The future of skills: From STEM to STEAM

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Published: October 21, 2019 1:18:17 AM

Under the Nasscom FutureSkills platform, there are thousands of hours of free and paid content available for learners to learn at the level suited to them

STEM, STEAM, information technology, skill, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotic process automation, Internet of Things, big data analytics, 3D printing, cloud computing, social media, mobile, humanities, languages, drama, soft skills, visual arts, design thinkingUnder the FutureSkills platform, there are thousands of hours of free and paid content available for learners to learn at the level suited to them.

Just type ‘skills’ on the internet search bar and the most likely results you will see will be the top-10 or top-50 skills you need to succeed in the future of work. Within the field of information technology, these skills include artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotic process automation, Internet of Things, big data analytics, 3D printing, cloud computing, social and mobile.

To get India accelerated on the journey to building skills, trade body Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies) had last year launched a platform called the FutureSkills—which is an industry-driven learning ecosystem. Amit Aggarwal, VP & CEO, IT-ITeS Sector Skills Council, Nasscom, says that the body has identified 10 new technologies that will give rise to 70 new job roles, and which will require more than 150 new set of skills to fill up. “This platform’s primary focus is employability. It is a resource to augment the efforts of all the stakeholders,” he says.

Under the FutureSkills platform, there are thousands of hours of free and paid content available for learners to learn at the level suited to them. Paid content is available from a marketplace of training partners, and they also provide some free content, and the AI-based curation engine curates free content from the web.
At the same time, Nasscom aims to drive the ‘STEM to STEAM’ transformation and ensuring its implementation across the industry. STEM represents science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while STEAM adds arts—humanities, languages, drama, soft skills, visual arts, design thinking, etc—to STEM. “Future-ready employees need to have multiple areas of expertise and appreciate how a range of skills fit together,” adds Aggarwal. While STEM focuses on scientific concepts, STEAM aims to investigate these through inquiry and problem-solving methods used in the creative process.

Sandeep Dutta, chief practice officer, Asia-Pacific, Fractal AI, adds AI has either to be leveraged by a human, or has to act on a human. “Adaptability, teamwork and creativity are unique skills that only a human can bring in. Combining these skills with new-age technologies creates a new class of jobs, and a new understanding of what all we can do,” he adds.

On STEM to STEAM, Sanjay Dutt, global head, Capability Development, EXL, says technologies are changing very fast, and how ready are you to unlearn something and then learn something new is what will decide and define your future. “We are struggling to have people who really know how to collaborate and how to network to capture/create value.”

Samit Deb, chief people officer, Birlasoft, feels companies such as BlackBerry and Nokia were great at technologies, while Apple wasn’t as good at technologies but was better on innovation—essentially a human skill. “At Apple they thought about real-life problems and how to create solutions for them; a solution is beyond technology. Amalgamation of technology with the demands of the people, and a proper understanding of the same, can lead to path-breaking innovations.”

Today, digital skills are experiencing increased demand, with the digital transformation wave hitting the industry. Organisations across the ecosystem are rapidly adopting new-age technologies. Aggarwal says that investments towards skilling initiatives have also risen with organisations inculcating ML, data science, cybersecurity, cloud, blockchain and several others in other practices.

According to Nasscom, the Indian IT-ITeS industry talent base has been growing at an excess of 20% year-on-year with approximately 2.6 lakh talent being installed in the cloud computing space, 1.85 lakh in AI and big data analytics, 1.85 lakh in social media and mobile platforms, 1.7 lakh in IoT, and 1.6 lakh in cybersecurity. “The skills being instilled within these technologies include development of applications and effective systems, data management, designing use-case platforms for operations, and working directly with the technology to apply it in day-to-day practices,” says Aggarwal.

At the same time, as of FY19, there is a requirement for 9.3 lakh digitally-skilled professionals with 2.8 lakh job openings still prevalent. At this trajectory, by FY23, the requirement is expected to rise to 27 lakh digitally-skilled professionals with 10 lakh job openings prevalent. To meet this demand, FutureSkills platform has introduced 10 professional skills to the existing 10 emerging technologies, 70-plus job roles and 155-plus technical skills. These skills are problem solving, design thinking, continuous learning, communication and storytelling, negotiating and influencing, collaboration, project management, product management, program management and digitalisation.

With over 3 lakh employees committed to the FutureSkills platform, it has risen at over 1.5 times the size over the past year. There are over 100 universities and firms that have nominated their talent to be reskilled using the platform. FutureSkills also has more than 30 partners developing 40,000 content pieces and an additional 6,500 content pieces are being curated by domain experts from the industry and academia.

An imperative for FutureSkills is to develop the Digital Skills Maturity Index, which will highlight the state of digital skilling in the country. The index will be developed after identifying the strategic imperative, analysing companies as systemic drivers, understanding the extent to which employees are empowered through people enablement, and measuring the outcomes and impact being witnessed.

Lastly, through FutureSkills, Nasscom aims to be recognised as the government’s Digital India initiative partner, building on their mission to make every citizen digitally literate.

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