Over the past few years, IT biggies in India have hired hundreds of science graduates to tap high-end business opportunities. As their careers have progressed, many candidates who have gone on to become managers have lost touch with their basic technical skills. Now, faced with increased competition and the lack of qualified workforce at the middle level, re-skilling and rebooting have become crucial for these IT majors to keep pace with the rapid changes.
BusinessLine spoke to industry training partners/ institutes such as Edureka, Institute of Product Leadership (IPL), and Unicom Learning to understand the issue.
Middle managers a vital bunch
According to the Director of Programs, Institute of Product Leadership (IPL), Pinkesh Shah, there is an imperative need to re-skill the middle management and go beyond project execution skills to product and solution definition skills.
“India can no longer be seen as a cost arbitrage economy but one that creates new offerings, both for domestic and global markets. And re-skilling is the fastest way to get there, both from the corporate perspective and the individual career acceleration perspective,” Shah said.
Conceding that talent search has been a herculean task for companies with the rising demand for new technology skills, co-Founder and Chief Executive of Edureka, Lovleen Bhatia, said “it is more so at the middle level because such candidates are not available at campus like freshers. Middle managers are a vital bunch, susceptible to mid-career crisis, putting the individual and organisation at risk.”
“There are middle managers who are victims of identity, role and authority confusion due to their inability to keep pace with the changing role of their jobs, particularly in the IT domain, where technology changes every fourth day,” the Edureka chief said.
“The issue is not peculiar to IT but multiple sectors,” said Unicom's co-founder and Chief Executive Nitesh Naveen, adding, “when middle-level managers are unable to embrace newer skills that are in global demand, the pressure mounts, creating a bottleneck in the organisation's performance. The organisation is forced into a corner where it can neither fire the existing candidate nor hire a worthy one. It is important for middle managers to know business and adapt to change.”
Employability is a major issue across sectors and even the Government has realised the need for India to scale up its skilling efforts.
Unicom has created options for both online and off-line courses to skill up some of the hottest IT-domains such as agile, big data, the Internet of Things, cloud, etc.
Naveen says that all candidates do not come up with similar learning capabilities. The workshop learning module, therefore, is considered best to address the issue with more certainty.
“While online has the power to reach a wider audience, candidates still prefer the off-line option. Online learning will grow, but it cannot possibly replace the brick and mortar style because candidates are more confident of getting their problems clarified on ground, the Unicom chief said.
‘Learning by Doing’ is the pedagogy at every new-age business school and we (at IPL) embrace that, said Shah.
Stating that there is always a lag in incorporating new domains in the syllabus in tech institutes, Bhatia said “you have very few or no specialised teachers or professors to teach them. Hence, the only alternative is to learn from veterans of those industries. Education providers would have to build diverse platforms or models, so industry veterans can connect with the students, start building the course structure ahead of demand.”
Citing a report that hailed India's top software company of bagging a $200-million worth contract for developing an app store for a large US bank, Bhatia said “but the company ultimately ended up paying thrice the billing rate to a group of freelance Python programmers in the US, as there was a lack of skilled programmers suitable for the job within the organisation,” emphasising the importance of skilling.
While training institutes consider online education an alternative to bridge skill gaps and address industry needs faster, Naveen perceives that no one medium can be the only way out. “It is important to go for a blended model, depending upon the skills that need to be imparted.”
Bhatia feels that virtual classroom models and realtime instructor-led live tutorials and peer-to-peer talks would be more apt for learning niche tech subjects, while the IPL Director contends that experiential learning, which can be delivered online or offline (campus), is the need of the hour.
Trainers emphasised the criticality of continuous learning and re-skilling by stating that this would be the only way to stay ahead of the next big disruptive change.