Rameswar Mandali, Founder and CEO, SKILL MONKS

Skill seekers who are considering training program to upskill themselves have a hard time in deciding the right course and course provider for them. “In a skill seekers’ journey, it is imperative to enable career discovery to help choose skill seekers the right course which could enhance their job prospects. Once you have chosen the right course, it is equally important to connect to the best training companies which offer quality,” says Rameswar Mandali Founder and CEO, SKILL MONKS, which is a one-stop solution for diverse skill training and exam preparation needs for customers through a common platform. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Rameswar Mandali talks about the employability status of young Indian students, expected changes in the future jobs, skills that today’s recruiters consider when hiring fresh graduates, and many more.

 

Despite being a developing nation with a promising number of young talents, do we have appropriate skilling infrastructure in our country? Also, please elaborate on the employability status of young Indian students.

The existing skilling infrastructure is still not adequate/ up to the mark, which is clearly reflective of the concerns that recruiters have while hiring students from the college. They have to undertake significant investments in training fresh recruits so that they possess the necessary skills and are made aware of the functioning of essential systems to thrive in the workplace. This wouldn’t be the case if there was an appropriate skilling infrastructure present. The employability of young Indian students is not nearly as high as it should be because of the glaring gap between the skills and education imparted to them at educational institutions and the actual skills required to get absorbed into the market. There is a discernible mismatch. There is a strong need to bridge the gap between industry and academia to impart the right skills to improve student’s job prospects.

While we are churning out, a large number of engineers, the quality of these engineers is an issue. Companies have to invest a great deal in training to impart relevant skills before they become productive. Constant upgrade in the curriculum, backed by skill-based and project-based learning, can address some of the industry-academia gaps. While private telecom players have brought in affordable rates for data, digital infrastructure in terms of capacity and connectivity is an area which needs improvement. India boasts of close to 1,50,000 training companies which are predominantly delivered classroom-based training. Given the pandemic, there is a great need for these companies to embrace and adapt to the new ways of digital learning to manage change. Many of the training companies are shut down due to lack of inertia and resistance to change.

As the country progresses into knowledge and digital economy, what are the major challenges for academicians in India?

Overcoming their reluctance to make the transition from offline methods of teaching to more accessible and comprehensive online methods of teaching. One of the bigger challenges lies in pedagogy which is in the approach to teaching. Academicians need to embrace the new ways of digital learning. New ways of learning are just not about online teaching, but it is more about the delivery of content. The approach has to be focused on shorter duration and capsule-based learning for better impact. The focus has to be more enablement rather than lecturing. Online learning brings in its own set of challenges driven by limitations when it comes to experiential learning. Therefore, one needs to look at alternate options to bring in simulation to replicate learning’s which are lab-based.

Considering the plethora of information available on the internet, academicians should be willing to expose students to study material exclusive of the curriculum in addition to encouraging them to engage in more self-study to make the whole process of teaching and learning more holistic. The focus has to be on digital transition as a part of change management. They also need to bring relevant content and offerings in line with market requirements and industry trends.

Experts in the education and industry say that many of the present jobs and skillsets will soon become redundant. What are the major changes that we can expect in future jobs?

Although there are not going to be any changes in the immediate future, over the next couple of years; however, we can expect a lot of entry-level jobs across industries to undergo significant changes. Humans in such positions are most likely going to be replaced by machines which are facilitated by developments in the field of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The rate of change in terms of adoption to industry 4.0 will be much faster. One would see digitization as the key to managing customer relationships, partner engagements, brand building and customer acquisitions.

While core engineering jobs may not be impacted, machine learning, artificial intelligence and IoT will have a major impact on jobs across sectors which are process-oriented, customer interfacing, coding, and testing. To share an example, rapid adoption of AI tools in agriculture is redefining how some core jobs are transformed in this sector.  In a nutshell, industry 4.0 will have an impact across sectors. Therefore, people across sectors should be open to learning and acquiring new skills in the area of machine learning and artificial intelligence to stay relevant.

Since the demand for skill-based learning is growing, what Education 4.0 offers to fulfil the same?

Industry 4.0 is focused on cutting technologies like Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, IoT and Blockchain. The convergence of these technologies and use cases would drive adoption to bring in business and process automation to drive efficiency and bring in competitive advantage. The focus of skill seekers across segments of working professionals, Graduates and Students would be to acquire these skills through programs/certifications from basics to advanced learning to get industry ready and stay relevant through constant upskilling. Industry 4.0 is clearly emerging as sector agnostic, and it provides ample opportunity for professionals across sectors to acquire fresh skills and upskill themselves to stay relevant.

What impact will upskilling create on commerce graduates and working professionals?

