Upskilling In A Dynamic World: Stay Relevant! Stay Ahead! - Vikas Gupta, MD, Wiley India

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), one in four or 25% of the employed workforce in India have lost their jobs in April and May 2020.


“If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal."

Now, we all have noticed that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of employed individuals in more ways than we can fathom. There is a global shortage in consumer demand which has led employers to revise fixed costs and undoubtedly, employee compensation is possibly the heaviest of fixed costs. Numerous Indian unicorn startups and BFSI & IT corporates have had to lay-off hundreds of their employees and staff members, not many from the ecosystem have been spared.


According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), one in four or 25% of the employed workforce in India have lost their jobs in April and May 2020, as the global pandemic brought the economic activity to a standstill. From 396mn people working in India Inc in March 2020 to the only 282mn in April 2020- this means a massive job loss for about 122mn employees. Thankfully, with the economic unlock in June, the unemployment rate has been brought down but the fear and anxiety around further job cuts continue.

Even without COVID-19, the unemployment rate had been steadily rising in the past few years due to the bigger challenge of employability and skill shortage. The industry demand is heavily skewed for a skilled, job-ready workforce that isn’t available in the pool of graduates passing out of our education system. This gap can be filled by bridge education for freshers and professionals. Today employers seek highly motivated and multi-skilled employees. According to the India Skill Report of 2019, only 45.6% of our graduating youth are actually employable Another report by NASSCOM report says that up to 40% of the estimated 5mn-strong Indian workforce needs re-skilling over the next 5 years to keep pace with automation and changing skill needs in various industries.

It is becoming increasingly evident that 2020 is evolving into a continuous journey of learning meant for Jacks/ Jills of all trades and possibly not of the masters of one. We live in the age of continuous learning where an individual is expected to upskill herself 6 times in her career span. It is time we look at constant upskilling is more than an HR activity but one that is meant to help align with the innovation and market growth strategy of the business. For individuals, Upskilling, at any stage in one’s career, is an opportunity to stay relevant in this time of continuous disruption.


The idea of education has transitioned from a mere college degree to real-life industry skills, especially through digital courses. This trend is resonated by the government of India is trying to achieve upskilling over 40 Crore Indians through skill India initiative. The post-COVID-19 scenario dictates that everyone including graduates, freshly employed, the still employed as well those who have lost their existing roles must be agile, adaptable as the industry demands a workforce with T shaped skills. This is the age of digital skills; STEM education is the new normal and is aggressively displacing the status quo of vanilla Business or Technology degrees.


Here is a very positive way to look at the COVID-19 scenario as that of immense possibilities if we look closely. For one, we are open to the idea of WFH not only for today but for times to come. With the ease of staying within the comfort and confines of homes and no commute, it becomes the responsibility of both the employee as well as the employer to keep re-skilling/upskilling on at the core of its competitive premise. With India’s booming $1.9bn ed-tech industry in 2020, online education becomes the most relevant to upskill the relevant areas for future-proofing your job, while bridge-education becomes important for high-school pass-outs and recent graduates to become industry-ready.

The times have brought in challenges, but we must find patterns in this chaos. A lot of us might have had plans that led us straight to our goals, and now we seem to have lost visibility of those goals for multiple reasons. It’s time to pivot to follow a different path to those goals, one that will need unlearning old ways and relearning fresh skills.

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