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As we head to a new decade, we know technology has changed our lives forever. Upskilling has become mainstream and so has online education. Many international universities such as Northern Arizona University, University of Massachusetts, University of Cambridge and Duke University now offer education online. The Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, has recently partnered with Cousera to launch two online certificate courses in Management Science and Supply Chain Analytics for a global audience as per their website. Education today is no longer up to a certain duration only. In an era of lifelong learning, it is important we continuously invest in educating ourselves. and upGrad is one such platform that enables reskilling and upskilling. In my year-end feature, I interviewed Ronnie Screwvala, Co-founder and Chairman of upGrad, for his views on the future of education, online learning and reskilling. We also spoke about company-sponsored sabbaticals and new roles. Read on to know more.

What are the future of work trends in a global context for 2020?

‘Non-linear thinking’ will be massively encouraged by employers, as that will be the key currency of competitive advantage for companies.

The physical location of companies have already started being immaterial, and will be more so, as AI-driven smart working solutions will be ample. This will also result in flexi-time work culture across the globe. Therefore, regulations and laws, government policies imposing them as well as the worker sentiment, all will transition to adopt a more automated workplace.

Coming to the Indian context, we will witness a sharp increase in learning and development budgets as the workforce will need to be reskilled to adopt the automated workplace. Gig economy, which was so far largely leveraged by startups and smaller-sized companies, will now find a greater uptake by large corporates as well.

Education needs to change. How do you think it will and what are the new opportunities it will create?

The first step is to ‘acknowledge’ this need to change education. India will have an incremental requirement of 103.4 million skilled workers within high-priority sectors such as construction, real estate and retail, between 2017 and 2022, as per NSDC. The localisation of physical colleges and the restrictions they have in the number of students they can train will limit the dissemination of quality education to the masses. Online education is the only way. And, it’s large-scale online education that can power and accelerate the $5 trillion economy ambition.

Which industry will disrupt and which ones are expected to get disrupted in the coming years?

Frankly, any and every industry which is bent on innovation, rapidly adaptive and can find out the right niche,  are expected to disrupt.

Emerging disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, 3D printing, internet of things (IoT) and blockchain are giving way to innovations in business models in IT industry that have never been envisioned before. Technological breakthroughs have altered consumer behaviour and expectations, most notably experienced among the millennial generation.

What marks these technologies distinct is the pace at which upcoming startups are disrupting traditionally well-defined industries. Industries ranging from manufacturing, BFSI, Auto and retail, e-commerce, healthcare to hospitality will be similarly disrupted in the coming years.

The education industry itself will be in for massive disruption with the adoption of blockchain technology, which will pave way for authenticated users to share academic information seamlessly and securely.

Your take on the reskilling revolution. What does data show as the trends for Gen Z, Millennials and Baby Boomers at work?

Lifelong learning is the new mantra and soon the conversations around

Lifelong learning will move from the boardroom to the dinner table. As the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution create new pressures on labour markets, education reform, lifelong learning initiatives will be key to ensuring both that; individuals have access to economic opportunity by remaining competitive in the new world of work, and that businesses have access to the talent they need for the jobs of the future.

Speaking about trends, let’s look at the trends in the context of work experience, rather than age - as that’s more relevant here. Professionals with 10+ years of work experience are more prone to feel stuck in their career and thereby feel the need to reskill more strongly. The ones with 5 - 10 years of work experience are the second set in whom the fear of stagnation is building up. The last set is the less than 5 years of work experience, who we call the procrastinators - they realise the need, yet are in a deep slumber to act.

Three new roles that will exist that we cannot imagine today?

The jobs of the future will require a fair amount of interaction with data and the skillset to work in a digital ecosystem. Digital technologies like AR, VR, blockchain, cloud, etc. which will fundamentally change the way interaction happens between the physical and digital world. The digital macro-trend, coupled with an increase in usage of data, is going to now drive the workplace ecosystem. This can lead to the emergence of multiple roles that may not exist today. For example, Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Cybersecurity Specialist and Quality Lead Generation specialist.

How will the future of work impact the way you work/ have been working?

I see an obsolesce of repetitive tasks and job roles involving the same getting redundant. The fact that the physical and digital world can talk using technologies like IoT, will lead to repetitive tasks getting automated. From an organisation point of view, the focus on talent strategy is becoming increasingly important, so is the need for developing the mindset for non-linear thinking.

Do you support sabbaticals to reskill and when should a professional take one?

Sabbaticals are extremely subjective and there is no hard and fast rule as to when one should take one. It’s the context in which you take a sabbatical and how you make use of it, make a difference. In my company upGrad, we have witnessed new moms enrolling for higher education programmes while on a sabbatical, and subsequently rejoining the workforce at a superior role and package. So, yes, sabbaticals can be a great way to advance your skill sets and discover new prospects in life.

How can companies support re-skilling of professionals when such programmes are either expensive, time-consuming or simply the employee is too important to be given a break?

No, you don’t need a break to reskill anymore. That’s the biggest advantage of online education, which can be availed while you continue your work. At upGrad itself, we have partnerships with companies like Infosys, Wipro, AstraZeneca, Adfactors PR, etc. wherein we offer formal education programmes to their existing workforce, while they continue their regular work.

How much of education will move to online and how soon?

The dominant mindset of most Indians is that formal learning is till the age of 20 to 25 years and the focus for the rest of the life is on experiential learning, typically at the workplace. This has been bolstered by the structure of the traditional education system. The current system is clearly believed to be providing an output of low-employable students. The skill gap between the products of the education system and the requirements at the workplace is high. This gap does and will continue to fuel the growth of online education in India. While in present the penetration of online education in India is below 5 percent. It can move to around 20 percent with the necessary boost from government and regulatory bodies

Nisha Ramchandani is the principal author of 'The Future of Work' series.

Published Date: Dec 27, 2019 06:12 AM | Updated Date: Dec 27, 2019 12:12 PM IST

Tags : #3D printing #Artificial Intelligence #future of work #Internet of things #machine learning #Non-linear thinking #Robotics #Ronnie Screwvala #Upgrad

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