When the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit, there was a massive and somewhat hasty global shift to ‘WFH’ and ‘Learn from Home’. While wider adoption of technology was imminent before COVID-19, the uptake process was still slow. Forced by unfortunate circumstances, people quickly had to upskill themselves to be able to maintain and continue their work – this proved to be easier for some than others. Over a year later, the devastating and unyielding second wave of the pandemic in India confirmed suspicions that learning to work remotely will not be a one-time or temporary move. The world has changed, and we must change along with it.

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Within the education and skill development sectors, the internet business is growing by leaps and bounds, giving people the flexibility to access tailor-made learning solutions – what is frequently called “anytime, anywhere” learning. In India, while ensuring inclusion and improving access across various socio-economic groups will continue to be areas to be worked upon, the potential offered by the internet cannot afford to go unutilised. 

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and its use in personalised learning, both the digital delivery of education (including skills) and the digital skills themselves are going to become gradually more important for the future of work. LinkedIn Learning, in its Workplace Learning Report, found that after resilience and adaptability, technological skills and digital fluency were the most important skills to possess this year. Read more about this in the “Newsroom” section of this edition.

At Learnet Skills, we take our responsibility and spirit of innovation seriously. From running over 200 physical centres of skill development, we are constantly reinventing our modes of training. Post-COVID, the entire value chain from recruitment to training, interviews, and placements was shifted online, as it became more important than ever for people to be skilled given the uncertainty in the employment environment. While some skill development courses require workshop rooms and shopfloors, we endeavour to combine the benefits of online and offline learning for the most effective outcome. We must heed the lessons from the pandemic and incorporate the advantages of digital learning in traditional skilling methods. Previously, we had highlighted how the blue-collar workforce needs an ecosystem solution at scale, which included skill development and reskilling. To achieve this scale, technology acts as a crucial enabler. It has now become clear that technology not only helps achieve scale but also improves access to opportunities and work in times like these.

The digitalisation of the global economy is transforming the work landscape, and services are becoming a more important part of the value chain. The future of work is rapidly changing, and as the World Economic Forum states, “you are only as good as your skills”. The people operating in this fast-paced environment will need to focus on developing their skill sets rather than their career paths. While domain skills will remain important, the pandemic has taught us the timeless value of soft skills – especially complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and communication. Linear job paths are no longer trending, but instead having transferable skills that one can grow and learn over a lifetime is more important. A positive fallout of the pandemic-induced lockdowns has been that 500 million people are expected to come onto the internet by 2022, of which 60% are from the middle- and lower-income segment in India. To close the digital divide, we need greater investments in both soft and hard digital infrastructure – including digital literacy, deeper penetration of stable internet, and availability of personal devices. This will require a consistent and concerted effort among all stakeholders. Disruptive technologies are bringing seemingly unrelated fields together, affecting various demographic and socio-economic groups greater than before – all of which bodes well for the spirit of collaboration and the multidisciplinary approach to today’s world of work and problem-solving.

In the context of this emerging digital importance in the world of work, the pages of this issue of SPRING cover our courses delivered online. The Homestay Entrepreneurship Development course in Uttarakhand utilised the learnings from COVID-19 to help the hospitality and tourism sector bounce back, and the Digital Financial Literacy course in Maharashtra and Gujarat was offered pro-bono to college youths to help secure their future in an uncertain world. Through this course, Learnet Skills, in partnership with various organisations, positively impacted 5,000 people, supporting them in their dreams of enabling a better quality of life for themselves and their families. You will also hear from our own COVID warriors talk about how upskilling efforts by Learnet proved to be invaluable during these challenging times.

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