Facing the future

VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) will soon cease to be a little-known acronym. From a career standpoint, it is becoming an implicit fact of life. Even top-notch qualifications from the world’s best universities might no longer be a guarantee for lifelong employment without the temperament for continuous learning and reskilling. India’s dependency ratiothe ratio of dependants to earners has seen a steady decline recently, with the number of citizens who fall within the working-age of 15-65 tipping the scale significantly. This bulge in the working age population began in 2018 and is likely to continue till 2055, or slightly beyond. However, for this demographic to truly prove a dividend, the next generation of Indians need to be appropriately skilled to take advantage of the new opportunities the VUCA world throws at us.

Changing needs, new roles: The rising demand for talent in artificial intelligence (AI), big data and analytics is well known. AI has entered our lives through smartphones, home assistants, apps and a number of other digital products. And it won’t be long before most industries and businesses rely on such technologies.

However, a 2018 study by NASSCOM indicates a major shortfall in available talent, in the region of 140,000 people. Given that the total employment in sectors using and developing these technologies is around 370,000, the talent gap assumes huge proportions. The study goes on to say that by 2021, these figures (both for available talent and shortfall) will grow by as much as 15 per cent. The job roles in these sectors fall into five distinct fields, architecture, administration and governance, engineering, analysis and decision-making. Within these, some jobs are in core AI and big data analytics, while others are in auxiliary aspects of the field. Diving further into the data, the headcount of 370,000 is overwhelmingly made up of analysts in the region of 71 per cent. About 24 per cent of these jobs are in big data, with only 5 per cent of employees engaged as data scientists, underscoring a distinct demand pattern. It has also been established that the use of AI, though reducing the number of jobs available in the short run, will actually augment human productivity. That being said, some jobs aren’t coming back about 75 million will be lost, by 2022. However, according to a study by the World Economic Forum, this will be more than offset by over 133 million new jobs created by new technologies. It is critical for current and future employees and workers to develop skills and earn qualifications in fields that will be in hot demand where technology and non-technological backgrounds intersect. The Liberal Arts is a degree area that will likely open up new opportunities, quite distinct from the traditional paths careers based on this qualification have taken.

Growing demand for soft skills: In an AI-led environment, liberal arts and practical workplace training will have a symbiotic relationship. If science, engineering, mathematics, programming, business finance and economics fall within the purview of hard skills, then liberal arts and humanities will play an equally important role in the human-machine interface. Soft skills such as networking, influencing, collaboration and storytelling are needed for agile, cross-functional and matrix organisational structures to work. Also, careers in design and user experience will have many takers. Design is not only about aesthetics but also about functionality. Using technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, techniques like design thinking and creative problem-solving, study topics such as ethnography and sociology will lead to paradigms where the user is central to the experience. n

Kirti Seth is industry lead, future skills, at NASSCOM


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