EdTech solutions for bridging the skills gap: Experts highlight key trends and industry collaborations

A panel discussion organised by AWS Bharat Innovators, powered by AWS, Intel and YourStory brought together industry experts who shared valuable insights into the evolving landscape of education and the role of technology in addressing the skills gap.

EdTech solutions for bridging the skills gap: Experts highlight key trends and industry collaborations

Thursday June 01, 2023,

7 min Read

In today's rapidly evolving world, acquiring new skills and staying ahead of the curve is essential for personal and professional growth. The advent of technology has transformed the education landscape, opening up exciting opportunities for learners worldwide.

A recent panel discussion on ‘Bridging the skills gap: EdTech solutions for reskilling, upskilling, and lifelong learning’, organised by AWS Bharat Innovators, powered by AWS, Intel, and YourStory, brought together industry experts who shared valuable insights on the evolving landscape of education and the role of technology in addressing the skills gap.

Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD of upGrad; Shreyasi Singh, Founder and CEO of Harappa; Subramanyam Reddy, CEO and Founder of KnowledgeHut upGrad; and Amit Mahensaria, CEO, upGrad Campus (earlier Impartus), highlighted the significance of skill development, the focus on cognitive and behavioral skills, the social impact of training programmes, the shift in power to learners, and the importance of outcome-driven education. This session was moderated by Sunil PP, who serves as the South Asia Lead for Education, Space, NPOs, Channels, and Alliances at AWS.

Recognising the relevance of skill development

Setting context to the discussion, Sunil cited the “Building Digital Skills for the Changing Workforce” report by AWS, which indicates that 95% of the Indian workforce will need to have more digital skills and knowledge in using digital technologies, to adapt to the post-pandemic era. He also noted that the demand for upskilling and reskilling has changed dramatically.

Kumar highlighted three noticeable trends in skill acquisition and upgradation. Firstly, professionals, especially working adults, are realising the diminishing relevance of their existing knowledge and the need for continuous learning. The rapid pace of change demands reskilling and upskilling to stay relevant in today's context. Secondly, individuals are increasingly willing to invest in their own career growth, recognising that personal capital is crucial for professional advancement. However, the acceptance of skills acquired outside organisational frameworks by corporate entities remains a challenge, suggesting a need for greater efforts to encourage organisations to embrace external talent and skill credentials.

On the other hand, Singh emphasised the importance of cognitive, social, and behavioural skills for individual and team leadership, as well as achieving business goals. Harappa's programmes cater to various roles, ranging from data scientists to HR managers, and focus on developing these crucial skills.

According to her, the managerial training segment, in particular, has seen significant demand, given the challenges professionals face when transitioning from individual contributors to managers. Additionally, Harappa has prioritised women's leadership development, offering programmes that accelerate women's careers from individual contributors to senior leaders.

Reddy highlighted the social impact of providing skill training to retired veterans seeking corporate jobs. KnowledgeHut upGrad has been delivering training programmes tailored to individual participants, helping them acquire necessary skills and guiding them to suitable roles. Collaboration with other organisations and guidance have further contributed to the success of these initiatives, with an increasing number of participants benefiting from the programmes.

Mahensaria discussed the shift in power from universities to learners, with learners now demanding outcome-driven education. He laid stress on the need for quality education accessible to a larger audience, highlighting how technology can play a pivotal role in achieving this goal. The importance of education preceding technology was touched upon, urging entrepreneurs to understand this aspect when developing edtech products. Additionally, founders' mindsets have evolved, recognising that technology should support education rather than overshadowing it.

Challenges and recommendations

Kumar acknowledged the low penetration of online education and highlighted the variability in product outcomes as a challenge. He advised founders to differentiate products effectively, ensuring a clear understanding of what they can deliver. Distribution and presence were identified as critical factors, given the demand for skill training and upskilling. Mayank also stressed on the significance of obsessing over customers' needs and focusing on delivering outcomes rather than vanity metrics.

Singh shared a success story of how Harappa's focus on curiosity and skills training led to a tremendous increase in innovative ideas within a robotics company.

“They approached us with a goal of making their entire workforce more innovative. We proposed that cultivating curiosity was the core skill needed for fostering innovation. We conducted a curiosity journey for 2,000 employees, utilising cognitive, social, and behavioural skills to unleash creativity, define problems, and decode information,” she shared.

The outcome was remarkable: the organisation reported receiving 5X the number of ideas from employees compared to their previous standard routines. They even placed an idea prototype box in the cafeteria and were pleasantly surprised by the increased employee contributions.

Harnessing the power of technology

The panelists unanimously agreed that their collaboration with AWS empowered them to concentrate on their primary objective: delivering exceptional educational content and experiences. AWS served as the essential technological backbone, providing the necessary support for seamless operations.

“From a cloud perspective, AWS has been a strong and reliable support partner for us. AWS has been our primary platform, and the consistency it offers is highly valuable. One standout aspect is the responsiveness of the AWS team, which is crucial when building a tech product. We haven't encountered any issues with the reliability of the AWS platform, making it a dependable choice for us,” Kumar said.

Praising AWS for its reliability and strong tech architecture, Mahensaria also highlighted the exceptional go-to-market (GTM) strategy and support extended by the AWS business development team. He emphasised the collaborative efforts that encompassed late-night calls, strategic planning, and successful execution, resulting in a significant impact.

“Together, we were able to offer our virtual classroom platform and technology for free to numerous colleges and schools when the COVID-19 pandemic struck India. This GTM partnership and joint effort resulted in reaching over 1.1 million students and making a difference in the education sector during a critical time,” he said.

To summarise the discussion, Sunil highlighted three key takeaways:

1. The value of a traditional degree has significantly diminished, going from a 30-year relevance to just three years. This shift underscores the importance of agility and lifelong learning. Universities should redirect their focus towards learners and learning outcomes, emphasizing practical skills and continuous education.

2. The landscape of corporate skilling is undergoing a significant transformation. Companies now prioritize the development of cognitive, social, and behavioral skills alongside technical expertise. They recognize the need for professionals who possess a well-rounded skill set to navigate complexity and collaborate effectively.

3. Tapping into the talent pool of retired veterans and career break mothers through appropriate reskilling can yield significant benefits. It enables valuable knowledge exchange and contributes to creating a diverse workforce that benefits from their unique perspectives and abilities.

The collaborative efforts of AWS and Intel have greatly benefited public service organisations, including educational institutes, edtechs, non-profits, government institutions, and startups. Together, they have facilitated the migration to cloud ecosystems and provided assistance in managing legacy technologies on the cloud. Furthermore, they have prioritised privacy, security, and data sovereignty across different sectors.

Their recent initiative, the Bharat Innovator Series, serves as a platform for founders, innovators, policymakers, and thought leaders to engage in meaningful discussions about technology opportunities. This initiative aims to foster dialogue, address challenges, and explore synergies for the future. The series incorporates webinars, podcasts, and events that shine a spotlight on the remarkable work of Indian innovators spanning various domains.