Upskilling would not only improve their chances at employability but would also increase the scope/range of jobs they could apply for, thanks to the diverse skill set they would have acquired. For example, in the case of commerce graduates, learning programming languages as a part of Data sciences offering like R, Python or even SQL for that matter could give them an edge over their peers. It will also make them viable prospects for hire in the fields of risk analysis, data analysis, etc. Cybersecurity is another emerging area which is witnessing massive growth and recruiting. AWS, DevOps and digital marketing are some of the critical areas which are growing exponentially.

While we rely on technology to drive change and manage the transition, it is important to know that machines cannot fully replace the skills required in managing people and the associated emotional quotient. Therefore, the need for professionals across educational disciplines will continue to exist. However, one needs to be open to change in acquiring relevant skills on time to ensure the survival of the fittest.

Why short – term courses are helpful for professionals at any level?

It helps them acquire new skills and improve their technical proficiency which is of utmost importance to survive in a dynamic marketplace. These courses also give professionals an edge from the perspective of career growth as it reflects an attitude of constantly wanting to learn and get better. One is witnessing a trend of combining soft skills with technical skills to bring in differentiation.

Is content important for skill creation?

In a skill seekers’ journey, it is very important to enable career discovery to help choose skill seekers the right course which could enhance their job prospects. Once you have chosen the right course, it is equally important to connect to the best training companies which offer quality. When it comes to quality relevant content which offers a good blend between learning, internships, and use cases would bring a holistic perspective in bringing about industry readiness.

Content does play a vital role in skill creation as the right information must be appropriately conveyed to the users so that it achieves its practical purpose – be it learning a new language for a particular project or up-skilling for better job prospects and does not simply become a theoretical endeavour with no practical applications or no real use for that matter.

Do we have a demand-supply gap in Indian higher education? What are the loopholes in the Indian Education System?

We have a demand-supply gap in the Indian market. I would like to specifically dwell upon some important areas which are witnessing exponential demand like Data sciences, Cybersecurity, and Digital marketing. We have a major supply mismatch in terms of quality of professionals who could take up such opportunities and make a meaningful contribution to the global demand. The point of discussion is not about having adequate numbers, the larger issue is about relevant skilled professionals with the right blend of attitude, domain understanding and technical skills.  Mushrooming of colleges without adequate infrastructure, lack of competent faculty and relevant curriculum is also leading to academia-industry gaps.

What are the critical skills that today’s recruiters consider when hiring fresh graduates?

Aside from adequate technical knowledge and proficiency, recruiters also look for people with the ability to think on their feet. They are in search of people who can improvise quickly to present solutions to fit a variety of problem statements varying according to need; basically, people who can be employed in a dynamic, continuously changing work environment. Recruiters also require people who are willing to work in a team and understand the importance of delegating work to others at times instead of suffering a burn-out by virtue of trying to become a one-man army.

In short, recruiters are looking for good soft skills, the right attitude, team play/ team management, relevant technical skills and an open mind for upskilling/reskilling and learning at large. Of course, some of the managerial competencies like team management, coaching and mentoring, managing team dynamics, leadership skills, change management are key, but whoever they would vary depending on your role play in the organization.

What is your advice to the students?  

My advice to the students would be to keep abreast with the latest trends and happenings in the industry: openness to change, willingness to unlearn and relearn to meet the ever-changing dynamics in the marketplace. Look at skilling / higher learning as an investment and not a cost for your career progression. It is important to have the right blend of technical skills combined with soft skills and a good understanding of the business domain to be a successful professional. There are millions of graduates who are waiting to get employed. While it is important to secure a job, it is even more important to acquire relevant knowledge and skills. Internships provide a great opportunity to get job-ready. One should, therefore, look at internship opportunities as a learning platform and use time productively.

More About Rameswar Mandali

Rameswar Mandali is a serial entrepreneur with 12+ years of experience in EdTech, Digital Transformation, Mobility, Training, Analytics, and Instructional design. He has also mentored more than 100000+ students for IT, Banking and PSU jobs in first 6+ years of his career journey.

At SKILL MONKS, Rameswar is responsible for scaling up business through strategizing new digital initiatives, architecting the tech and enabling strategic partnerships. He drives end-to-end strategy in setting up of new verticals and the teams.

Before SKILL MONKS, Rameswar cofounded EdVinci Innovation Labs in 2015, offering intuitive mobility solutions for impactful learning in K12 space and had set up learning channels with 100000+ followers on social platforms. In 2012 he joined Talentsprint’s leadership team through the acquisition of Career Vision Group, a training firm founded for Government job aspirants. He played a pivotal role in Digital transformation at Talentsprint and acted as Director for BFSI division. Before the acquisition of Career Vision Group, he had successfully run CivilSuare and CATguru offering training programs for Civil services and CAT entrance aspirants respectively for 4 years along with Career vision group.

Rameswar holds an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from IIT – BHU and aspired for Civil Services after college. He feels preparing for Civils had been a quite enriching experience in understanding a wide spectrum of things. Apart from business, he has a keen interest in sports, spiritual and socio-political subjects.

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