Budget 2019

The emphasis in budget 2019 on training youth for high-tech jobs in specialised areas like “AI (Artificial Intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things), 3D printing, Big Data, VR (Virtual Reality), Robotics including language training” is a thoughtful proposal. These leading-edge skills belong to the fourth industrial revolution, currently in vogue. The budget categorize these “globally valued” skills for “overseas jobs” but it equally applies for jobs in India, especially, with MNC IT giants chasing for such expertise. For long, there has been a clamour for revamping higher education system in tandem with the ever-changing market trends. Hope the budget-statement, asserted by FM, will serve as a cursor and coarse reminder to educational institutions for delivering their commitment, to churn out employable students trained in in-demand skills.

Gaining specialisation in educational credentials is no longer a rare feat or a discretionary one and its importance need to be understood in the present context. There are fewer jobs for aspirants with traditional degrees in engineering, science and other conventional courses. In today’s world, the plain-vanilla certificate of a degree is revered only in colleges and remains just in the dossier of employers, where skills are the differentiators. This is true for under-graduate, post-graduate and some of the so-called professional courses too. It’s now a reality which is absorbed by the parents and students that conventional degrees fetch no satisfying jobs in the market. While it serves as a proof of one’s education or time spent in college, the tangible quality sought out by an employer is the proficiency in skills required for execution of the job at hand. As a direction, acquiring specialised skills is the need of the hour for securing jobs and career enhancement, since that has become the prerequisite – for settling into jobs for beginners and boosting career growth for the experienced.

Industry reports affirm that the demand for these much-admired skills overshoots the supply at the moment and is going to multiply in the next few years, endorsing a booming opportunity for job-seekers. Experienced professionals in AI and subsets such as ML (Machine learning), deep-learning, NLP (Natural Language Processing) are paid twice as much as their counterparts with software-programming skills. Similarly, applicants with skill-sets in IoT applications, Cloud Computing, RPA(Robotic Process Automation), Big Data are all in high demand and the industry is doing all it can to bridge the gap in supply, clearly, due to a shortage of talent. The all-pervasive impact of technological upgradation in industry sectors like health, education, banking, transportation, retail, manufacturing et al underlines the vital requirement of adept professionals in this space.

How to build these top talents, more so, by utilising the existing infrastructure and resources? There is enormous infrastructure available in the country for providing traditional degree courses in Arts, Science, Commerce and engineering. A careful assessment of the curricula and pedagogy of various disciplines, keeping in mind its job-orientation, would provide abundant insights for reforming the courses and restructuring the institutions. Many of the courses which don’t require practical and lab sessions would be best transferred to online stream, handing over such infrastructure for value-addition and building up of much sought-after skills by the industry. Infact, the reshuffling of the courses and reforming the syllabi at the University-level forms the basic and critical component for such a major transformation.

While the infrastructure undergoes the desired alteration for offering high-tech courses, an instantaneous action calls for the upskilling and training of teachers for gaining expertise on these novel subjects. Training offered by the existing teacher-training centres are grossly inadequate for imparting specialised stuff, effectively. If the proposed budget-measure in this regard is to be designed into affirmative action, government should nudge its agencies and universities to commence an over-arching exercise of launching district-level ‘Industry 4.0 training centres’ and augment the existing training facilities to offer advanced-level training for teachers.

Private investment should be encouraged to strengthen training facilities for students and teachers, equipping them for the newage skills. Entrepreneurs and start-ups are yet to latch on to this promising sector and such initiatives can be promoted with adequate impetus from the government by way of incentives or tax concessions.

Adequate awareness and appropriate modules on the changing landscape of technology and its applications need to be included in the syllabus at the school-level itself. This would provide various alternatives to students in choosing courses that are preferred by the industry, other than the stereotypes – engineering and medical science streams.

Undoubtedly, the thrust by government in the budget for facilitating training on these decorative skills is to enable the youth to secure jobs. And, that has been the Achilles heel for the government in the last few years. Moreover, jobs in manufacturing and other traditional industry sectors are dwindling, paving way for automation and technological upgrade. Here is the chance, more for millennials and the Gen Z, to partake in turning the wheels of the fourth industrial revolution.