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Skills vs College Degrees: Key element reinventing the future of work

Given the estimates of the World Economic Forum – more than 1 billion jobs, almost one-third of all jobs worldwide are likely to be transformed by technology in the coming decade.

SNS | New Delhi |

Colleges have been in existence for ages. Right from the advent of humanity, colleges have been a go-to place to learn, acquire knowledge and get exposure to the outside world. Generations have spent the first third of their lives in colleges to acquire a degree and create a bright future ahead. However, the world as we see it today isn’t the same as it was two decades ago. The degrees obtained were the only proof of eligibility to get placement in the industry, which of course is no longer true.

According to the facts, around 3.7 Cr students are enrolled in higher education (Source: 2019 Aishe.nic.in report) across multiple degrees and colleges. Although the number of jobs rolled out and the so-called successes measures is less than 10% i.e., not even 37 Lacs students are getting jobs after completing their degrees. This represents the future of work will not be just about college degrees and qualifications.

With the emergence of the gig economy, the nature of work is more about skills. Given the estimates of the World Economic Forum – more than 1 billion jobs, almost one-third of all jobs worldwide are likely to be transformed by technology in the coming decade. The accelerated digital adoption has already made this happen. For instance – the conventional way of buying groceries, ordering medicines and other essential items have already transformed and become digital. Now even small stores or retailers are moving to app-based businesses to increase their customer base and retain the existing ones. This has opened up several avenues for people to work in a digitally-driven world.

Further, the COVID-19 downturn has given ample reasons to students and professionals to join upskilling and skilling programs to accelerate their careers in the modern economy. The shift in the focus from college degrees to skills is enabling diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Apart from this, it fills the widening employment gaps by selecting the candidates based on their talent, not just merit or degrees.

Modern, talent-based education

In the traditional old school corporates skills used to generally take a back seat and candidates with a college degree used to get a job because they were the only available handful of resources. However, India is soaring with new unicorns every single day. The country is becoming a global leader in the startup ecosystem and the whole paradigm has been shifted towards a massive number of hirings based on skills.

Startups are agile, result-oriented and focused on deliverability with little-to-no hierarchy. Startups are setting the tone of modern work culture and they choose people who can get the work done. That’s the topmost parameter, “Get Work Done” and thus, skills have now taken a front-seat then come college degrees.

Acquisition of soft skills

As the world has moved towards digitalization, soft skills have become key to the modern economy. They refer to the personal attributes mainly – interpersonal skills of a person who can interact, convince and win a deal. They cover a wide array of skills such as working in diversity, teamwork, management, inclusion at the workplace, etc. Unfortunately, colleges and universities do not include learning these skills in their curriculum.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report – complex problem solving,  critical thinking, creativity, people management and emotional intelligence will be the most important skills required in the workplace by 2025. The emergence of unicorns and new-age startups are proving to people that developing soft skills is the need of the hour in order to win a business deal or accelerate a career.

Digital learning

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world that online learning is possible. Infact, it has become a key to learning and exchanging skills. It is the potential of digital connectivity that makes skill-based education easily accessible for people across the globe. Even international universities are collaborating with edtech platforms to facilitate digital learning and enroll students in modern education programs.  Presently, 3 out of 5 students are now enrolled in online courses learning through ed-tech platforms to cope up with the outdated-college curriculum.

Summing up

College or no-college has been a heated debate of this decade. Even many billionaires and successful entrepreneurs who have dropped out of college claim that colleges are losing their essence. Thus, skills definitely have many reasons to support the modern economy than the abilities of college degrees.

(By Pallavi Hirwani, Head of Business Growth, GetWork)