In the new age technology situations, development of skills goes hand-in-hand with inculcating adaptation skills. Anjali Byce, CHRO, Sterlite Tech, discuss some aspects. Excerpts:
Voice & Data: As India gears up for 5G, broadband for all, IoT and a host of new telecom business and technology models, what are the key competencies that telecom professionals should possess?
Anjali Byce: The Indian Telecom sector is fast transforming. The emergence of varied applications for 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, among others, need quick ramp up of skills matching global requirements. Coupled with this, aggressive policy-level targets for deeper broadband penetration and associated telecom services required to match urban, as well as rural consumer demands, are creating a major demand-supply gap at all levels of the talent hierarchy.
As per the Telecom Sector Skill Plan of DoT, additional telecom talent requirement by 2021-22 will be over 4.78 million. With the silos of telecom software, services, manufacturing disappearing, telecom professionals need to learn, adopt and develop new skills to fuel this transformation. As the sector shifts from 4G to 5G, telecom professionals need to satisfy customer requirements with newer solutions and services. The expectation is to have stronger techno-commercial capabilities to accelerate fulfilment of customer needs. While reducing development timelines require technical expertise, the ability to understand customer’s business needs and solutions through deep customer engagements are both equally becoming centre-stage.
Voice & Data: What role are you playing in building the right telecom talent pool for India?
Anjali Byce: In India, less than 20% of mobile tower sites have a robust fibre backbone as compared to 70-80% in the developed countries. As telcos invest in fiberisation of backhaul networks, these deployments have to be standardised and implemented through highly skilled resources. Deployment quality, network reliability, lifetime and expenses, all can be well-managed when smarter network professionals are employed to bring about this fiberisation.
Our STL Academy banks on our global expertise in optical fibre network designing, building and management, use of industry-best practices and state-of-the-art research to equip telecom professionals in boosting their efficiency, reducing error rates and achieve improved First-time Right (FTR) implementations.
The STL Academy’s goal is to build symbiotic relationships with all telecom stakeholders and create a conducive ecosystem matching global standards and practices. All of this, while fulfilling our overriding purpose is service of the nation.
Voice & Data: What are the big challenges that you see today when you want to hire professionals that can build next-gen telecom networks, products and services?
Anjali Byce: The requisite experience and exposure needed for the transition in the Indian telecom sector is not available in India. As a result, companies need to hire professionals from other parts of the globe on consulting assignments to build next-gen solutions while building competencies locally. This is especially a major challenge when niche skills are needed for high-tech product development.
Today’s telecom sector needs engineering graduates to be equipped with skills in fibre-optic technology, IoT, cloud computing, carrier-grade Wi-Fi and 5G. In India, technical education is focused on theory-based learning, where only 40% of students undergo internship and less than 36% take part in live projects as part of their course. Lacking industry exposure, students fail to apply technology concepts to industry requirements.
Voice & Data: What would be your advice to educational institutes that are the foundations of aspiring telecom professionals?
Anjali Byce: The academia should join hands with equipment manufacturers, TSPs and network deployment experts to enable practical orientation, in addition to theoretical approach. To be in tune with the latest technology trends in the market, academia should partner with leading telecom network, product and services companies for knowledge exchange forums, internship programmes, industry visits, go-see-learn events and meet the leadership initiatives, to name a few.
This will help the students and faculty in getting a realistic and contemporary perspective; further enabling them to select their specialisation. Creating technology labs and providing real-time environment for better adaptability will help build the right skills – and catch them young!
Voice & Data: What role and support from the Government will help the industry and academia to speed up quality and scalable telecom talent pool?
Anjali Byce: From an industry point of view, the Government should increase the number of institutions offering telecom education and add related technology courses in prestigious colleges to build a strong talent pool. As technology in the telecom sector continues to rapidly evolve, the Government may explore the option of industry and academia co-creating specialised and cutting-edge training programme that helps in skill development that is forward looking.
Voice & Data: What will be the hot-selling skills that will be of very high value for service providers, as well as equipment and handset companies?
Anjali Byce: As technologies evolve, IoT specialists, artificial intelligence, data analysts, large-scale system integrators and its project managers, cloud application developers, carrier-grade Wi-Fi and 5G wireless technicians, FTTx network specialists, would all be critical skills that the Indian telecom service providers would be looking for in the future.