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Age of AI: India reproducing a jobless generation or set to become the Global Talent Capital?

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By Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD, upGrad

In recent years, India’s talent landscape has transformed significantly. Previously known as a hub for cost-effective IT outsourcing, India now embraces cutting-edge technologies like data science, AI, ML, and emerging innovations such as generative AI, GPT, Prompt Engineering, and Dall/Mid journey. Technology is transforming not only how we study but also the skills needed to power our future economy. India’s tech talent pool is adapting and upskilling to meet new demands, showcasing remarkable potential for global technology innovations.

India boasts the world’s largest youth population with the working-age population projected to reach 68.9% of the total population by 2030. A recent report indicates that India has the second largest pool of highly-skilled AI, machine learning and big data talent after the US producing 16% of the world’s AI talent pool. These figures, coupled with the rise of online education, fuel optimism and position India as a global talent and skilling capital.

To unlock the untapped potential of our large youth population, we aim to achieve a 50% gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education, doubling the current rate of 25-30%. Online education and degrees will play a key role in this transition.

The pandemic transformed learning, emphasizing the significance of innovation-led practical education. Recruiters now seek agile and market-ready talent capable of anticipating market conditions and leveraging niche technologies for business success. To address this demand, universities in India partnered with Edtech companies to create a comprehensive learning ecosystem. This collaboration aims to equip graduates with the necessary theories, hands-on training, and essential “power” skills, enhancing their employability quotient and boosting overall employment opportunities in the country.

The rise of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning has reshaped the global skill landscape. Concurrently, the growing popularity of Generative AI or ChatGPT among non-technical professionals has led to an increased demand for global MBA programs that provide modules covering these specialized areas. Yet, the high cost of skill-based education acts as a major deterrent, causing many individuals to postpone pursuing it unless faced with compelling incentives such as low or no increment, lack of promotion, or a mismatch between existing skills and future opportunities.

According to a World Economic Forum report, the global market churn is projected to reach 23% by 2027, with 69 million new jobs created and 83 million jobs eliminated. With the rapid emergence of new-age job roles and the impact of AI, individuals will need to update their skillsets every 1 or 2 years to remain relevant in the workforce.

A robust government or organizational incentive can help India build a diverse talent pipeline. Encouraging organizations to invest in employee upskilling and promoting individual responsibility for professional development is crucial. A tax incentive scheme, similar to 80CC for insurance/ELSS investments, can motivate investments in continuous learning. India has the potential to become a talent hub for digital, care, and teaching economies, exemplified by the success in the IT sector. To seize opportunities in healthcare and education, a friendlier visa regime for Indian talent is vital. Leveraging our large teacher population, India can offer mentoring and teaching solutions globally, supported by technology.

There’s a paradigm shift happening as professionals invest in upskilling themselves, and younger professionals turn to Bootcamps and short-format courses for instant hard skills. Learning preferences have expanded beyond Data Science to include niche competencies like ChatGPT and Generative AI, making Edtech a popular learning partner. To democratize education, we encourage universities to adopt online platforms and maximize their reach globally.

Supporting Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and African universities with quality online learning can position India as the “Teaching Capital of the World,” empowering its large youth population to dominate the future job market. Strengthening partnerships among universities, offline institutes, and Edtech companies will further enhance India’s talent ecosystem and elevate its global standing.

India today has a unique opportunity to leverage its advantages and become a global talent superpower. With the surge in online education, technological advancements, and strategic policy interventions, India can emerge as a global talent and teaching powerhouse. The time to act is now!

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