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How technology has provided a new motto: learn, unlearn, relearn and the perpetual need for certification to upskill and reskill for both employer and employee

Interview by Narasimha Raju

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with  Mr. Sunil Dahiya, Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Opportunity, Wadhwani Foundation.

  • Workplaces of the future will be built on the basis on skill. What is the current situation regarding the Indian landscape? 

As we move forward towards Industry 4.0, the Future of Work is all about the Future of Skills. When you look at job postings today, most employers are looking for people with particular skill sets rather than a particular degree or certification. This shift is due to technological advancements, which have created an environment where jobs have become more dynamic and multifaceted. Employers are finding it challenging to find people with the right skills for their positions, and this is where the workplace of the future comes in. In the future, workplaces will focus on developing and nurturing skills rather than just filling positions. Employees will be encouraged to build their skills through training, mentorship programs, and experiential learning.

50% of the job roles available today are expected to be replaced with new ones. With technological advances in AI, a number of new roles will emerge in various sectors. For the learner today, this means that students should look at continuous learning, upskilling, reskilling and multi-skilling as a way of life to catch up with the latest industry trends. India has been emphasizing skill development in recent years, with the government launching various programs to promote skill development and vocational training. The concept of multi-skilling was launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Various initiatives like New Education Policy and National Credit Framework are paving the way for catching up with India’s fast transforming skills landscape.

  • How can we create a framework to respond to the existing skill gap in the Indian context? 

India’s skill gap is a significant challenge but also an opportunity for stakeholders to come together and develop a comprehensive framework that addresses the root causes of the issue.

To begin with, we need to inculcate the Industry culture very early in the life of students. Industries can contribute by sharing various scenarios of applied learning right from the school level. Also, teacher training or capacity building for the new evolving pedagogy and student learning modes needs to be tackled at a war scale in the country.

Other elements that this framework should focus on are education through the improvement in the industry, academia and technology participation through internships, apprenticeships, and other experiential learning programs, certification or credentialing systems to standardize the process of skills assessment, and the promotion of lifelong learning by investing in online education platforms and other accessible, low-cost learning opportunities. By recognizing the skills-led challenges at hand and proactively investing in workforce development, India can position itself as a leader of the new economy.

  • There is a need for educators, students, employers, and employees to constantly upskill. However, what to learn and how to learn remains a problem statement. What steps can be taken to respond to this conundrum?

Upskilling for all stakeholders has become necessary with the Future of Work to stay relevant in the workforce. Whether you are an educator, student, employer, or employee, learning new skills is crucial for personal and professional growth. However, it can be challenging to decide what and how to learn. To help address this conundrum, here are some tips for educators, students, employers, and employees.

Firstly, leverage online learning platforms, making learning possible from the comfort of home. Secondly, employers should create career development and training plans that outline skills required for capacity building to achieve goals. Thirdly, leveraging mentors and coaching programs is becoming critical to upskill and gain insights into new-age career paths. Finally, various skill upgrade/bridge programs and Industry facing curriculum need to be launched through Industry participation.

  • Which skill sets, in your opinion, will become obsolete in the future? Which new skills do you see emerging in workplaces of the future? 

Skill sets that are easily automated or do not require creativity, flexibility, and adaptability will, in all likelihood, become obsolete in the near future. For example, self-driving cars and drones are already replacing some jobs in the transportation industry. The same is also true for data entry, bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks that can be easily automated using software tools. Also, traditional management skills will soon become obsolete in the face of agile management practices, where teams are self-managed and work collaboratively.

The rise of automation and artificial intelligence has brought countless new opportunities. Generative AI is all set to impact the current engineering domains. This it has also led to a shift in the skills that are in demand in the modern workplace, like data analytics to make sense of big data, conduct reports, and provide useful insights for businesses to optimize their operations and digital skills like digital marketing, search engine optimization, social media, graphic design, web development etc. will come to the fore to deal with an increasingly digital world. I also feel that creative and critical thinking skills will become paramount as machines can now think logically and conduct routine tasks. Continuing with the same thought process, design thinking as an iterative process geared towards creative problem-solving and focused on experimentation and collaboration will come to the fore to create unique products, services, and business models.

  • Currently, talent acquisition, management and assessment are the basis of educational qualification. How can this perception be changed?

For long, from job applications to promotions, educational qualification has been the primary benchmark for talent acquisition and management. However, new pedagogy models are giving way to more individual learning styles vs a batch model, and it is time to rethink and revisit our talent acquisition, management, and assessment system so that we can identify and retain the right talent.

Therefore, employers need to consider other factors like experience, internships, projects, and other forms of learning like soft skills such as communication, teamwork, creativity, and problem-solving are essential in today’s workplaces. These skills are critical for collaborating with team members, understanding client needs, and providing solutions. Additionally, employers should leverage new formats of assessments, such as simulation exercises and role-play, etc

Understanding behavioural traits such as emotional intelligence, motivation, resilience, and adaptability are critical when managing and retaining talent, and employers can use behavioural assessment tools to determine an individual’s behavioural style and aptitude. These insights help in identifying skill gaps.

Finally, a blended learning approach can provide employees with different options, such as online courses, podcasts, and learning platforms promoting skill development. Companies must consider providing their employees’ with lifelong learning opportunities to help them grow and contribute to the organization.

  • Amidst this context, how is Wadhwani Skills Network placed? What is its USP? 

Wadhwani Skills Network (WSN) works on the dual mission of facilitating family-wage jobs and enhanced employability. It provides digital content in both 21st-century employability skills as well as select domain skills for learners ranging from schools to colleges. The full lifecycle digital skills platform of Wadhwani Skills Network maximizes learner flexibility, engagement and self-service. WSN also focuses on industry-endorsed content to always map with the industry needs.

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