Published: 07th January 2019
83% institutions aren't giving students future-relevant skills: How do we fix this?
Cognizant recently conducted a study and has come up with an industry solution for businesses and higher education institutions, which they define as a ‘Future of Learning equation’
Even though it’s extremely important to train workers and students in new age skills and make them fluent in emerging technologies, 83 per cent of the colleges and 50 per cent of businesses are presently unable to do this efficiently, according to a study by Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS). Cognizant recently conducted a study and has come up with an industry solution for businesses and higher education institutions, which they define as a ‘Future of Learning equation’. It requires more accurate skill identification to align with actual workplace needs, overhauling the approach of curriculum and training to be more immersive and personalised and provide an environment supportive of self-learning, with access to multiple content sources like open educational resources. Ultimately, the speed at which these elements are executed will determine their efficacy in preparing an aptly-skilled workforce.
We spoke to Manish Bahl, AVP, Centre for the Future of Work, Asia Pacific, CTS, to make sense of the industry-HEI gap, the future of self-learning and much more. Excerpts:
Why is there a gap between what the industry demands and what skills the institutions are providing? How can this be solved best?
Businesses and educators understand that they need to prepare people for very different jobs in the future, but they’re slow to revamp their education and training models or collaborate with each other, according to our recent research. Clearly, the gap between the industry needs and what academic institutions are delivering has become wider today than ever before. Skills have become like mobile apps that need frequent upgrades. While 43 per cent of businesses currently updates their learning content on an annual or biennial basis, 71 per cent of HEIs only update their curriculum every two to six years. In 2018, about two-thirds of Indian companies found it hard to find candidates with relevant technical, business, digital and soft skills. Further, accelerated technological changes and changing client and customer preferences have drastically changed the list of skills in demand, which the academia hasn’t fully caught up with. In the face of the unknown future, businesses and HEIs will need to engage in more flexible partnerships, quicker responses, different modes of delivery and new combined-skill programmes to reliably prepare people for what comes next.
How will AI change the way of learning? How do you propose to regulate and formalise self-learning?
The rise of automation and AI is raising questions about the employable skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary for people to participate in the future of work. While automation will eliminate some jobs, many more will be created or changed. For instance, welders, joiners and mechanics at German auto-parts maker Bosch have been trained in basic coding skills so they can use robots to assist them in their work. What’s needed are predictive and agile approaches to skills identification and curricula changes, and digitally driven modes of delivery to prepare people for what comes next. To enable more continuous content updates, businesses and HEIs will need to see themselves as curators rather than creators of content. Emerging technologies such as AR/VR and AI will supercharge learning by focusing on “how to learn” over “what to learn.” New modes of education delivery will emerge, with Netflix-style, on-demand digital assets allowing for any time, anywhere self-learning. AI-driven learning platforms will personalise learning, and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) systems will become mainstream, with a 220 per cent increase in the take-up of the technology by HEIs and businesses in the next five years. No matter how great the technology and teaching approaches, learning is not possible unless people are motivated to learn. Regulating self-learning will not deliver the desired results. In order to get there, businesses, higher education institutions and governments must create a culture of learning in which individuals are self-motivated and curious. For instance, the Singapore government has adopted innovative ways to encourage individuals to take ownership of their skills development and lifelong learning.
A recent study revealed that a chunk of IT professionals who sign up for skill-augmentation courses or higher studies do not complete their course. Some even said that they are put back on the same team doing the same work they were doing previously. Their skill upgrade is hardly ever put to use. Why is that?
These gaps arise due to a variety of reasons. First of all, there is a lack of clarity regarding which skills to prioritise, and further, a lack of skilled talent to provide training. Also, large-scale misalignment of workforce strategies with actual business goals often makes reskilling or upskilling endeavours go down the drain. Businesses also lack clarity in developing and implementing new learning programmes that actually fit the street’s demands. Today, businesses and HEIs estimate that only about one-quarter of their total staff and students (27 per cent and 20 per cent respectively) have the skills required to work and interact with emerging digital technologies. This figure is expected to more than double (to 62 per cent for companies and 57 per cent for HEIs) in the next five years. Consequently, more frequent reskilling will become the new norm as businesses move from annual reskilling programmes (45 per cent) to reskilling the workforce every one to two months, fortnightly or continuously (65 per cent). To get there, nearly 60 per cent of businesses plan to undergo an organisational realignment and change management programme in the next 12 to 24 months to promote learning. Realistically, this overhaul will take time, practice, effort and lots of resources — a reality that has not escaped respondents’ attention; 62 per cent of businesses stated that increasing investment in this space is a top priority. While businesses, on average, currently invest just 2.1 per cent of their total annual revenue on workforce training/learning, that will nearly double to 4 per cent in five years.
Does the recruitment process also need to go through a revamp? What would be the most efficient way to recruit?
Jobs of the future will be defined by the new tools of the trade (such as AI, AR/VR, big data, IoT), which respondents believe will have a significant impact on work in the next five years. Automation and AI will increasingly take over not just routine, repetitive and low-end tasks, but also highly skilled white-collar work, making some people’s skills and capabilities irrelevant, and leaving behind those unable to keep up. Of the businesses surveyed, 76 per cent are already confronting a daunting talent gap, and 73 per cent feel the skills gap will widen in the next five years. Therefore, as the future of work unfolds, what makes us human is what will make us employable. Companies are increasingly placing a premium on job applicants who demonstrate skills such as flexibility, self-motivation, empathy, resilience, creativity and communication, as they know “humanness” will become a competitive advantage when working with intelligent systems.