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Riding the reskilling and upskilling tsunami: Tackling job automation-led displacement

The content created for future learners must use a “learn to learn” philosophy that encourages and enables students to continuously reskill and improve their value in job markets.

By Atul Raja

As technology reshapes job markets, there will be an urgent need to reskill existing workforces. Without reskilling or upskilling, the new job roles will not be filled.

Worse, millions will find that their skills don’t match market needs. They will be rendered jobless, which is why employers and governments need to increase the momentum around their reskilling and upskilling programmes.

Naturally, technical skills will be most in demand. These will center on data management, analytics, machine learning, AI, blockchain, cloud, augmented reality, etc.

But the march of automation will continue across industries and jobs. From accountants to factory workers, from agriculturists to retail executives and healthcare workers to customer service agents, everyone will find the technology component in their roles increase. The change is forecasted to be sharp.

WEF estimates suggest that division of labour measured in hours spent by humans will keep falling steadily: It was 71% in 2018, it will be 58% in 2022 and 48% by 2025; machines and algorithms did 29% of the work in 2018, will do 42% in 2022 and will account for 52% by 2025. By 2030, 1 billion people worldwide will need to be reskilled.

The upside of reducing the gap between available skills and market demands is attractive. Unemployment can be kept under control, bringing stability to societies, and it could add $11.5 trillion to global GDP.

Besides, the demand for new skills could work to the advantage of the differently-abled who could help fill several roles.

The implications are clear: Reskilling and upskilling programs must be industrialised if society is to benefit from the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In addition, as the workforce composition changes to include a higher percentage of the differently-abled, skilling must cover areas such as emotional intelligence, collaboration and coordination, disability awareness and sensitivity.

Although regulatory requirements have forced increased attention to diversity, these areas can do with greater attention and corporate commitment.

For organisations working to build infrastructure and processes to meet skilling needs, such as the Wadhwani Foundation, the larger challenge is how to reskill the workforce at scale and within such a short cycle.

Our concern is around reaching all parts of society, so there are no developmental imbalances. We want to ensure that in haste to roll out programmes; no one is left behind.

The problem is that employment markets are changing so fast that no one can be sent back to college for a three-year course hoping to acquire new and relevant skills.

By the time they graduate, the job markets would have changed. Therefore, the focus must be on “learn to learn” — an essential life skill for the 21st-century adult — that develops critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, allowing students to pick up new skills continuously.

One way to overcome the challenges of scale is to ensure that “learn to learn” programmes are provided — while the pinpoint focus is brought to developing 21st-century core employability skills through mobile-based video content on the cloud, specially designed to improve an individual’s chances of getting a job.

Simply learning new skills will not be adequate for future proof careers. Skills acquired today will quickly get outdated.

New technologies being incubated now-such as quantum computing-will drive further change.

Therefore, the content created for future learners must use a “learn to learn” philosophy that encourages and enables students to continuously reskill and improve their value in job markets.

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