups that are too big and innovating so much so soon, that it almost doesn’t feel right to attribute the word ‘start-ups’ to them. Ola, Flipkart, Practo, Furlenco, Zomato and so many more that they are easier to recall today than the IT pioneers.

Representation image. Reuters

Representation image. Reuters

So, what has changed? We are currently in the middle of, what is popularly known as, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution.’ Anybody who has been reading the news would know about the wave of automation that has hit most areas of work, all over the world, but specifically made its impact felt within the IT sector.

Newspaper headlines around layoffs within these tech companies (old and new alike), and large manufacturing firms (automobiles, hardware, etc) have become extremely common these days, with managers often citing the need to keep up with changing business needs and technological transformations as the reasons for such downsizing.

Without a doubt, the data and digital age is transforming and restructuring the working world as we know it and the pace of change is exponential. This is not only reflected in the economic impact the country is experiencing, but also wages. While many consider the new political scenario in the US to be the reason for tumbling IT stocks, the truth is that Indian IT exports have been declining for the past few years.

In Karnataka itself, (given that it is home to Bangalore – the true Silicon Valley of India) in 2015-16, revenue from exports of electronics, IT software and BT fell by 65 percent from 2014-15, according to a newspaper report. In addition, in 2015-17,  tens of thousands of IT employees were laid off­ by giants like Wipro, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, and even start-ups like Flipkart.

In the Indian IT Industry, revenue from digital technology projects is growing 7x faster than that from traditional projects. So, it is evident that we need to focus our (human) resources in the right areas and skill them for the jobs of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, most policies around employment and skill training have stayed limited to blue-collar jobs rather than white collar ones. This has made us land up in a unique situation wherein our demographic dividend is at the risk of turning into a disaster.

We have a surplus of low-skilled workers whereas we need to fill all the upcoming, high-skill jobs. In straight numbers: two million existing IT employees need to be reskilled in digital technology areas and 1.5 million new employees by 2025.

What are some of these emerging roles? Data scientists, mobile app developers, compliance officers, social media architects, cloud integration specialists and thousands of other exciting opportunities are coming up. And beyond just skills upgradation is required to have a strong change in mindset amongst technology professionals.

But how do we take on this mammoth task of upskilling more than three million people? Especially considering the obstacles that hinder our path to achieving this goal:

  • 65 percent of IT employees are not retrainable
  • 80 percent of engineering graduates are unemployable
  • 50 percent of subject-knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate
  • 65 percent of children entering school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist

It is, therefore, evident that we need to come up with new solutions, fast. Gone are the days – when individuals have to rely just on college education and hope that their employees will pay for their skill upgradation. It is important for professionals in the technology domain to take charge of their career and invest in their future. It is imperative for professionals to unlearn and relearn – and not expect someone else to take care of their careers.

Let us be prepared then for what the knowledge economy holds for us, instead of painting a gloomy picture about the number of jobs being lost due to automation, we should be readying ourselves for the careers of tomorrow.

(The writer is Managing Director and Co-Founder, Upgrad, an online education platform)

Updated Date: May 07, 2017 11:23 AM

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