07 Aug 2020 12:54 IST

Upskilling to be self-reliant in a post-Covid world

Syrian refugee student demonstrating a robot prototype that automatically dispenses sanitiser, as a part of the UNHCR-led Innovation Lab program | Muhammad Hamed   -  REUTERS

It will equip individuals gain practical expertise in data science, design thinking, digital HR, among other skills

The ongoing pandemic is definitely going to leave a lasting impact on our lives, but it’s the immediate impact that’s more devastating and crippling. Various nations are trying to revive from this blow that has severely impacted the global economy and livelihoods. The challenges raised by the pandemic transcend industries and national borders. It has forced us to innovate and change the way we work and live. The only silver lining of the situation that we find ourselves in is that individuals and corporations will become more resilient in a post-Covid world.

Though the pandemic wave hasn’t come to a halt, organisations’ dependency and investment in innovative technologies to stay competitive in the business arena is still soaring high. To overcome the uncertainty, companies are moving towards a more data-driven approach, paired with digitally-agile operations and automation. Not only this, but sectors like human resource management are being relooked at with a newer and digital perspective, to cater to the current industry demands. More focus will be on professionals with skills that are essential and relevant to the organisation's competitive advantage.

Upskilling, the process of learning new skills that is being used extensively in the industry, is the only way to stay ahead in the game in a post-pandemic world. Upskilling has been a pressing need for recruiters and organisations, long before the Covid-19 crisis came into existence. According to the McKinsey Global Survey 2020, 87 per cent of the executives said that they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has made upskilling vital. Whether you are a fresher or an experienced professional, the need for learning additional skills and becoming digitally-oriented, regardless of the type of industry you work in, is crucial.

The current economic slowdown has also exacerbated the global unemployment rate. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate of India stands at 7.7 per cent, as recorded in early August 2020. Many organisations have cut down their expenditure by laying off full-time employees and hiring skilled freelancing professionals, to maintain a more flexible workforce during these challenging times. As per research by Korp Ltd, 32 per cent of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers. Thus, becoming self-reliant will give you an upper hand and make you resilient so that you can thrive in the competitive landscape the future holds.

Overcoming current challenges

The corporate world, as well as life in general, has changed dramatically in just a few weeks. People are concerned about financial, physical and psychological well-being during this crisis. The increasing number of layoffs in different industries has raised a question in their job security. With companies focussing on skilled professionals to strengthen their workforce and adding a competitive edge, upskilling will help them stay employed, and also move up their individual career graphs.

One of the challenges faced by freshers is the lack of industry-relevant skills that reduce their chances of getting hired by reputed companies. Upskilling will equip individuals to think out-of-the-box, gain practical expertise in emerging technologies like data science, design thinking, full stack development, people analytics & digital HR, artificial intelligence, cyber security, cloud computing and IoT, and land a good job with lucrative benefits.

Building a resilient career

It is a known fact that we're amidst one of the worst recessions the world has faced since World War II. Every industry has faced the heat of this recession, including the IT sector. With organisations adapting to working remotely and incorporating a more digitised workforce strategy to survive this crisis, there are a few domains that have been least impacted during this current recession, like cyber security, IT security, cloud services and IoT as dependency on these services has increased manifold. According to IDC, 64 per cent of the organisations in India are expected to increase the demand for cloud computing. With businesses migrating to cloud services to thrive in the present scenario, the demand for skilled cloud professionals is also steadily increasing.

Cyber security has become a major concern for organisations. There have already been multiple cybersecurity incidents, in a short span of five to six months. According to Campaign India, India ranks third in the list of top ten most targeted countries by cyber attackers. Organisations, therefore, require cybersecurity professionals who are experts in defensive or offensive mechanisms to make their systems hack-proof. As per estimates, the cybersecurity employee base is expected to grow from the current 1,30,000 to up to 3,00,000.

Design thinking is another specialisation area that has become quite popular in the recent past, mainly because its simple framework helps in deriving solutions to complex business challenges, like the one presented by the pandemic. According to IBM, about 72 per cent of its clientele utilise design thinking in most of their initiatives and operations.

Other emerging technologies are not far behind. A research by Team-Lease Services says that by 2020, the estimated worldwide demand for new-age tech professionals, including AI specialists, would be 4.4 lakh, while the overall supply is projected at 2.4 lakh.

Becoming self-reliant through upskilling

Upskilling will help individuals develop proficiency in technologies that are highly in demand at present, and will remain so in the future as well. It will also aid creative leaders in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, by adding to the knowledge that they already have from their professional experience. The emerging trends in technology will require professionals at all levels and across industries to develop entrepreneurial skills in order to overcome redundancy and become more competitive and self-reliant. The motive of upskilling is to equip individuals with current knowledge and skill sets in emerging technologies. It prepares them to be resilient and to withstand new challenges of this competitive world.

(The writer is Co-founder & CEO, Jigsaw Academy.)