Home Opinion Potential over pedigree: Skills-first approach by higher education is in India’s interest

Potential over pedigree: Skills-first approach by higher education is in India’s interest

12 min read
Ashutosh Gupta, Country Manager, LinkedIn India, recently spoke at a national education conference about skills-first mindset and how education systems should take this transformation in their stride. We’re here reproducing the keynote (though not verbatim) as an important year-end piece of opinion that also sets in future thought process.

India is a land of brimming potential standing at the forefront of global supply and demand. What makes her the land of opportunity, are five major assets of having the demographic advantage, being an innovation hub, possessing technological prowess, cultural diversity and its education capital. Just to expand these:

Demographic advantage.  We are home to world’s largest youth population.  This is not just the demographic advantage rather the reservoir of untapped potential ready to redefine global talent dynamics.

 Innovation hub. India is rapidly becoming a hub for innovation and entrepreneurships. Our cities are tuning into sort of vibrant ecosystems attracting global attention and investment.

Technological prowess.  We have a strong foundation in technology and IT Services and India is poised to be a leader in the digital economy and the shaping global tech including the latest, which everybody is taking AI and Gen AI.

Cultural diversity. Our culture diversity is out strength, it possess unique prospect and problem solving making India talent adaptable and versatile in global markets. The kind of cultural diversity that Indians bring to world is very unique, really our strength and differentiator.

Education Capital.  We have a robust network of educational institutions and India has the potential to be world’s education capital nurturing a generation of skilled professionals.

But as we stand on threshold of opportunities, we must also confront our crucial questions. Are our current systems of education enough to harness the potential which we are seeing? The honest answer is while our education systems have laid a very strong foundation, we need to work together to evolve them further. Today’s world is increasingly moving towards a skills first mindset. This is the most important thing we have to consider and think about the future.

The traditional approach of book-based learning while fundamental, needs to evolve further.  The future belongs to those who can apply knowledge practically, who can innovate adopt and solve real world problems.  This where India’s journey must take a transformative leap. Our demographic dividend, the force behind our rise is composed of younger generation. To empower them, we must shift our education from holistic knowledge acquisition to wholesome skill development.  It is the Global thinking and relevant for India as well.

It is the mindset that measures talent not just by academic degrees but ability to perform and to turn theory into practice. I call this potential over pedigree. You have to really nurture potential that every student have.

Insights at LinkedIn are telling us compelling truth about how our youth is future proofing their career paths. Early trends we see in India, say student sign ups going up. What is more telling, is the nature of the engagement (of students), how they are thinking about future and how they are shifting their future. We see them spend significant time in acquiring practical knowledge than any previous generation. This is called Knowledge seeking behavior. What is knowledge seeking behavior?  When I want to learn from others, learn from people who have experience, knowledge shared on the linkedin platform.

We are seeing those particular posts or nuggets of information are most heavy engaged on the platform. Gen Z are likely to more network with other professionals and engage with career pages on the platform that proves they are challenging the traditional routes to success. They are opting for more ambitious and purpose driven career path, learning niche top skills and hunting for opportunity that best aligns with their values. This tells us youth aren’t just preparing for their future they are shaping it.

In a world constantly reshaped by economic shifts and technological advancements specially AI, the relevance of traditional knowledge needs to evolve. You really need to work very hard to reshape the traditional knowledge thinking and what it means in the current context.

I just want remind AI is not our competitor, it is our collaborator. The tool that amplifies, makes us productive, helps us realize human potential, so we must embrace Ai and not resist it for it will play a pivotal role in shaping future of world.

As decision makers and educators, it is our responsibility to align our education systems with these evolving realities. We need to move beyond the confines of conventional classrooms and test-textbooks to embrace our hands on skills first approach.

Higher education is the architect of tomorrow’s workforce, it is fortress of opportunity for decades. Going forward, it must evolve to the needs of this diverse, agile and resilient global economy. We must focus on nurturing not just technical prowess but also essentially the soft skills like communication and problem solving.

Hard skills absolute important but what we learn as we come together as a cohort when we go to school, colleges, or do courses, it is the learning that we get from peers and cohort and the soft skills that we learn. Soft skills of collaboration, soft skills of problem solving. In the world of AI it is not only problem solving but problem identification, what is the problem, are those are the skills which will be valued. Soft skills will be the premium. Some of the things which can be done through hard skills probably will be done by some of the machines or AI stuff.  Soft skills are super important. Then we look at new skills that are coming up. Sustainability and green talent.  These are no longer optional. They are imperative and demand for this powerful domain of work and education is going to surge to greater heights in near future.

Our recent achievements in the global education rankings are just the beginning of redefining higher education through the lens of skills, knowledge and inquisitiveness.  We can not only elevate our education system but also make strong global benchmark. We have the skills, we have the talent and vigor to achieve this and I am confident if all work together, we can ensure that our future of education converges with future of new employable skills.

In symphony of our country’s progress, every young India mind is on note that harmonizes the future. Let’s compose the mast piece together, let’ come together as champions of skills first approach, commit to transform our education system to empower our youth with the skills and mindset they need to thrive in the ever changing world. Together, we can pave the way for a future where India’s talent not only meets global demand but sets new standards.

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