Time to focus on upskilling can elevate tech talent pool

Union Budget 2022-23: Digital university has the potential to make education more accessible, democratised

For the second time in a row, Sitharaman trooped in with a nifty tablet in hand to present the Union Budget. The world’s largest democracy going paperless in Parliament is the perfect representation of how deep the effects of digitiSation have percolated.

Budget 2022 threw up a lot of buzzwords that technology lovers would appreciate. We got announcements on crypto and digital currency, drones and agritech, and an extended tax holiday for startups. All of it welcome moves. The bit that interested me the most, was when the FM talked of upskilling and educational initiatives.

As an engineer and a CTO, I have frequently spoken about the need for a skill-first economy. Too often, in the developer world, have I seen good talent fall by the wayside when compared to a good ‘resume’. Traditional markers of aptitude, like academic pedigree and employment history, regularly elbow out skills.

In the last two years, however, WFH and the globalization of our workforce have brought the importance of skills right into focus. When you’re working with a teammate from another part of the country, the only bond that you have is one of trust – that they have the right skills to get the job done.

It was heartening to see our leaders acknowledge this fact; one that companies across the world, and the tech industry, in particular, have been made brutally aware of since the pandemic began. Creating a skilled workforce requires grassroots-level changes. For long, our education system has relied on rote and theoretical learning. We need a shift to a more hands-on approach to education; especially in the tech sector.

This is where I think Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s initiatives can help:

  • Skilling programs promoting sustainability and employability based on dynamic industry needs: A digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood can, in theory, provide many with the access to learn to code. Self-taught coders are on the rise globally, and initiatives like this can improve the tech talent pool across the country, helping us stay ahead of the talent game. I’m interested in knowing more about how the API-based skill credentials and payment layers will function. In theory, a skill assessment functionality will add to the future readiness of the country’s youth, but we should wait a while to gauge its effectiveness.
  • ITIs across states offering courses for skilling – Industrial training institutes have so far focussed primarily on providing training for blue-collar jobs. This is a great opportunity to move out of the norm, and make ITIs the hub for improving India’s technological prowess. The future of the world is tech-driven, and the sooner our policies align with the global demand, the better it will be for our country’s growth and tech readiness. Post-pandemic, tech adoption has nearly increased three-folds, with previously tech-agnostic industries like healthcare going digital. There is no looking back now, and the education system must update itself to this growing need for technological superiority.
  • Digital university with a focus on ICT using a hub and spoke model – Needless to say, upskilling initiatives cannot function without a strong foundation of basic education. A digital university has the potential to make education more accessible and democratized, and bridge class divides that exist among students from Tier 1 and Tier 2 educational institutions. Bringing education under a common umbrella does away with ‘brand’ names and the biases that come along with it. There is of course the question of ensuring digital connectivity to all and promoting a culture of self-reliance among the new generation of students.

The digitization and democratization of education in a country like India can possibly have multiple ramifications. It can melt cultural and social barriers, and provide an impetus for dreamers in the hinterlands of the nation. We have already seen civil service aspirants do the impossible with sheer hard work. I’m hoping these changes will bring forth the same fortitude in tech lovers across the country.

I, for one, will have my eyes peeled for our first self-taught, digital university-certified, tech leader. It’s about time!

The writer is Chief Technology Officer at HackerEarth. Views are personal.

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