Dr Minu Madlani is the Principal of K.P.B Hinduja College and has held various senior positions in top colleges across Mumbai in a career spanning more than 3 decades. She holds a PhD (Commerce) in Rural Development with her subject being Marketing of Agricultural Products. Dr Madlani started her teaching career as a lecturer with Mithibai College, Mumbai. Over the years she has been a faculty member at Jai Hind College. She has held the position of a Principal of L.S Raheja College of Arts & Commerce for seven years before moving on to K.B.P. Hinduja College of Commerce in 2014. At the University of Mumbai, Dr Madlani has been an instrumental figure, especially in the Commerce stream.
The coronavirus pandemic started to intensify in India around March 2020. Since then, businesses and professionals have been forced to adopt digitization in its real sense with finesse. With the virus bringing life to a standstill, it isn’t just the employers feeling the pressure to adapt to new innovative technologies for running ‘business as usual’, but also the workers who are being continuously pushed to the edge to learn and upskill. As per a report by the Harvard Business Review, the impact of COVID-19 has brought to light a rising digital divide between the company and different parts of their workforce. As the pandemic accelerates and telework surfaces as a new norm, the term ‘adapt or die’ feels more relevant today.
The global pandemic has accelerated the digital future and what we called the ‘Future of Work’ is now the present. Remote learning and working have forced individuals to interact virtually and learn new technologies to embrace digitization. According to Gartner, ‘Digital Dexterity’ will continue to be a priority in the current environment. What it means is simple – the ability to make the best out of technology for better business outcomes.
While the world is grappling to cope with the negative impact of COVID-19, the pandemic has presented itself with opportunities to overcome India’s biggest challenges – access and employment. Advancements in digital technology have led to the creation of new job roles and new business opportunities, thus giving rise to employment in the country.
This calls for the need to bridge the industry-academia gap to make students future-ready in a post-COVID world. Higher educational institutions will have to step up and build digital and other skills to make students employable. While there would be certain technical requirements of a company when it comes to bringing new members of the team on board, certain skill sets are likely to be in demand across industries in a post-COVID world. Let us take a look.
1. Digital Literacy
The biggest challenge of adapting to remote working has been digital literacy. The lack of digital skills remains the top binding constraint for young employees with more than 84% of them citing it as a topmost constraint in a survey conducted by the Sea in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
Higher Education Institutes need to provide relevant courses that will help bridge this gap. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics have always been in demand as they make businesses more immune to pandemics like the Covid-19. Teaching students skills like coding and programming will not only help students in being relevant and future-ready but also digitally competent.
2. Data Literacy
With most of the work shifting to online platforms with the outbreak of COVID-19, organizations are having to maintain huge amounts of data on the cloud. Therefore, data and cloud security have become important skills for organizations across sectors. Data Literacy, analytics and data science have become crucial to an organization’s growth in these challenging times and therefore require skilled professionals.
3. Soft Skills
If there is anything that this outbreak has taught us, it is the need to improve on our soft skills. The uncertainty imposed by the global pandemic has left many organizational heads looking for employees who are agile, high on communication skills and collaborative.
As remote learning takes precedence, organizations are looking at hiring employees that possess these soft skills to run ‘business as usual’ in tough situations like the world is facing right now. Educators should focus on developing these skills amongst students through various project-based assignments where they can inculcate skills like teamwork and crisis management and improve on other relevant soft skills.
4. Creativity and Innovation
Digitization brings with itself an opportunity to create and innovate products and solutions for target customers in a new environment. In a post-COVID world, organizations will look to hire employees that can give unconventional solutions to drive growth in business during unprecedented times. Workshops on creativity and innovation that can stir the young minds can help build this extremely crucial skill. Sure, it won’t build overnight. These skills will have to be developed on the job. But with the right amount of training and exposure to creativity boosting sessions from higher educational institutions, it will instigate students on how to think creatively and become innovators in the future.
Lastly, a very important skill in the new normal would be ‘Leadership’. As employees will continue to work remotely, the young workforce will also be expected to be proactive, self-motivated and high on leadership skills to be equipped to manage remote working teams. Employees with such skills would be extremely appealing to hiring managers in a post-COVID-19 world. Therefore, giving access to such courses online which can help students build this skill would be a step forward in making students future-ready.
Providing industry-relevant technical skills and courses is just one way of bridging the gap between academics and industry. However, what educational institutions need to focus on is the importance of holistic development of students to make them successful leaders of tomorrow.