Are the IT industry and Engineering colleges caught on the wrong foot?
30 June 2023
In 2008, IT firms saw significant growth within two-quarters of the US meltdown because we had ready skills, people, and pricing to solve the cost take-out problem.
In 2023 customers are once again seeking accelerated technology investments to drive digital-led growth. While we have a clear shortage of talent with relevant future-facing technology skills, we seem to have an oversupply of skills of the past, which are anyway being replaced by technology now. Thus on the one hand you see a shortage of new generation skills driving salaries through the roof and on the other hand you see an oversupply of low-tech skills unfortunately driving strategies by IT companies of delayed joining, reducing salary post-offer, and letting people go.
So what is the right skill that will be relevant for tomorrow and why do our education system and IT companies need to wake up to the emerging new reality and act now rather than hope and wait?
The growth of Indian IT can be credited to its fascinating ability to hire anyone and in 6 months teach them coding, testing and support. It did not allow the lack of ready-to-deploy skills coming out of our education system to impact its growth.
While our education system has slowly caught up with these skills now, it is too late. IT companies now hire school pass out children and train them on these skills in just 3 months, giving them the advantage of lower costs and lower attritions. What they now seek from universities and engineering colleges are advanced digital skills which are difficult to teach in 6 months.
Thus the challenge facing us is not the availability of talent with basic technology skills, it is how we use the 4 years in college to up the skill levels and make them relevant for tomorrow and in very large numbers. It is important to understand that the next generation’s technology skills cannot be developed in isolation and in theory. It needs a strong base of problem-solving and critical thinking skills that can only be developed by working on real-life problems.
This needs IT companies to collaborate and invest more in collages by sharing live projects and structured feedback. Colleges and universities need to re-evaluate their roles as not just knowledge and certificate providers but as skill and nation builders with tight collaboration with the industry. Technology skills in demand will keep changing thus which skill is relevant for the future is the wrong debate. How to build them is where we need design thinking, innovation and relentless execution, at scale.
We also have to give up our obsession with parking all problems on the doorsteps of the government. Both the universities and IT companies have a significant upside in a tight collaboration to right skills for today's youth and no one else but them needs to fix this abundance of supply of past skills and shortage of future skills, we face today.
Would love to hear your views on this.