Emerging technologies have been making jobs redundant and creating new jobs, since time immemorial. The evolution of technology has been the fastest pace in the last two decades. Hence, it is no surprise that the rapid evolution of technology has resulted in the extinction of many job roles and birth of many more job opportunities. Take, for example, the Recruitment Business: A decade ago, it was a people-centric business where who one knew and what one knew mattered in being 'found' by recruiters. Recruiters good at people skills and networking had an advantage in this space.
Today, with LinkedIn profiles, online job portals, and corporate job pages, search for talent amongst hundreds and sometimes thousands of applications can be carried out by a simple Machine Learning algorithm that can be adapted from freeware available on the Internet. There is little an experienced recruiter can do in this environment to keep himself relevant except to reskill and see how such algorithms can be improvised.
With advancements and changes in the market moving rapidly, employability remains one of the biggest challenges of the century. Skills are perhaps the most important indicator of employability since both knowledge and attitude can be gauged by the skill displayed by the candidate. While knowledge is a cognitive dimension, assessed through written or oral examination, and attitude through observation, skill is the only component of learning that can be gauged by overt behavior. Of the three outcomes, the behavioral outcome is the only one that can determine the potential of a candidate to perform a job. While one may have knowledge - only skills can determine whether the knowledge can be translated into productivity.
Traditionally, tertiary education across the world laid emphasis on knowledge dissemination whilst vocational education focused on building skills. This model is fast becoming redundant as soft skills are becoming dominant and an integral part of tertiary education whilst hard skills are fast becoming redundant with the penetration of automation. New age skills such as learning to learn, problem-solving, design thinking and creative thinking are becoming the dominant skills for employability. The traditional focus of skilling to address low-level jobs has to be changed to deliver the new age skills in order to keep the workforce employed.
As the level of education increases, there is usually an increased focus on knowledge component, rendering students less and less skillful. This was a useful format in the days when the basic skills were already in place and students only acquired new knowledge to upgrade their skills on their own. However, new age skills required today cannot be acquired overnight; they need to be practiced and perfected at all levels of education. For example, while a student of statistics maybe skilled in the premises of data analysis, with Big Data taking over as a dominant data source, the data scientist requires a completely different set of skills to do the same job a statistician did a decade ago Automation and robotics can quickly replace a lot of the work that was done by accountants and financiers. It is up to these professionals to update for relevance in the future and this requires skill more than knowledge. Higher education must start titling the balance of their offering from dominant knowledge dissemination to skilling and reskilling.
Companies have been laying off employees in large numbers owing to technological changes leading to anxiety and coping disabilities. This further deteriorates employability of candidates. Online platforms and MOOCs have stepped in where corporate and universities have not, to help those seeking to upskill themselves. There is a big gap between the needs of the industry and what is being taught in the classrooms of higher education. Engagement and confluence of academic and industry minds are a necessity to ensure relevance of higher education curriculum and to bridge the knowledge-skill dichotomy.
Sanjay Padode : Post the completion of his obligation as the CEO of Religare Technova, Sanjay was keen to dedicate his self to the cause of education and took over as the Secretary of Center for Developmental Education a not for profit society which runs the IFIM Business School. Besides managing this Business School, Sanjay is working on establishing a University and a K-12 school.
Srividya Raghavan: Dr. Srividya Raghavan is the Chairperson of Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor for Marketing at IFIM Business School. Her extensive 12-year career in academics includes the introduction of industry inclusive and innovative experiential pedagogy, development of new-age and innovative courses, development of award-winning cases, several awards for case writing and research, consulting with start-ups and several publications in international and national journals.