Personal development has always been a core selling point for businesses when it comes to attracting and retaining talents. Meanwhile, skill is the foundation of human productivity that is closely related to higher motivation, morale, and profit. A recent survey by Coursera revealed that the majority of the world, especially in APAC countries, is at risk of falling behind critical skills. Despite the advanced technology and large talent pools, APAC lacks technical skills and development, as cited by Coursera.
On that matter, we arranged an interview with Raghav Gupta, entrepreneurial business leader and director at Coursera, to discuss insights and thoughtful approach on upskilling and reskilling around and across APAC countries.
Mr. Gupta, please share your perspective on how a company can embrace and utilise employee’s skills to boost business success?
The future of education and the future of work is converging. Globalization and emerging technologies are deeply impacting the nature of jobs and the learning requirements, further emphasizing the need for access to high-quality education. Competency development and reskilling have become a way of life, not a stage in life. It’s the only way to adapt as work becomes increasingly volatile and uncertain.
On the other hand, industry should help produce some of the best content for in-demand skills, which lends excellent relevance considering the current job market. For example, online learning platforms like Coursera provide the required flexibility, allowing access to more applied, industry-relevant quality content at affordable costs.
About the development part: Upskilling and reskilling are important for business growth. So, how do you see them as a program that can change business now and in the future?
Skills are the foundation of human productivity and economic success. Yet, the skills landscape as we know it is under transition. Technology advances faster than humans, and the skills that once fueled our economy will no longer suffice. The immediate and effective response to the changing job landscape is upskilling and reskilling. The workforce transformation helps build new skills companies need to stay relevant to the industry.
Coursera’s 2019 Global Skills Index reports APAC consists of the world’s most and least skilled within one region. Countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia ranked lower compared to Singapore, which ranks well above the global average. Furthermore, with such a huge discrepancy within the Asia Pacific region, businesses must focus on building talents in new technologies that are turning industries upside down.
Do you think upskilling and reskilling are equally important? Or does one outweigh the other?
Upskilling and reskilling are equally crucial due to the changing nature of jobs. There is an increasing demand for knowledge-based skills like Mathematics and Engineering in APAC. An estimated talent shortage in STEM is 45%. Hence, there exists a significant need for employers to reskill their employees to match the demand. Job automation is foreseen to impact APAC significantly— with job automation ranging from 51% in China to 55% in Thailand. Technology advancements and automation pose a massive job risk, as required skills are continually evolving. Companies and individuals alike need to keep skilling to stay relevant.
There is also a shift in the interest of learners, where they are increasingly opting for courses that are not limited to tech or business. Additionally, with changing job scenarios, not only academics but soft skill proficiency is given equal importance by employers while hiring talent. So, development should aim to equip our employees with in-demand skills.
We see that there are different opportunities in each country across the Asia Pacific when it comes to upskilling. Why do you think that is?
APAC is the most economically diverse region with a set of advantages and challenges. A country’s skill level depends on many factors such as institutional capacity, population, infrastructure, education ecosystem, etc. A drastic disparity in skills is contributed by the level of access to quality education, and prevailing labour market conditions. Countries with greater resources have a higher share of skilled citizens while others may face challenges in keeping with the changing technology and market dynamics.
For example, wealthier countries such as New Zealand and Singapore score high. In contrast, countries like Indonesia, Philippines, and Pakistan score low as they spend less on education, therefore ranked lower on the Coursera Global Skills Index.
From the Coursera Global Skill Index, we see that APAC countries, especially Singapore, has huge potential to access technological innovation. How and in what way can companies use this innovation to their advantage?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, marked by advancements in automation and artificial intelligence, is dramatically reshaping businesses. Today, the industry has become so volatile that some skillsets which seemed essential until some time ago have become more or less irrelevant. To leverage new technologies, companies need to build the right skills. For example, digital transformation is a theme across industries, and the digital transformation requires skills in Analytics, Data Science, Machine learning, Robotics, AI, etc. Today these new skills are critical to companies’ success in this knowledge economy.
Moreover, a lot of C-suite executives invest time in their own learning. In such organisations, learning and development is a successful function, primarily because like a lot of other strategic decisions, L&D also needs to be a CXO initiative.
Please share your perspective on the role of tech in upskilling and how does it address the educational gaps market?
Online education has become a major force in democratizing access to the best possible higher education the world has to offer. The cost of accessing higher education, especially in learning new-age technologies and upcoming fields has been one of the biggest challenges learners encounter. By allowing affordable access, online learning platforms are enabling people to transform their lives through online education. What online education provides is not necessarily a substitute for college education; it is a powerful complement and a way for individuals to continue learning throughout their career, keeping them updated in the face of change both in technology and in a dynamic job market.
In APAC, online learning has seen promising results in terms of adoption, course completion, and learner benefits. Basis of the growing acceptance by learners and employers, we believe that online learning will soon be on par with traditional learning.
Following the previous answer, how does an online course like Coursera help employees with their tight schedule in the upskilling program?
Today, in a dynamic work environment, professionals can’t afford to drop everything and enrol in a physical classroom learning program. The technology lifecycle has become shorter, and to keep running one has to become a lifelong learner. At Coursera, we believe that online learning is the answer to an affordable and flexible model of lifelong learning. The underlying component of all our products is open courses that can lead to more valuable credentials – learners are able to start, test and make progress towards their ultimate goals, learning new competencies and earning credentials one step at a time.
Our partnership with the world’s best universities and top enterprises allows us to offer career aligned, quality content across 11 domains. Addressing the current and future practical needs of employers, we have courses in high-demand fields like AI, data science, programming, machine learning as well as business, management and soft skills. Here, learners can be more employable while enhancing their leadership, communication, conflict management, and speaking skills.
Helping small businesses, what is your advice for businesses that cannot provide their employees with upskilling or reskilling perks due to some issues – for example, low budget?
Since a significant part of the global workforce is housed within companies, we saw Coursera for Business as a natural extension to provide an enterprise platform that helps employers address rapidly evolving workforce development challenges. At Coursera, for example, through self-serve, there is a platform available to smaller companies to upskill/reskill their workforce. Thus, this is a reflection of true democratization as employees become proactive in developing their skills within their organization.
Interview source: Coursera Global Skills Index
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