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World Youth Skills Day: Significance Of Upskilling During And Beyond The COVID Era

From an industry perspective as well as predicting the future of online education, skills that help the operation of AI, RPA, Big Data, and Data Literacy are going to be an essential requirement.

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Today, the world will be celebrating what the UN has observed as World Youth Skills Day for 2020 and it will be especially significant owing to the current challenging times. With the lockdown measures and a continued need for social distancing, close to 70% of learners have been affected by the closure of educational institutions. This closure of technical and vocational education and training institutions (TVET) has backtracked skill development. 

The aim of this day as mentioned by the UN on its website is- “to recognise the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship, and to highlight the crucial role of skilled youth in addressing current and future global challenges.”

The importance of this day takes into account the growing employment crisis across world economies, developed and developing nations alike. With technical and vocational education and training, learners can be taught relevant skills that allow them to find employment or be self-employed.  It can also help people adapt to changing job requirements and increase pay. 

A dynamic job culture and ever-changing times in various industries have further emphasized the need for upskilling and reskilling regardless of a pandemic. By staying relevant and always evolving, an employee is ensuring that they are employable in all kinds of situations. 

Significance of upskilling during this pandemic

Employees need to upskill because businesses also need to upgrade their technology and mindset. COVID has definitely bolstered digital services and moved traditional businesses onto digital platforms. 

Vaishali Phatak, Head – Technical Learning Services & Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), Tech Mahindra believes- “The World is changing faster than ever, further accentuated by COVID-19 – businesses worldwide are embracing new-age technologies to redefine themselves to sustain, improve efficiencies, customer experience and disrupt the market.”

For a business to continue working, there is a need for it to understand changes in consumer demand and also in the world environment. The “new normal” has set in with a work from home culture and businesses now need to build their model around it. 

“Upskilling and reskilling is essential today and will play a key role in nurturing ‘fit for future’ workforce, thus making it a business imperative for organisations especially in the post-COVID world. At Tech Mahindra, our aim is to develop all-round professionals who are aligned with the company’s core values, Mahindra brand philosophy, and are equipped with the required technical, domain, leadership skills along with entrepreneurial and solution-oriented mind-set,” Vaishali Phatak adds. 

Commenting on World Youth Skills Day, Kishan Jain, Director, Goldmedal Electricals said, ” Companies will now have to work strategically with respective department heads to chalk out the most effective plans that ensure maximum efficiency and workflow continuation with the least amount of disruption. This also works to the advantage of employees, especially the youth, as they will gain access to smarter, more efficient ways of working and enhancing their skillsets. I’m sure most companies would be looking at the current situation as an opportunity to create innovative solutions that are a win-win for all concerned.”

Keeping up with the trend

For the youth, it is important to understand that the market will not be the same from where they started. Trends last only until a new trend sets in which is not a long time. As a learner in this dramatically changing world, it is important to build a mindset that allows you to grow at any stage of your life. 

Ashish Fernando, Founder and CEO of iSchoolConnect explains- “It’s been observed many times over the past decades that recessions or global crises lead to an increased interest in higher education and upskilling. That is more true now than it ever has been, despite the global pandemic. Not only has COVID-19 uprooted businesses worldwide, but it has also forced all businesses to go digital. Therefore, individuals with a traditional mindset are now facing a fundamental crisis of being replaced by more tech-savvy and better-skilled people.”

“Thus, in order to keep up with the changing global trends, upskilling now is important more than ever.It not only makes your resume look good but also opens up a plethora of new opportunities and most importantly, better employment options.”- Ashish Fernando, Founder and CEO of iSchoolConnect

iSchoolConnect has an AI-based chatbot(CASIE) that answers students’ questions about education. One of the biggest changes they have observed was in the users’ requirements and questions. Before the COVID era, students were usually asking questions regarding university applications and how to study abroad. Things are different now. 

“In the past few months, however, we’ve observed a 120% increase in queries related to online courses, degrees, and online certifications on our chatbot CASIE and our search bar. Most of these queries by users are about ed-tech platforms, top/trending courses, free online training, etc. The most popular courses searched by students include computer science and languages, business courses, finance, AI and machine learning, just to name a few,” adds Ashish Fernando. 

What are the new-age demands?

An obvious demand would be for candidates that are well acquainted with digital tools and subjects that help in adapting to future technological breakthroughs. 

From an industry perspective, Vaishali Phatak says- “ We see rise in new-age technologies like artificial intelligence, cloud, robotic process automation, blockchain, 5G, internet of things and cybersecurity amongst others.”

AI and RPA capabilities have seen a rise in adoption over the last decade and with 5G almost ready to launch, it will open up new avenues for technological advances. 

Commenting on the same, Lakshmi Mittra, VP – Center of Excellence (CoE) and Clover Academy, Clover Infotech says that to survive in this new normal, organizations need to train their employees in skills such as cloud computing, emerging technologies, virtual collaboration and communication to equip employees to function seamlessly in the remote working model.

“That’s not all, now with many large organizations planning to incorporate work from home in their operational model, it has become imperative that educational institutions such as schools and colleges introduce their students to virtual learning environment and train them in digital skills to create a foundation for them to thrive in the future work culture,” adds Lakshmi Mittra.

From an Educational perspective, programming languages, and courses around artificial intelligence, big data, data literacy will see more takers. “In my opinion, developing your communication and critical thinking skills will only help in the upcoming years. Now more than ever, innovation and flexibility will be highly valued by organizations rethinking their business modules,” concludes Ashish Fernando. 

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