Skill vs Scale: What really is the problem?

The news today is flooded with IT companies seeming to scale down with layoffs in the thousands! One can’t help but wonder, is this the end? Are machines going to take over humans? While these questions loom, TeamLease Services report on ‘IT hiring projections for 2019 says that’ the Indian IT industry is expected to add around 2.5 lakh new jobs this year. The IT industry hired 1.7 lakh professionals in 2017-18.  The sector is geared up to add around 250,000 new jobs by the end of  2019.

IT companies are finding it difficult to find candidates to fill in vacant positions for software architects and data engineers. So what really is the issue? History is always on the roll, teaching us one lesson at a time, more clearly than others. A lot of big changes take place silently, in the beginning, and catch momentum till things reach a bursting point. A transformation that began some years after the IT industry boom, happened in the skilling space. It is already being called a revolution by some experts.

With the constant change in technology, the Indian IT industry is naturally going through a major transformation. It now embraces new technology like cloud computing, automation, newer ways of data management and analytics among others.

THE WIDENING SKILL GAP

There has always been a discussion and debate in the Indian IT industry on the availability of candidates with the right skills who can be readily employable. It has been noticed that the gap between the availability of this workforce and the demand for the skilled workforce is widening even though this trend was evident even from the nascent stage of IT in India. In the beginning days, the main reason for this demand-supply gap was the disconnect between academia and the industry. But today, there is yet another reason added to this already existing gap – the rapid change in technology!

With the background of a technological landscape that is rapidly reinventing, the need for specialized and very niche skills like cloud computing, data management, and app development is also being perfect catalysts. India’s IT & ITeS industry grew to US$ 181 billion in 2018-19 and undergoing a sharp shift in the way it goes about its business, this is mostly because clients are demanding different kinds of skill sets in comparison to the past. An analysis from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 suggests that only a small section of the youth reported receiving any skill training, and a large share of them was either unemployed or out of the employed workforce, the data shows.

Nationally, only 1.8% of the population reported receiving formal vocational/technical training in 2017-18. 5.6% reported receiving informal vocational training (such as hereditary, self-learning, and on the job training). This means 93% of the population did not receive any vocational/technical training from either formal or informal sources. And this is where the real problem of unemployability lies.

THE ONLY SOLUTION

A panel including top industry leaders from Cognizant, Mindtree, Wipro, Tech Mahindra etc pointed out that the root cause of all problems in the IT sector is in fact skilling. This shift all over the world has resulted in two options. Disrupt or die! The disruption may be automation where machines are replacing men but the even bigger disruption is the changing technologies and the workforce needed to run them. And the second of the later has become more prominent. Indian IT giants like TCS reported that its employees logged over 52 million learning hours in FY19, resulting in over 311,000 employees getting trained on digital technologies, and over 348,000 trained on agile methodologies. (Metrics: Fortune India)

Skills are seen as a new currency. Even if their life cycle is becoming shorter, the choice of re-skill still exists when you had started with specialized learning at some point. As such, the mantra today is up-skill! 

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