Time For Some Self-Skilling

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Just the other day, I was sitting quietly minding my own business, when this inane conversation posed into my space.
“It’s difficult right now. Very difficult.” Said one voice.
“But you could try. There are so many avenues now and I have like 10 years,”
 Said another voice.
“Yes, yes but that’s all 10 years of 10 years ago. Is there anything new you can do?”
There was a slight pause, and then. “I can learn and I can learn very fast.”
“Well, we have your number, thanks for coming in, we will call you if there is something suitable. Your cost is too high though, but let’s see.
My advise is that you should reskill as quickly as possible, and lower your expectations.”
It was a conversation between a Recruitment Consultant and someone looking for a job change … or a job.
Just then my friend came in and I promptly forgot about the conversation. We were at a coffee shop in Aundh to discuss next steps on a tech platform and over the next couple of hours, numbers and designs and interfaces took over all available mind space.
Then last week, I met a different friend and this one works with people in rural areas and is involved in projects of skill development and so on. After first few exchanges, he poured three sugars into his black coffee and made an angry swipe at his phone.
“The damn fools!” he muttered. I watched him as he took a long sip of his hot, sugary black coffee and that brought him out of his mood. “What’s this?!”
“You poured three sugars into it.” I grinned.
He calmed down and started laughing.
“Been distracted lately. We are barely managing to provide some levels of skills to people and now I have my management asking me about setting up a Reskilling program.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s trending on LinkedIn I guess. Which means it’s already a buzz word around      the world.”
“But what’s Reskilling?”
“Who knows? There’s probably reams and Gigabytes of articles, tips, and models out there by now. The AI bots scare is being used to explain job cuts and redundancies. And everybody is lapping it up.”
“You corporate types have tunnel vision in your brains!” he started laughing. I kept waiting so he explained. “Several factors are leading to job cuts and the second-favourite reason being used to explain it is Artificial Intelligence led automation by bots.”
“What’s the first-favourite reason?”
“Global economic conditions of course. That’s the favourite reason. For decades, companies have used bench-strength as a strategy and now that time is being closely equated with quality and cost as critical factors, they have started focusing on performance – something that the developed world has been doing for half a century at least. But how do you explain it to people? Automation is taking your jobs. So think up new skills. That’s Reskilling in a nutshell.”
I looked at him as he sipped his new, pure black coffee. How did all this affect him? Well, he was responsible for managing skill development programs. Now he had to invent a Reskill program in a market where it was difficult enough to sell skills in the first place.
While governments have been busy imparting basic level education papers (degrees, certificates) to students, big industries have been busy giving jobs to people who had those qualifications and then have been banking on ‘on-the-job’ skilling/coaching, and been shoring up numbers to ensure delivery.
Meanwhile, various advanced concepts from Europe and America of the United States have made their way back to India, concepts such as flexible work hours, work-life-balance, policies, training of employees etc.  And voila! We are sitting on a loving, nurturing culture wherein employees (with degrees but without adequate skill) are paid for jobs they supposedly do, trained for gaps in their ability to do jobs, and provided glucose, therapy and all other work-stress related nourishments including redesigning themselves as the latest buzzword.  I remember a trend a few years ago when all graphic designers in India became UX/UI designers overnight. And soon thereafter, certification programs sprang up to skill people as UI/UX.
Reskilling is the latest load of bull doing the rounds of the job market, if you ask me. I say bull because I come from traditional industries – hotels, media, travel and hospitality. These industries, like many other industries are customer facing (airlines, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing) hire people for specific skills and train them for company-SOP gaps.
People work in these industries because they believe they are making a difference.
They have a purpose beyond the pay check, they understand their company’s business, the role of their departments and know how to use their education.
In my view, what we need now is what the world has always needed, self-skilling people.
Sanjay Mukherjee

Sanjay Mukherjee

A Thinker, Writer, and Mountain-Walker,
Sanjay Mukherjee is a Pune-based business consultant. He is Founder of RedstoneSummerhill and The Mountain Walker and also serves as Chief Strategy Advisor for the Hong Kong-based learning technology company, Peak Pacific Limited
Sanjay Mukherjee

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