“Reskilling: The Growth Mantra For Telecom Industry”, Rajesh Mishra, President, Co-founder and CTO, Parallel Wireless

With the contribution of 8% to the country’s GDP, the telecom industry is at the center of growth of the Indian economy. The Government of India has acknowledged the potential of telecom with the launch of key telecom-focused initiatives such as Smart City Mission and Digital India in the last few years. It has also taken initiatives to push the usage of mobile banking and e-government. The Indian Government is also trying to position the country as the future manufacturing hub for the telecom infrastructure equipment.

Today, India ranks among the top three mobile phone markets in the world besides USA and China. The annual mobile handset sales alone are projected to cross 200 million units. Besides the projected high economic growth rate in the coming years, India will continue to fuel the domestic telecom sector, boosting concurrent manufacturing activities and creating jobs opportunities.

Jobs galore

In recent times, the telecom industry has witnessed job losses due to consolidation. Automation has also cast a shadow on the future of employment in the telecom industry.

Even so, telecom sector employs close to 2.8 million people directly and almost another 7 million indirectly, making it one of the largest employment generating industries in the country. The appeal of working with innovative and new technologies and the far-reaching impact of the communications industry means that the sector attracts the best talent.

The sector is projected to create over 10 million new employment opportunities in the next 5 years, as per the skill development body for the sector. Significant demand for employment is expected to emerge from new technologies like a Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, followed by telecom manufacturing, infrastructure, and service companies.

The emergence of new technologies, including Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G, and their applications in future, still being tested globally and has necessitated the creation of a fresh pool of manpower with skill sets to work in the new high tech environment. The current manpower needs reskilling to enable the industry to leverage the full potential of upcoming technologies. The existing skill sets are incapable to address the requirements of the future.

The flagship programmes of the Centre such as Smart Cities Mission, Digital India and Make in India will further fuel the demand of trained professionals in new technologies.

There is a strong need to reskill the existing manpower so the industry is collectively able to take advantage of the vast opportunities of the new technologies. The forthcoming technologies, such as 5G, promise to fundamentally alter the way we live and work. It opens a plethora of opportunities for the service providers as they will be able to provide newer and innovative services to their subscribers. For instance, 5G comes with low latency and high speed and this combination allows service providers to offer innovative use cases like smart home, driverless cars and smart waste management among others.

In order to address the skill gap, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Indian Cellular Association (ICA), and Telecom Centres of Excellence (TCOE) have recently come together for setting up Telecom Sector Skills Council (TSSC) under the aegis of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) for reskilling as per industry requirements.

Further, the Indian Government has also launched IT chamber NASSCOM’s Future Skills platform, to train four million IT professionals in eight new skill sets, including AI, machine learning, and Big Data. NASSCOM has roped in third-party providers of these courses online to roll out IT-based education programmes. NASSCOM has also identified 55 job profiles in areas spanning virtual reality, Internet of Things, 3D printing and mobility in which people require training or reskilling.

Reskilling Is The Need Of The Hour

While the Government has launched initiatives, there is little running away from the fact that the telecom firms also need to play their role in reskilling the manpower. The trained professionals in the new technologies will take some time to evolve. The technical manpower can go for a number of short-term courses to reskill themselves. Besides the firms can also organize regular reskilling workshops to equip themselves and their workforce for the upcoming era of connected everything.

Further, the evolution of technology demands a more collaborative approach in reskilling. For instance, 5G will bring a number of innovative use cases such as remote surgery and autonomous driving. Successful implementation of these use cases demands a collaborative ecosystem, where different sectors and technology verticals will function simultaneously. All this means that the technology manpower needs to learn to work with workforce from the other verticals.

India has already started to take baby steps towards new technologies. In the recent Budget, the Centre had announced funds to set up 5G testbed in collaboration with the top technology institutes Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

In a nutshell, reskilling will equip the technical manpower with tools to harness the future growth opportunities and get the first mover advantage.

With many new innovations like m-governance, m-commerce, m-education, m-health, online shopping and m-gaming telecom is increasingly going to be all-pervasive in our lives. However, the industry can leverage from the vast potential only if they help their manpower to reskill in keeping with the demands of the new technologies. It is imperative for the telecom and IT companies to handhold their technical manpower for reskilling to retain talent pool and to make a smooth transition without disrupting core processes.

By -Rajesh Mishra, President, Co-founder and CTO, Parallel Wireless

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