Cisco, HPE and Accenture turn focus on bridging digital skills gap in India

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Mumbai: As India gears up to become a trillion dollar economy over the next five years, the country is also witnessing massive digital transformation initiatives spanning across private to public and government sectors.

These digital initiatives across India have also triggered a huge demand of professionals with digital skills and advance technology know how.

According to industry experts, India’s dream to become a trillion dollar economy heavily depends on how the country takes strategic and concrete steps in the direction of digital and technology innovation as it will fuel new jobs and growth.

“The digital economy is a growth enabler and holds massive potential for India. While it has been widely discussed that digital adoption is forecasted at $1 trillion monetary opportunities for organizations, it is the quality of benefits that it brings that is most significant,” said VC Gopalratnam, SVP-IT and CIO-International, Cisco.

Even though the Indian government have launched many digital skills and education programs like Skill India and others in partnerships with industry bodies and educational institutes, the demand of such highly skilled professionals in the digital and IT space is unlikely to be matched.

And this shortage also means a direct impact on the IT sector in India, which relies heavily on the local talent. Most of the global tech and software companies in India’s IT sector are not just doing business in the domestic market, but a majority of them are running their offshore global research and development (R&D) centers and providing services and technical support to international clients from here.

Given this situation, tech giants like Cisco, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and Accenture have launched different digital skills development led education and training initiatives in India.

Interestingly, these programs are not only designed to impart advance IT education in the areas of networking, cybersecurity, digital infrastructure, IoT and digital skills, but they also leverage new technologies like cloud and mobile to expand its reach, accessibility and create a large scale impact.

For instance, Cisco announced the expansion of its Networking Academy program to train one million students in India by 2025. This is part of Cisco’s goal of positively impacting 50 million people in India by 2025 and is aimed at creating a pool of highly-skilled technology professionals who will accelerate India’s digital transformation.

The academy in India, as per the company is one its largest program globally. Under this program, Cisco has set up 583 academies nationwide and more than 350,000 Indian students have been trained so far.

The skills-development program, according to Cisco is a cloud-delivered, scalable, high-quality program that helps students learn how to design, build, secure and maintain digital infrastructure.

The Cisco-developed curriculum include courses on IT essentials, networking, cybersecurity, programming and Internet of Things (IoT). In 2016, Cisco had set a goal to train 250,000 students by 2020, which was achieved a year ahead of schedule.

Although, Cisco has developed the program, it is available to schools, colleges, universities, vocational institutions, government and non-profit organizations, so they can integrate the curriculum with their respective educational offerings.

In addition, it also engages with government run education institutes in providing training on networking and cybersecurity skills aimed at improving the employability of engineering graduates.

Further, Cisco has taken concentrate steps in engaging with the Indian government’s training and skills development units. In fact, Cisco with Accenture and Quest Alliance last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Directorate General of Training (DGT) and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to bolster digital skills development and collaboration across the country through Industrial Training Institutes (ITI’s).

As many as 1.5 million ITI students across India are set to be trained in digital skills using the Bharat Skills portal, where they will get 240 hours of training on digital workplace readiness, including creative problem solving and use of data in decision-making. To make the program highly accessible to students, it has been optimized for mobile phones and would enable self-learning.

Likewise, through the NASSCOM-Cisco thinQbator program over 600 students from India’s top technology and management institutes have been given the chance to work on high-end technology tools to build solutions and get trained.

This year -old program has seen participation from Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala (IIITMK) – Trivandrum, IIT – BHU – Varanasi, Amrita University – Coimbatore, Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women – Delhi, and Trident Academy of Technology – Bhubaneshwar.

The program along with honing digital skills of students, also encourages social innovation and entrepreneurship. It largely focuses on new technologies such as 3D printing, LoRa gateways, IoT, Augmented Reality (AR), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These technologies are high in demand across business segments today and are being leveraged to solve real-life complex problems.

“Through strategic collaboration between governments, businesses, and NGO’s, we extend our experience in networking technology to elevate the standards of living and foster sustainable economic development.” added Cisco’s Gopalratnam.

