Mr. S. Ramadorai, Former Vice-Chairman, Tata Consultancy Services and Former Chairman, National Skill Development Corporation, India
In this era, digital technology, AI, robotics etc. have accelerated at an unprecedented rate. In order to succeed in this digital age, we must invest in human beings and ensure that our children and youth grow up to be more intelligent, creative, collaborative, and humane. These attributes, are the key drivers of education and skill development in the 21st Century. The following are some of the key areas where collaboration in pertinent issues can take us ahead:
REALIZATION OF THE POTENTIAL OF AUTOMATION AND INNOVATION:
This is the age of automation and innovation at the ecosystem level and an apt time for all stakeholders including the government, businesses, universities, and think-tanks to work together in real-time in order to embrace change and identify the opportunities presented by these changes in a collaborative manner. In this context, a Niti Aayog task force on realizing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), has submitted a report on the matter. In addition to the above mentioned stakeholders, a number of angel investors, venture capitalists, private equities and corporate investors should also create new platforms in this aspect.
EMBRACING DIGITAL TOOLS FOR LIFELONG LEARNING:
Today, one of the key vectors of change in the ecosystem is our youth who are digital natives, as they are born in the age of internet and rapidly advancing technology. They are instinctively comfortable with collaboration and continuous learning.
In many of our leading technology companies, the digital natives are leading the way for the rest of the workforce. There are also initiatives to ensure that cutting-edge technologies such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), virtual reality, simulations are available for learning. Youth of today from various parts of the country, be they from the metros or remoter districts such as Karbi Anglong, Koraput etc. are demanding that such cutting edge technologies be made available.\
It should be noted that such demands for technology powered skills are not just limited to Information Technology (IT), professionals such as welding apprentices, handloom weavers etc. want internet-enabled, AI-enhanced capital to participate in a global marketplace.
RECOGNITION OF PRIOR SKILLS:
Recognition of prior skills is an important and prerequisite step towards professionalization of industries such as the construction industry, transportation industry etc. Our youth, in any sector, demand and deserve the right to education, skilled labour and a meaningful livelihood.
It is the joint responsibility of the government, corporations, universities and society at large to ensure that the youth have the ability and opportunity to earn a meaningful livelihood. In order to do this, there needs to be collaboration. For example, in the North-East region, Tata Motors brought in a variety of private sector partners from the automobile sector and partnered with state governments and local entrepreneurs to upgrade ITIs.
Several foreign governments now recognize skill certifications of our youth, thus enabling global mobility for them. Foreign governments are also collaborating with the government, private sector partners and NGOs to provide world class skilling opportunities for our youth. For example, the Skill Development Center in Delhi works in collaboration with the Government of Singapore.
ADOPTION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND SKILLS IN THE ERA OF FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (4.0):
This is an era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4.0), which is powered by rapidly advancing technologies such as the internet of things (IOT), big data, robotics, AI, 3-D printing, nanotechnology etc. These technologies allow companies to reduce production costs and re-shore manufacturing. For example, 3-D Printing allows rapid prototyping and design iterations, and production of spare parts locally, wherever required, thus rendering many traditional manufacturing and logistics processes obsolete. Indian companies need to respond proactively and upgrade the skills of employees to play a globally impactful role in the emerging 4.0 paradigm.
Majority of India still lives in rural areas, which makes it necessary for us to create jobs and self-employment opportunities in those areas. We must strengthen the traditional sectors such as agriculture, handicraft, etc. Rural entrepreneurship opportunities should also be prioritized and promoted.
ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT:
To create a workforce ready for the age of technology, there is a need for inter-ministerial collaboration as well as collaboration across every sector. The government can act as a platform where various sectors meet and discuss relevant issues.
SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SME) SECTOR
To exploit the emerging opportunities, there is an urgent need to study the potential of the SME sector and the challenges faced by it. The sector has the potential to act as a catalyst for social-economic transformation of the country and is critical in meeting the objectives such as employment generation, reduction of income inequality etc.
School education in India must prepare our children for the age of AI and robotics. The private sector in partnership with the government should take measures to improve the quality of education in schools. The teacher-training program being run by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is a good example of a collaborative model where best practices in pedagogy are being disseminated to schools.
When it comes to formulating PPPs at the school level, global evidence suggests that whole-school adoption PPPs are particularly effective at demonstrating innovation and improvement in quality of education delivered. In this model, the government authorizes and reimburses a private operator to manage school operations, with varying degrees of autonomy to innovate. Countries such as the United States, England and Colombia have adopted variants of this model with fair success. Such PPPs are already in pilot phase in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Punjab. PPPs in education will be useful for resolving issues of education provision, financing, management, access and quality.
Apprenticeship will play a crucial role in promoting skill acquisition and improving the employability of the Indian youth. In this context, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and National Skill Development Corporation have developed a unique model to integrate skill-based training in the academic cycle of some universities along with apprenticeship, which will be a variant of Degree Apprenticeships. This model, if successful, should be replicated in different parts of the country.
In addition, the afore-mentioned stakeholders could consider the following action points to develop the workforce of the future:
- Nurturing a national culture of research that promotes collaboration
- Policies to incentivize business-university interactions
- Employability as a measured outcome of curricula
- CSR funds for investment in universities with skill development initiatives
Thus, there is a need to do more together, and to do it now.