IT sector

School dropouts and non-engineers are being wooed to bridge the skill gap in Indian IT

Software companies and a host of training institutes are moulding a generation of non-collegian workforce.

A new, parallel skilling ecosystem is evolving in India to feed the starving $150 billion IT sector.

With advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence gaining ground, well-trained talent is increasingly difficult to find in the country. India’s universities don’t supply enough people who can hit the ground running, largely due to outdated curricula and a deficit of good teachers and other resources.

So, corporate India is chipping in, moulding a generation of non-collegian workforce. Both software companies and a host of training institutes are steering this trend.

Training freshers

Among the first to groom such talent was Chennai-based Zoho Corporation, which picked up high school dropouts, diploma holders, and just about anybody who demonstrated an aptitude for coding and other tech skills. For 12 years now, Zoho University has supplemented the software company’s talent needs with the right personnel, by now constituting some 15% of its 4,500-member workforce.

Software services major HCL began a similar programme six months ago, training high school students to perform IT tasks. India’s biggest software exporter Tata Consultancy Services has its TCS Ignite platform for training graduates from non-engineering courses keen on joining the firm.

In September 2016, IIT-Delhi alumnus Abhishek Gupta and autodidact Rishabh Verma launched NavGurukul, an institute that sponsors and trains students in software programming. NavGurukul runs a year-long residential programme in New Delhi entirely based on donations. It is experimenting with curriculum collated by industry professionals on an open-source platform. The courses are activity-based and taught by volunteer-teachers. The institute focuses on the underprivileged, with daily wagers and school dropouts on the rolls going on to secure tech startup jobs.

Meanwhile, constant upskilling and re-skilling remain an imperative at all levels of IT roles.

Need to re-skill

In the last decade, the online education space has flourished in India. And most of the paid users in this segment are those looking to re-skill themselves. The industry is set to be worth nearly $2 billion by 2021, up 10-fold from $247 million today.

Data: KPMG
Data: KPMG

US-based Udacity, Bengaluru-based Edureka and Mumbai-based EduPristine are among the many players offering paid certification courses to employees.

For entry-level positions, such courses offer expertise in advanced topics not taught in schools and colleges. Project-based learning, coupled with mentoring by professionals, helps convert “raw knowledge…to practical application,” N Shivakumar, business head of recruitment process outsourcing at Teamlease Services, told Quartz.

So far, it appears to be working well, with even large software companies like Infosys, Wipro, Honeywell, and Tech Mahindra working with online education companies.

Increasingly, conventional degrees are not being insisted upon by companies. For instance, e-commerce firm Flipkart hires people with a Udacity certification. Elsewhere in the world, too, firms like EY and PwC are scrapping the requirement for a formal degree, at least for some profiles.

In any case, it’s not like a formal degree in India entails good training or talent.

Fixing education

Most Indian tech graduates aren’t industry-ready. Companies feel that colleges provide context-less education and only a fraction of India’s fresh engineering graduates are employable. This is primarily because of a deficit of good teachers; owing to the dismal salaries, tech professionals mostly choose corporate jobs over academia.

Besides, the focus in Indian IT education has largely remained on legacy programming languages such as C, C++, Java, and Visual Basic, even though new-age languages like JavaScript, Golang, Python, Ruby, CPP, Lisp, or Racket are more prevalent now globally.

Data: HackerRank
Data: HackerRank

Then there is the question of affordability of higher education. In any case, only a segment of “qualified” personnel that India’s institutes of higher learning churn out really fit into the rough and tumble of the professional world.

“Five or 10 years ago, it was enough to walk in with a piece of paper [certificates]. They’ll learn on the job and they’ll get better. That used to be the paradigm,” Mohan Lakhamraju, co-founder and CEO of Gurugram-based training platform Great Learning, told Quartz. “Not anymore. People want you to work from day zero. The day you come in, you need to contribute.”

The pitfalls

However, not all knowledge available on online platforms is disseminated effectively, making it important that learners find areas that best fit their specific needs and schedules.

For a working professional, time is important. “They can’t spend 100 hours to learn something in a very unstructured pattern,” Loveleen Bhatia, co-founder and CEO of Edureka, told Quartz. And free lessons from multiple platforms compromise standardisation and legitimacy – the things that employers value a lot. Moreover, getting academics and industry leaders to devote time on online platforms is expensive, which the free-to-use websites can’t afford.

Another drawback of the sponsored training model is that it could result in the employees getting “locked in” to a specific company’s ecosystem. On switching jobs, they may have to learn a whole new set of skills or completely relearn existing ones. This may only exacerbate the problem in the long-run.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

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Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.