Like Cisco, HPE – a global tech giant has been active on the skills-development front in India. HPE recently announced the launch of an IoT focused center of excellence (CoA) that will work in the agriculture sector.

For this initiative, HPE and Agastya International Foundation have signed MoU to set up a fully-equipped Center of Excellence (CoE) in Gudipalli, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh. This facility will provide students with access to advanced IT solutions that help in the agricultural sector to achieve higher food production from finite land resources.

Technology can play a vital role in addressing rapidly-evolving global needs related to food and agriculture. Being a purpose-driven organization, we are leveraging previously untapped resources to reveal new solutions for such social and environmental challenges,” said Som Satsangi, MD, HPE India.

“The launch of this CoE in partnership with Agastya International Foundation will train the youth of our country on the technology to improve yield, productivity and sustainability across the entire agricultural ecosystem,” added Satsangi.

Under this program, Agastya International Foundation will identify and select underprivileged, undergraduate computer science or engineering students around Gudipalli, Chittoor district and HPE’s IoT experts will guide these students and provide opportunities to work with soil fertility experts on agriculture-related projects.

HPE will train the selected students in the areas of IoT and computer programming; and improve their employment prospects as well.

“Food security is amongst the most critical issues facing society today, making it crucial for industry, technology, academia and government to come together and solve such global challenges,” said Ramji Raghavan, Founder and Chairman, Agastya International Foundation.

The will center will feature HPE’s technology infrastructure and systems with access to Microsoft Azure cloud services. While, the Bangalore based HPE Pointnext Global Customer Solution Center (CSC) will deliver technical services and support to this center.

“To achieve a sustainable future we will require a disruptive transformation across every industry including agriculture. Digital agriculture has the potential to accelerate the productivity of food systems while cutting farming inputs,” said Sanjay Mujoo, VP – HPE Pointnext Services.

“Through this CoE, we aim to provide the students with the requisite IoT training, enabling them to find innovative solutions to boost yields and reduce waste,” added Mujoo.

More so, HPE last month revealed its big plan to invest $500 million in India over the next five years. As part of this major plan, HPE aims to grow its operations, manufacturing and employee base, increase its R&D and services exports, but also want to support and participate in social initiatives through technology.

HPE has collaborated with the NASSCOM Foundation to set up fully equipped digital classrooms under the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM), where over 50 digital classrooms across the country are being set up among which four will be launched in Maharashtra in the near future.

In 2018, Accenture pledged to invest $200 million globally in the area of education, training and skills development initiatives over the next three years. It aimed to equip more than three million people in the digital age with job and entrepreneurial skills by 2020.

On the India front, the company’s focus has been providing skills to help disadvantaged people get jobs and start businesses under its Skills to Succeed program. For this program, company strategically collaborates with non-profit organizations and use digital technologies to deliver impact at scale.

“In India we are focused on providing the skills to help disadvantaged people get jobs and start businesses, and under Skills to Succeed, we have collaborated with strategic non-profit organizations and used digital technologies to deliver impact at scale,” said Rekha M. Menon, Chairman and Senior Managing director – Accenture in India.

“So far, we have enabled more than 380,000 people including women and people with disabilities, to earn livelihoods for themselves, and create employment for others,” added Menon.

Accenture in partnership with Quest Alliance is working on a detailed technology roadmap to build a Skills to Succeed mobile learning ecosystem that provide learning to youth beyond the classrooms and build their careers.

Also, the company runs Tech4Good projects which uses advanced technologies to help solve challenges and problems facing business and society. It has collaborated with The Grameen Foundation India, using technologies from AI to augmented reality, to help disadvantaged people improve their financial literacy to enhance their financial and social well-being.

The strong participation and involvement from these giant tech companies, certainly shows their concerns. And they are also well aware of the fact that the only possible solution to the skills gap issue is to work in partnerships with all the stake holders, including the government, education institutes, colleges and schools, trade bodies and NGOs.

Probably, it’s just a beginning and more tech companies must come forward to join this large skills development movement. Though the movement will surely help to build a new trained digital workforce and professionals not only to meet India’s future needs but also the IT industry globally.

But the question is — will these efforts be enough? Only time will tell in the future.

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