Reskilling the Indian Workforce for AI
By Arijit Banerjee
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the future of the workplace and is here to stay. It has the potential to add US $957 billion to the Indian economy or increase the country’s current income by 15% in 2035. Indian businesses are taking note of the fact and so is the central government. The Finance Minister of India has announced a national program on AI with the objective of laying out a roadmap for India’s research and development on AI and its applications, focusing on healthcare, education and agriculture.
However, the question remains: How ready is the Indian work place for AI? A 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) report predicts that 54% of workers across 12 industries would need to be reskilled by 2022. The report further states that 35% of Indian workers need at least six months of reskilling while 10% of the workforce will need over a year of training to meet the demands of an AI-enabled economy.
With these daunting figures in mind, let us look at how Indian companies can ensure an AI-ready workforce for competitive advantage:
1. Up-skill the Workforce: As per a NASSCOM report, 40% of India’s IT workforce need to upskill within the next five years to stay relevant, owing to automation and changing industry demands. Software companies, manufacturing and retail giants, banks and lending institutions are all focusing on how best AI can be implemented for increased efficiencies and higher margins. Engineers and operators at factories and production units, data operators, bank clerks and tellers will be among those replaced by AI. Blue-collar and the mid-level white collar jobs are the ones most at risk. The evolving corporate market place will require professionals who possess a multitude of skills and can collaborate across projects and roles. Clearly, it is time for organizations to start investing in skill development centers to upskill both fresh hires and experienced employees.
2. Set Up Corporate–Academia Collaborations: Millions of Indian graduates stepping out of colleges every year lack the soft skills, analytical approach and problem-solving aptitude needed to succeed in the workplaces of tomorrow. This means entry-level professionals need to be equipped with the right knowledge and training that will make them corporate-ready and prepare them for real-world work-place challenges. Taking a two-pronged approach can help organizations address this issue. One - investing in higher education, mandatory internships, project placements and corporate inclusion programs to make both the next generation of workers and the workplace ready for the future. Two - collaborating with leading EdTech firms that offer advanced programs in Automation and Robotics to pave the way for an AI-ready generation. Such partnerships are also a great way of boosting incubation and innovation programs that could power some of the country’s biggest path-breaking offerings in robotics and AI.
3. Drive Public-Private Partnerships: While the Indian government is already laying out the roadmap for the adoption of AI, the system is likely to be fraught with resourcing and ground level implementation challenges. Pooling in private corporate expertise, insights, guidance and investment will prepare both the workforce and the system for the future. The U.K. government, for instance, announced a new government-business-academia partnership to drive productivity improvements through AI. Another example is the South Korean government that has announced a $840 million public-private partnership that includes several corporations to promote AI related research. These are just two examples of what seems to be an increasingly obvious approach to prepare the economy for the next big revolution.
4. Ensure a Paradigm Shift in Thinking: Deploying AI in the workplace involves more than technology adoption. It entails a huge shift in mindset towards mechanization at the workplace that needs to be driven from the top, cultivated with a positive focus, and nurtured across the organization. Experts predict that “soft elements” such as adaptability, humility, vision, constant engagement and agility of leadership will be the determining factors for long-term success.
While the disruption that comes with AI is inevitable, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: early adopters of AI will establish a distinct competitive advantage. A clear corporate vision combined with a long-term strategic approach - in collaboration with the government and the education sector - is essential for forward-thinking organizations to create success out of the AI revolution.