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Automation a necessity and may be a blessing in disguise


Date:2017-07-10


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By BVR Mohan Reddy

Of late, the media have been highlighting job losses in the IT industry and painting a gloomy picture ahead. Given the technology-driven nature of this sector, job roles constantly evolve. This means the workforce is on a perennial learning curve. Maintaining reasonable performance standards, along with upskilling and reskilling, is essential to sustain and survive in such a business environment.

Digital technology is everywhere today. Applications are used across a range of industries. So, the need for a skilled workforce in the emerging technologies will continue to rise, even as some of the existing ones need to fade away.

Like any other industry that strives to be competitive, the IT industry also goes through performance-linked workforce realignments annually. This results in attrition of 0.5-2% of the workforce.

This is healthy and ensures that the industry remains a lean, mean, fighting machine by reducing inefficiencies and remaining globally competitive. Mind you, these separations are performance-linked, not layoffs.

There is no denying, however, that automation is nibbling away new recruitments. The IT industry is, indeed, hiring a shade lower than what has traditionally been the norm. The fact of the matter is that technology-led automation is no more an option but a necessity. But as a recent McKinsey study reveals, for every one million existing jobs that fall under the scythe of automation in the future, 1.9 million jobs will be created in the same timeframe.

Beyond performance-based separations and automation, there are also issues including geopolitical shifts, disruptive technologies and new skill sets. Which is what makes rapid technology shifts, and the accompanying need for a workforce to arm itself with new skills, more challenging.

Emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, virtual reality, big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation, 3D printing and cloud computing have brought disruption to many industries. The IT industry is also going through similar disruptions where digital technologies are helping to create newer roles where automation becomes the norm for lowend, repetitive jobs.

On the flip side, this leads to better-paid jobs. Technology disruption is also forcing people to acquire multidisciplinary skills. Some examples of newly emerged job roles: visual effects (VFX) artist, computer vision engineer, wireless network specialist, AI researcher, robotic process automation (RPA) developer, cloud architect, 3D engineer, language processing specialist and cyber security analyst.

For most of these job roles, there is a shortage of skills in the market. The new workforce needs to get trained in these technologies and add them to their professional arsenal.

A recent study concluded that only 25% of fresh engineering graduates in India are actually employable by any technology company. At the same time, a Nasscom study reckoned that 40% of the 3.7-million-strong IT workforce requires reskilling over the next five years to keep pace with emerging technologies and automation. To address the former challenge, the engineering curriculum and quality of education have to be significantly upgraded.

To manage the latter, Nasscom is already working with many IT companies to reskill nearly a million people. Technology is making it possible to learn anytime from anywhere. Industry has started adopting next-gen learning methodologies like gamification, flipped learning and augmented and mixed reality. New ideas and thoughts, like networked learning for instantaneous and contextual suggestions from peers, are being adopted to create a highly skilled and competitive workforce.

While fresh graduates are picking up skills based on industry requirements, professionals with management profiles are also shifting towards product management. Employees with more than five years of experience, like project managers and mid-level executives, are taking up courses on machine learning, AI, micro service architectures and user interface/user experience. India’s IT industry has come a long way in creating a global technology brand.

Along with the spice and diamond trades, IT has been the most successful industry in the country’s history. The industry will reinvent itself — it is reinventing itself — and one must recognise that side of the story.

IT has been a cornerstone to the growth and prosperity of India’s middle class. And it will continue to help expand that base. By 2025, the IT industry is expected to double its employee strength to over seven million people directly, and over 10 million indirectly.

A strong focus on skill development will help India walk through this tricky journey of digital transformation, so as to reach the destination of an increasing number of better-paid jobs that require more high-end skills. Which, in turn, will lift India’s IT Industrial Revolution 2.0 boat out of any low-end ‘conveyor belt production line’ sea.

Source :blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com