15 February 2022 14:56:35 IST

Staying ahead of the curve as a software engineer in the digital age

Source: Getty Images

Over the last four decades, the Indian IT sector has grown in size, and its impact on the global technology sector is valued at $200 billion in revenues (exports accounting for 75 per cent). This was largely fuelled by the world-class talent India has been able to churn consistently over these many years.

While the cost-arbitrage model has served the sector and the country well so far, the name of the game is now transforming and is demanding a whole new kind of skills that are becoming scarcer. This year, for example, demand for big data analytics and AI computing skills outstripped supply by nearly seven times, according to some estimates.

A more focused and in-demand-centric model for skill development alone can keep India’s IT success story going. This model alone can fill the gap that traditional skilling models (universities and engineering colleges) cannot do.

Outdated models

The $200 billion Indian IT sector, driven by its core competencies and strengths, has been the envy of the world for its ability to grow at dizzying speeds year on year. It is now set for the next round of its transformational journey piggybacking on digital technologies.

This transformation will need people with a different set of skills driven by new-age skills such as Data Science, Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). But, there is an acute shortage of manpower that can boast of these skills. The fresh engineering graduates are not equipped to meet today’s needs and demands of the industry. The reasons are not far to seek. The faculty members who teach them are unfamiliar with the new-age skills and technologies.

Most private organisations, irrespective of their size, claim that though the graduates might possess the theoretical knowledge, they usually lack the skills required even for entry-level jobs. The recruiters often find that most people they engage with can achieve more extraordinary things if they get the proper guidance.

The resultant talent crunch is crying for solutions to bridge the demand-supply gap. As companies seek to keep pace with the demands of their clients, the skills required for carrying out the work have seen significant shifts. Many specialised training institutions have stepped in to offer focused training with a model focusing on in-demand skills to ensure the sector stays ahead of the curve and meets the industry’s emerging demands.

This model alone can fill the gaps in university and engineering education. The traditional education and skilling models are found wanting as they are slow to change and always behind the curve.

The need to bridge this gap is imperative for the IT sector, given its importance for the economy, attracting vast foreign direct investment inflows. For example, the industry attracted a cumulative FDI of about $74.12 billion from April 2000. The significance of the sector can be gauged from the fact that the industry is ranked second in FDI inflows, according to the data from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). The industry is expected to grow to $350 billion by 2025.

IT is no longer about conventional knowledge as more firms are going digital, including the factories, utilities, and many legacy industries. As a result, leveraging data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence has become necessary for the sector.

Industry-academia gap

The Indian IT sector needed a new training model to keep with these demands. The main challenge is the industry-academia gap. The industry can continue to grow only if the gap is bridged. This is possible only if the pedagogy, curriculum and teachers are in sync with the industry standards. Only then can the students trained by them hit the ground running.

To keep this industry chugging on, the talent available should have the in-demand skills in the IT sector that include security, programming, systems and network, data analysis, DevOps, cloud computing, among others. Finding the numbers required for this can prove to be a serious challenge. The number of workers in India requiring digital skills will need to increase nine times by 2025.

At present, digitally-skilled workers make up only 12 per cent of India’s workforce. Letting the situation get out of hand could mean critical sectors like healthcare being hit seriously. Being able to program will be a must for those who want to develop software, web applications, and websites.

These courses are today being offered by industry professionals to match the demands of the industry. The team is built by the industry and for the industry. The result is visible for all to see. The graduates from these courses cite considerable gains in the remuneration packages with gains of even 400 per cent or more by making it to marquee names like Amazon and Microsoft.

Many leading Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra have also evolved and diversified their offerings. Lately, they have been showcasing their offerings in Blockchain, ML and AI to their clients through their differentiated offerings.

(The writer is Business Unit Head of Careers of Scaler Academy.)