Anish Srikrishna, CEO, Times Professional Learning

Anish Srikrishna is the Chief Executive Officer of Times Professional Learning, the Edtech Higher-Ed business of the Times of India group. Anish brings over 25 years of experience in leading businesses and shaping large consumer brands. Having started his career with rewarding stints at Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Coca-Cola India and Samsung India, Anish went on to build and lead successful businesses across industry sectors. With eleven years’ experience in the Indian education and edtech space, Anish firmly believes in building learner focused education businesses that are commercially successful. Anish has led TPL since 2015-16 and the company has seen growth of over 93% CAGR becoming one of the few Edtech companies in India to show a profit. Prior to joining TPL, Anish was VP for Higher Education and Test Prep at Pearson India.

 

Over the last few years, global trends, such as digitalisation, globalisation, and the changing nature of work, have precipitated a paradigm shift in skill requirements across every sector. The Indian workforce is not yet equipped to deal with these rapid changes with more than half of aspiring professionals failing to meet the criteria for ‘high employability’. The International Labour Organisation predicts a skill deficit of 29 million by 2030 even as 53 per cent of Indian businesses found themselves unable to hire suitable candidates because of their lack of skills.

For a digital-first economy, this lack of future skills is a matter of great concern. The talent gap extends across different industries with one estimate putting India among the top five countries that face acute skill shortages. These figures reveal that while there are jobs, the emerging workforce lacks the skills that are in demand across industries.

Positioning this data against the 19 per cent unemployment rate among Indian graduates, shows clear gaps in our higher education, especially when it comes to skill development. Equipping aspiring professionals with these critical skills is necessary not only to reduce the talent and unemployment gap, but also to ensure that our workforce retains its competitive edge. To keep pace with a rapidly changing work landscape, we must reinvent our approach towards skill development, training, and apprenticeship programmes, in keeping with the emerging trends.

Demand for holistic skills

Technological disruptions across different sectors have created a high demand for digital expertise along with technical skills. However, the changing work culture, highly competitive economy, and globalisation require a holistic skill set that includes cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Cognitive skills refer to the ability to understand complex ideas, quickly adapt to new developments, apply reason to a situation, and think creatively. A dynamic work environment also requires socio-emotional skills to navigate interpersonal relationships and develop leadership potential, while working in a team.

Record FDI inflow to drive employability and skill development

As the economy recovers, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are at a record high with an inflow of USD 22.53 billion during the second quarter of 2021. It is an impressive 90 per cent year-on-year growth that indicates a rising confidence in India’s economy. With an overwhelming proportion of the funds flowing to the IT industry, it throws the glaring IT skill gap across industries into sharp focus. India will need to boost its digitally skilled workforce by nine times by 2025 to meet emerging demand. The focus will, therefore, shift towards reskilling and upskilling within the industry.

Integration of education and mainstream skills

As skill development is key in the NEP 2020 framework, there will be greater integration between higher education and vocational training, to be administered through schools, colleges, and universities. The NEP will further augment this integration with a multi-disciplinary approach designed to shift focus towards competency-based learning.

Focus on skill development of marginalised sections

Central government schemes like SANKALP (Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion) will improve skill training by strengthening the district-based learning ecosystem, standardisation of certifications and ensuring private participation and market relevance. One of its key focus areas has been to improve access to skill training for women and other marginalised sections of society. At the same time, schemes like the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) bring together apprentices, prospective employers, and training providers under one umbrella.

Entrepreneurship schemes, funding to witness a leap

As start-ups report record funding in 2021, the focus will shift towards strengthening entrepreneurship schemes further. These can include more funding initiatives and bootcamps that will help budding ventures to scale up. With a higher cash flow in India’s start-up ecosystem, there will be greater demand for skilled people, especially in high-growth industries, such as edtech and fintech.

Gig economy to drive upskilling

The gig economy can create 90 million jobs in the non-farming economy with over USD 250 billion in earnings in the next few years. However, its full potential is dependent on the availability of a highly skilled workforce, especially in digital and technical realms. To stay competitive, gig workers will go for further upskilling, whether in blue-collar jobs or the IT/ITES industry.

Hybrid learning to further develop skilled personnel in rural India

While the government has taken initiatives like SANKALP to further upskill rural India, these efforts will be strengthened with a hybrid learning approach, which will augment conventional teaching methods, providing rural learners with digital educational tools to improve learning outcomes and bringing them up to par with industry requirements across different sectors.

Prepare skills addressing global demand

With the advent of Industry 4.0, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2020 predicted that almost one-third of all jobs will see a digital transformation in the next decade. By 2022, it expected 42 per cent of the core skills associated with existing jobs to change. This transformation has been further accelerated by the pandemic with the WEF now calling for an urgent and agile approach towards upskilling. By bringing its emerging workforce in line with industry best practices, India stands to gain an additional global GDP growth of USD 571 million. With a growing global demand for a skilled workforce, upskilling initiatives in growth areas like tech and green economy will further pick up the pace.

Initiation of lifelong learning skills at learning stage

With the NEP 2020 laying stress on skill development from the foundational stage, the curricular and pedagogical framework in primary education is seeing a more multifaceted approach. The focus has shifted to developing skills from a very early stage, revolving around the 4Cs – communication, creativity, critical thinking, and character development. This approach is meant to begin teaching students the required skills from an early age for today’s increasingly volatile and complex world.

Fuelling innovations through skilling

The pandemic revealed the importance of an innovative approach in countering challenges and staying agile. As the economy recovers, innovation will be key in gaining a competitive edge and staying ahead of the curve. With Industry 4.0 further changing the industry, working landscape and upskilling the emerging workforce will be the key to driving innovation. Given the fast pace of technology and a rapidly changing economy, reskilling and upskilling programs will now become a regular part of career development with more companies now investing in such programmes.

These trends show a growing cognisance towards future-ready skills across various sectors. Even as growing investments drive upskilling initiatives in the private sector, the government’s focus, through policies like Skill India, will ensure a holistic approach in our education framework. If India hopes to exploit its demographic advantage, we must continue to invest in skill and apprenticeship development to stay agile in the face of evolving industry requirements.

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