In today’s technological scene, the telecom professionals have to be ready with the ever changing skills. Rajan S Mathews, DG, COAI discusses in this interaction about this phenomenon. 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?
Rajan S. Matthews: The telecom industry has witnessed sweeping transformations, especially in the last 5 years, owing to the declining demands for traditional services and rising demands of digital services. Competitors have also eroded the consumer base by creating downward pressure on tariffs and rates.
The current situation demands telecom professionals to be well-equipped with a diverse set of qualities and competencies to face the challenges, cope up with the emerging technologies and build a solid track record of performance. To start with, a telecom professional needs to be an innovative thinker, especially in the times of crisis. They should have market intelligence, superior customer-handling skills, excellent financial management skills, great analytical skills, be technology-friendly, to name a few.
The areas of competencies will be AI, robotics, deep neutral networks, security blockchain, RF engineering, cloud computing, chip design, software engineering etc.
The changing landscape of the telecom sector poses many challenges for all the players. If addressed properly, and with the right competencies, these challenges can be converted into growth opportunities.
Voice & Data: What role can a company like yours play in building the right telecom talent pool for India?
Rajan S. Matthews: COAI, as an industry body, is always encouraging telcos to impart proper training to their employees. We are committed to bridge the skills gap and build a base, comprising of an efficient industry-ready resource pool. It is very important to train people on the job and provide hands-on practical experience, so that they are efficient and competent to survive and grow in today’s time.
COAI was one of the founding members of the Telecom Sector Skill Council (TSSC). TSSC is responsible for formulating the right training courses, content, training, evaluation and certification of candidates. The members of COAI attempt to hire from this pool of certified candidates. TSSC offers 49 qualification packs and 7 various courses in smart city roles. Till date, it has trained more than 7,51,647 students, whereas, more than 4,20,809 are certified.
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?
Rajan S. Matthews: The most common challenge that is being faced while hiring professionals is the wide skill gap. Graduates from engineering colleges are often found thorough in theory, but lack practical knowledge and are not equipped to start working instantly. Most of the professionals are not very tech-savvy, which is the very need of the hour. They lack hands-on experience in working with the latest tools and technologies. It is seen that the aspiring telecom professionals are not ‘industry-ready’ to take on bigger roles in an organisation.
The lack of practical knowledge, no proper training, while working, and the inadvertent skill gaps are some of the challenges that need immediate solutions so that the hiring process can be made simple and less time-consuming.
Voice & Data: What would be your advice to educational institutes, which is where the foundations of the aspiring telecom professionals are laid?
Rajan S. Matthews: The fresh-out-of-college engineers are often found thorough in theory, but lack practical knowledge, and therefore, don’t seem ready for the industry. The problem usually lies not in them, but in the pattern of the syllabus or courses they have followed. In the job market of India, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, machine-to-machine learning, etc., are completely new digital spheres, and hence, need professionals who know their subject matter well.
To make the aspiring telecom professionals ‘industry-ready’, the educational institutions should try to re-design the pattern of courses and syllabus, so that the students master the knowledge well, in theory and in practice. Students should be taught to be creative, analytical and be able to apply new knowledge and come up with workable solutions. That can be earned through practical future forward learning.
Voice & Data: What role and support from the Government will help the industry and the academia to speed up the quality and scalable telecom talent pool?
Rajan S. Matthews: Digital innovations being the future of telecom, it’s immensely important to speed up the quality and scale of the telecom talent pool. A recurring problem for employers in India has been not finding the right employee or the skill-gap in the talent pool. Here, the government can play an important role and work in tandem with the industry to bridge the skill gap.
To speed up the quality of knowledge and scale the size of talent pool, proper training is needed. The Government can collaborate with the institutions or industry to fund or organize relevant trainings, modules, programs and workshops. The Government, through the Skill Councils, has attempted to provide the needed skilling to students. However, these programs are largely focused at the 10-to-12 standard students. The Government should also focus on designing the proper syllabus, courses, teacher training and apprenticeship programs for students at the college level and ensure there is proper evaluation and testing of skills before the students graduate.
Voice & Data: What according to you will be the hot-selling skills that will be of very high value for service providers as well as equipment and handset companies?
Rajan S. Matthews: For service providers, AI, ML, robotic automation and analytics will be the high-value skills of the future. This would help to reduce manual mistakes, ease out managing volume, ensure flexibility and quick responses.
In addition, IoT, Big Data analytics, cyber security, etc., are of foremost importance, and therefore, hot selling skills for the future.
Voice & Data: What is the relevance of simulation software in the telecom industry?
Rajan S. Matthews: With the upcoming technologies like AI, IoT, machine-to-machine learning, etc., simulation software will particularly be relevant. There will be interdependence as some of the components can either be used in simulation models to reflect the real system, or simulation models can be used to train the AI components. We can also use ML to build better simulations.