The world of work is changing.

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and a host of other technologies will not only create new jobs that don’t exist today, but radically transform existing jobs.

However, businesses won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities if they don’t have a workforce that can also evolve with the changing times.

This hinges on closing the skills gap – the disconnect between the skills that employees have, and those that employers and markets are now demanding.

Furthermore, if we don’t give employees the opportunity to develop the skills that allow them to transform along with their jobs, we risk developing a generation of lost workers.

Most of today’s pedagogy is based on models put in place over a century ago.It needs to be transformed to address the changing landscape of modern life and new labor markets.

In its 50th year, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has uniquely positioned itself with partners to create exponential value for its customers and the community at large, by creating a positive correlation between the young generation and the future of work.

In a thought experiment with the World Economic Forum, the Closing the Skills Gap Project, TCS is bringing consensus among all stakeholders at a global and national level to address the opportunity gap through research, insights, advocacy, and policy.

The labor market is changing

The World Economic Forum estimates that the world needs to create 470 million jobs by the year 2030. The jobs that fill that void will take the form of roles that don’t currently exist, requiring skillsets that have not yet been defined. Some of these skillsets didn’t exist five years ago, yet workers are today expected to have them.

“The new world of work of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly becoming a reality for millions of workers and companies globally,” says Saadia Zahidi, Member of the World Economic Forum’s Managing Board and Head of its Centre for the New Economy and Society.

“The inherent opportunities for positive outcomes for economy, society, and workers are enormous, yet crucially depend on bold action from all concerned stakeholders to instigate reform in education and training systems and prepare workforces for the skills of the future. The Forum’s partnership with TCS on the Closing the Skills Gap Project is one important step in catalyzing such action.”

The onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with its digital technologies, has a more profound impact, triggering very deep-rooted transformations. Individual workers will have to develop a mindset for lifelong learning to remain employable. Companies will have to relook at their talent hiring and upskilling strategies. And policy-makers will have to expedite a future-ready education system for reskilling and retraining the existing workforce and next generation of workers.

“Over the last 10 years, we have seen technology transform our lives more rapidly than it has in the last 100,” states Poonam Ashara, senior manager at TCS, who is seconded with the World Economic Forum on the Closing the Skills Gap project.

Upskilling and reskilling

The concept of reskilling and upskilling is far and wide-ranging. They relate to the development of fundamental skills such as basic digital literacy or employability skills that boost people’s chances of getting a job. They can also be business and technology specific skills that allow employees to become experts in a certain field.

The Closing the Skills Gap project promotes constructive public-private collaboration on the urgent and fundamental reform of education systems and labor policies, to prepare workforces for the future of jobs.

It is supported by a dedicated online platform, developed by TCS. The platform not only enables businesses to make measurable commitments that address future-oriented skills development but also allows them to share insights and best practices in the field.

“This three-year partnership between TCS and the World Economic Forum is a unique model for driving scale and impact on the critical issue of skills in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” says Balaji Ganapathy, Head of Workforce Effectiveness at TCS and Member of World Economic Forum’s Education, Gender and Work Steering Committee.

“A globally accepted skills framework provides common ground for leaders across sectors to recognize their role in developing solutions. Skilling commitments from global businesses catalyzed the need for industry to step up and take action. The country-level taskforces are now driving education and skills initiatives to prepare the local workforce, empowering people to participate in the new economy.

“It’s heartening to see that businesses worldwide have pledged to reach more than 17.2 million people through training, reskilling and upskilling by 2020. TCS itself has pledged to help reskill more than a million people by 2020 and is leading the change through several cross-sector efforts with partners, customers, and industry peers to inspire students – many from ethnic minorities, marginalized groups, and low-income families – toward STEM education and careers.

“TCS has taken the same modular, scalable, sustainable framework that is often used in its transformational IT projects to address the needs of the community. Whether it is through goIT, our flagship educational programme in North America which has impacted over 18,000 people, or through our Academic Interface Program, BPS Employability Program, BridgeIT in emerging markets, we are impacting millions of young people each year.”

In March 2017, TCS launched ‘Ignite My Future in School’ in partnership with Discovery Education. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative to enable educators, administrators and school districts to become ambassadors of computational thinking. The program will engage 20,000 teachers and more than one million students over the next five years and is offered at no cost to them and their school districts.

Collaboration

While there is a focus on companies to provide the necessary information about the changing skills landscape and foster reskilling opportunities, they are not working in isolation. The solution requires a global effort supported by constructive public-private dialogue. This thought structure underpins the Closing the Skills Gap project.

“TCS has been an early proponent in investing in learning experiences that not only benefit the business but also the community at large. It is with this idea that we decided to collaborate with the World Economic Forum on its Closing the Skills Gap Project. I am optimistic that this unique partnership will accelerate collaboration between policymakers, educators and employers leading to innovative solutions that help prepare young people, women, and minorities for the future of work,” explains Ganapathy.

Now in its third year, the project aims to pilot taskforces in five countries, including in G20 economies, to not only serve as platforms of learning but also to contribute to the global body of knowledge on the issue.

The Benefit

The clear benefit so far – aside from the number of employees being reskilled – is the dialogue this has fostered between stakeholders, bringing the public-private and educational organizations in the conversation to develop a holistic solution.

Ashara says: “It is collaborations such as the one between TCS and the World Economic Forum, that can pave the way for good practices, better solutions, leading to people not only becoming multi-skilled but also lifelong learners.

“It is with the belief that we can create value and demonstrate impact, that areas of investment are identified that helps bring us closer to unlocking multiple opportunities, democratizing education and helping the new generation harness the abundance available to them today and in the future.”