The author is senior director and head of Human Resources, Qualcomm India
India is going digital at a breakneck pace. Emerging technologies have disrupted the traditional ways of doing business, across sectors, and have ushered in an era of not just digital transformation, but also a focus on innovation and ground-breaking creativity. But is the pipeline for Indian innovation ready and prepared to take the country’s digital innovation journey forward? There has been a significant gap between industry requirements and academic preparation. Indian society places high value on theoretical knowledge. A hands-on practical approach to education or even real-time industry experience is usually limited. Industries are not involved in determining the content of education programmes. Sadly, this is far from ideal for bridging the skills gap between academia and industry. Collaboration between corporates and academic institutions is critical for India’s upskilling and innovation-driven growth journey. Both parties have a responsibility to find ways to work together to create a job-ready, highly-skilled talent pipeline. There are several ways in which this can be done.
Research partnerships: Academic institutions are considered hotbeds of R&D. Most corporates in the technology sector also have a sharp focus on R&D. Now is the time to bring the two worlds together on to a platform of mutually beneficial research. Corporate research fellowships will allow students a chance to test their theories in state-of-the-art labs in real-world business settings. Mentoring by industry leaders ensures a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience no classroom can match. On their part, corporates get access to fresh ideas and approaches that can benefit the business. Fellowships, sponsored research programmes, innovation labs and infrastructure at universities are all excellent strategies for encouraging research collaboration.
Course setting: Institutions of higher studies determine their own curriculum. If Indian talent is to stride ahead of global competition, then the very crux of what is taught in class should be determined in conjunction with the industry. Corporate involvement in determining at least part of the curricula via specialised courses, additional training, and ongoing guest lectures & assessments can help close the gap between academia and industry. Extensive internship: Leadership teams can benefit from working with internal HR and L&D teams, and externally with academic institutions, to put in place a comprehensive internship that inculcates in students skills suited for the demands of that organisation.
The objective is to train students in the skills required on the job and in the culture of the organisation, so they are ready for recruitment as they finish internship. STEM education: Any discussion around Indian skills gap tends to centre around institutions of higher education. But in the age of digital transformation, it is essential to nurture digital citizenship from a much earlier age. More focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools is crucial for ensuring a robust talent pipeline and innovation-centric mindset.
There is no time like now to step up engagement between industry and academia. Consider the context. Geopolitical events have caused a market slowdown and emerging technologies like automation are posing a threat to jobs across the globe. Only the highly-skilled, highly-innovative performers will continue undisturbed in this environment. With the right investments in focused and collaborative training and skilling initiatives, India can not only create a workforce that has the skills and the mindset to focus on automation-proof innovation, but also to create jobs and enhance employment rates of its youth.