Education in the gig economy


Before any of you ask, no, this article is not written to justify the grades gone by. There are several conversations in the modern court of public opinion – aka social media and the internet that have been brimming with countless opinion pieces claiming that perhaps there is a need to re-look at the education system with a critical eye and determine whether it has lost its touch. And while the infamous pandemic has raised several alarms about the existing definition of learning, the truth is that the debate about traditional long-form education having lost its relevance has continued since the turn of the 20th century.   

 Does Education Really Matter?

Now this question arises with a two-fold observation. First, the worrisome condition of the job market – aptly described through a reel (that has unfortunately been lost in the Instagram obscurity) where an individual seeking a job in 1908s is immediately hired cut to now, where a master’s degree, internships, and some previous job experiences amount to nothing for even an entry-level job. While there is undeniably some exaggeration involved for comic effect, the truth behind this situation is both experienced and suffered through by countless individuals regularly. 

What this observation reveals, is a change in the expectations of businesses from their prospective employees. The question this scenario posits requires some thinking: Is the current system of education in tandem with these changes? 

Secondly, at one point or the other, every individual must have come across a list of the rich and successful of the world who have “made it big” without a college degree. And once this list is presented, one cannot help but wonder about the relevance of their master’s degree and the hours (not to mention the heavy financial investment) devoted to pursuing higher education. So, if you can succeed without traditional 15 year education, why study? 

What is the Purpose of Education?

While this may sound clichéd (and will get your ears boxed in, if uttered loudly in an Indian family) the purpose of education is not impeccable grades or the certification you receive after the “completion” of a program but the value derived from the learning. The idea here is not to deem the current system of education as “unimportant” but rather to drive focus on acknowledging the learning gap which is interestingly discussed in this article. While you may not always agree with the views proposed one cannot deny having felt cheated by the promises of education at one point or the other. 

Importance of Upskilling in a Post-Pandemic World

The pandemic demanded efficient adaptability almost overnight to overcome the challenges presented and those who could not manage this, suffered from being driven out of the workforce as part of the downsizing to help businesses sustain through the crisis. However, now that the problem is somewhat settling down, both businesses and individuals are inclined to learn to safeguard their interests in the future. Because if not the pandemic, there are always robots to scare people – according to a PwC estimate, as many as 34% of the public sector jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation by the 2030s. Fortunately, both individuals and businesses identified the need to upskill and reskill respectively, and here are the trends for learning in the coming future: – 

  • Learning the Ropes of Remote Working 

When it started, remote learning was a hassle that most were unprepared to deal with. However, as attested by a survey of 317 CFOs by Gartner Inc. as many as 74% of the participants claimed to be moving at least 5% of their workforce permanently to remote positions. Initially, individuals learned by doing, but now, with a change in the business model, businesses will have to invest in the formal training of their employees to efficiently manage tasks remotely with the aid of technology.

  • Supplementing Changed Behavioural Patterns with Re-Skilling

The pandemic did not merely change how individuals worked but also how they ate and even shopped. This change in the behavioural patterns and the difference in choices and preferences will need some getting used to. To illustrate with an example, there is a preferential shift towards e-commerce in place of brick-and-mortar shops on the grounds of convenience realised after the prompt of social distancing. In such a scenario where customers are accommodated to the digital way of things, employees of the company will have to be taught how to manage these preferences and how digital platforms rewire customer expectations. 

  • Customised Learning to Fill Core Skill Gaps 

It is time to move away from the trope of one-size-fits-all for learning. The generalised curriculum that worked in schools will not work in a business setting simply because to upend business models companies will have to work on strategic planning at root levels that begin with tailored learning. The good news is that companies have started to identify this and are soon catching up to the requirement. For example, a Chinese conglomerate worked to make its supply chain more agile to expand business post-pandemic and identified the skill gaps with this initiative to customise reskilling programmes and help employees meet the revised objectives.  

  • Imitating How the Smaller Companies Do It

Reskilling programmes in smaller organisations with less than 1,000 employees are more successful when compared to the larger ones.: –

  • Small companies have greater agility as there are fewer approvals needed (limited hierarchical obligations)
  • They have a clearer understanding of the skill gaps of the employees and so
  • They can prioritise learning for the “capable” set of employees easily 

If the larger organisations manage to imitate this model where they can effectively analyse the knowledge gap before providing the right guidance, then things can turn in their favour too.

In this world that is continually evolving and changing the definition of business, there is a need to train the workforce to keep up with the revisions. Considering this, every business must set aside learning budgets to adapt to the new normal (just in case you haven’t heard the term enough). 

Stay Curious. Stay Secure.
See you next week.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Jai Bahal
Jai Bahal - Co-Founder @ NAVIC
NAVIC aims to educate, inform and train students, professionals and entrepreneurs about the future of communications. NAVIC has collaborated with SCoRe for its flagship course: EVOLVE – A first of its kind curriculum that discusses hyper-relevant subjects like Meme Marketing, Trolls and Bots, AI in communications and more.

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