Preparing Digital Workforces

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Preparing Digital Workforces

Sunday, 24 March 2019 | Atul Temurnikar

Preparing Digital Workforces

Educational institutions need to combine frontier technologies with skill-based teaching and learning in the new-age classrooms, writes Atul Temurnikar

The concepts of ‘digital skills’ and ‘digital competencies’ have broken through the confines of the information technology (IT) industry in recent years. They have become highly relevant yardsticks against which organisations across industries measure the most-valued resource: Their human capital. All eyes are on the upcoming generation of workers — known as the most digitally adept generation yet — to see how they can apply critical thinking skills and technology knowledge to achieve new levels of human progress in the highly technologically advanced workplace of tomorrow.

The new workplace expectations poses an important challenge to India’s education sector to prioritise skills building as the nation (ranked 80th) continues to trail behind other economies in the latest Global Talent Competitive Index. As a result, being prepared for the future workforce weighs heavily on the minds of parents and students.There is then no choice but for educational institutes to combine frontier technologies with skill-based teaching and learning in the classrooms, to equip upcoming generations of workers with the necessary proficiencies for tomorrow’s digital economy.

Digital skills shortage affects organisations worldwide

Business leaders are turning to the education sector for digital talents who have innovative thinking as they find themselves caught in an increasingly technology-driven and disruptive economic. Unfortunately, traditionally the education system was designed to produce academic excellence rather than to answer the question “how can we equip students with the necessary skills to accelerate innovation and drive economic growth?” This creates a gap between what is needed and what is available. The sharp rise in demand for data-driven capabilities, such as analytics and digital marketing, is creating a severe skill gap in the labour market. It is estimated that over half of the businesses worldwide are being affected by digital talent shortage, according to a report by Capgemini and LinkedIn. The threat of labour shortage is becoming very real for local Indian organisations.

Whilst the Government is placing an urgent focus on implementing training programmes and skills-building initiatives — notably with the launch of Skills India — these measures only alleviate but do not address the root of the problem: The lack of continuous exposure to technology and digital through the education journey.

Digital literacy should instead be developed from an early age, through the introduction of innovative ways of thinking and digital learning tools in classrooms, with the aim to foster young digital-first mindsets and develop the critical skills needed for the process of lifelong learning and constant reinvention. In this aspect, the education system holds the key to nurturing competent future workforces.

Digital education holds the key to future digital workforces

Digital is quickly becoming the foundation to everything we do in today’s information age. This includes educating young minds, who will in a few short years determine India’s economic growth and place on the global stage. It is then crucial to enrich every level of education with 21st century knowledge and its applications — through skill-based learning — to ensure that students today who will be tomorrow’s workforce can navigate and thrive in a fast-moving economic climate.

Our children are off to a promising start as they continue to benefit from an increasingly digital upbringing that helps shape their technology experiences and expectations from an early age. Schools and educators need to rise to the technology-driven characteristics of students to provide them with the right digital tools and channels to develop the necessary skills for the 21st century workplace.

We recognise the necessity of such skills and all our teachers as well as campuses are equipped with training, facilities and systems to inculcate these skills to our students. These skills include:

Collaboration: Mimicking the rising trend of workforce mobility, schools can explore the use of virtual technology and high-speed connectivity to promote knowledge-exchange and collaboration amongst students in different locations.

Digital competency: With automation and artificial intelligence poised to replace resource-heavy and repetitive tasks within organisations, schools can help their students improve future employability by preparing them for the human-machine partnership from today. The provision of student access to digital learning tools and robotics/AI labs can have far-reaching impacts in terms of shaping the next generation of digital workforce.

Innovation: It is important to help young curious minds understand that technology is not only a means to better productivity — it also holds the key to creating new values and breaking down boundaries of what is possible. Entrepreneur boot-camps and innovation competitions are an excellent way to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and applications of technology amongst students. Amidst calls for urgent actions to develop a future-ready workforce capable of powering new levels of innovation, the words of the renowned developmental psychologist Jean Piaget are more relevant than ever: “The principal goal of education is to create individuals who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done”. By having a clear grasp of new workplace requirements and applying a digital-first approach to its skills-based education, India can take strong steps in the right direction to equipping our children with the necessary skills to thrive in tomorrow.

The writer is Co-Founder and Chairman at Global Schools Foundation

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