Tech-supported Training For The Frontline Will Increase In Relevance And Importance Over The Years

Tech-supported Training For The Frontline Will Increase In Relevance And Importance Over The Years

1. How crucial are the structured Skill development programs to create more jobs and uplift the unorganized workforce?

According to various sources, India has between 350 - 400 million skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Only 1 in every 5 workers has been formally trained in a vocational or technical skill as mentioned in 2020 Human Development Report (HDR). So, while unemployment has been an issue for the country, we have an equally big problem of ‘employability’.


Secondly, All-India Survey on Higher Education 2017-18 has also raised the issue of our higher education Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) being only at a lowly 27.4%), which means 72.6% of Indian youth not pursuing higher education, there needs to be structured career paths and frameworks to ensure meaningful livelihood skills.


Given these large numbers, and the necessity to ensure that youth become a ‘demographic dividend’ for India, it is essential for India to have a robust skill development structure and ecosystem. It is also important to note that skill development alone cannot ensure an adequate job but can certainly equip youth with relevant and contemporary skills to ensure better employability and entrepreneurship. The Government and industry have to play their respective parts in job creation.


2. For many years, physical training has been the preferred mode for corporates especially for the frontline workforce. How do you see the trend changing over the years?


On-the-job training (OJT) and instructor-led training (ILT) will continue to be critical modes for training the frontline workforce. Nevertheless, technology will play an increasingly pivotal role in supplementing and possibly even replacing parts of OJT and/or ITL.


There are valid reasons for this. ILT, in particular, is not highly effective by itself as not everyone fully understands the training delivered in the class due to varying learning abilities. Secondly, with time, one tends to forget what was taught in class unless the learnings are implemented regularly. This is where technology platforms value-add as their ‘anytime-anywhere’ access facilitates self-paced, repetitive learning, certification, and more. Platforms that have capabilities to deliver experiential learning, supported by AI for predictive learning, make upskilling even more engaging and interactive, yielding superior outcomes.


The use of technology adoption especially in frontline training will vary based on the nature of the job. In the case of manufacturing jobs, OJT will probably continue to be the primary mode of training delivery even as technology platforms continue to evolve with AR, VR, etc. becoming more affordable and mainstream. On the other hand, for roles like retail sales associates, and customer service executives (BPOs), a lot, if not all, of the training, can move to a tech-first approach.

In short, tech-supported training for the frontline will increase in relevance and importance over the years but is unlikely to completely replace physical training – particularly OJT.


3. How effective online skilling/upskilling/reskilling modules are over physical for blue-collared workers?


As industry 4.0 gets more embedded across sectors, there will be the need for continuous reskilling and upskilling, even for blue-collar roles. This is where online modules will gain traction as they are more cost-effective when it comes to scale and consistency in delivery, and much more transparent for tracking efficacies of spending.


Again, as mentioned earlier, not all upskilling or reskilling can happen via online modules, but an increasing percentage, even for manufacturing jobs, will see a move towards digital formats to supplement physical modes of training. During Covid, even the most ‘traditional’ of businesses had to adopt some form of ‘online’ learning, even if it meant keeping their workforce engaged through Microsoft Teams or Zoom sessions as well as sharing learning resources via YouTube links, WhatsApp groups, etc.


4. Is there an option of blended learning for corporates too – wherein physical and online both complement each other?


Blended learning has much higher adoption with corporate roles – here ‘corporate’ means white-collar or professional roles. As one climbs up the career ladder, leadership, social and behavioural skills start to take precedence over functional skills. In such instances, blended programs with more emphasis on the digital or online learning components are becoming more widespread in addition to pure e-learning courses. This enables continuity in learning for the employees, with learning resources at their fingertips.


As digital enablement and adoption grow, many corporates are launching their Company-branded experiential learning platforms in collaboration with platform solution providers. This ‘white-labelled’ solution builds better stickiness with the workforce and serves as a single-point resource for learning, engagement, and communication. Needless to say, that with a lot of the learning and engagement happening via smartphones, many of these platforms are mobile-first with web-based access.


5. How safe is it to move towards online skilling programs for the corporates? Are they prone to cyber threats, etc.?


Most established digital learning platforms (like mPowerO) have robust security protocols inbuilt to ensure the data security of learners and content. Many of the more established platforms are cloud-based and hosted on the cloud services of global leaders (Microsoft Azure in the case of mPowerO), thereby ensuring an additional layering of security. Therefore, whilst there could always be the risk of a cyber threat, on the balance of things, it is very remote and should not come in the way of digital adoption for online upskilling and training programs since the benefits far outweigh a potential cyber threat.


Mr. Jerold Pereira, Executive Director and CEO of SkillPro


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