Bridge the gap between skilling and employability through technology-based skilling : Nidhi Bhasin, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation

Skill development is considered an important aspect of job creation in India and technology plays an essential role in scaling up Skill Development training in India. Skill development is the most important part of a person’s career journey that not only makes them successful but flexible, productive, and knowledgeable which in turn widens their career opportunities. Ms. Nidhi Bhasin, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, shares more insights on the same.


  1. The conversation on Skilling is now a priority – what are the major areas that one needs to look at in order to meet the nation’s skilling goals.

Skilling is one of the most critical aspects of a nation’s economic growth. And at NASSCOM Foundation, we believe all efforts towards skilling need to be Inclusive and focussed on enabling livelihood opportunities. Especially to realise the dream of Digital India, considerable efforts have to be made to make the workforce job-ready and employable. In July 2015, the Indian government launched the ‘Digital India’ initiative to improve the online infrastructure and increase internet accessibility among citizens especially in the rural areas thereby, empowering the country to become more digitally advanced.

  • Unemployment among the youth has been increasing, skilling needs to be intricately linked to building livelihood and employability. According to the latest data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in India increased to 7.8% of the total workforce in June from 7.2% in May. The issue is more stark in rural areas as compared to urban areas. Plugging the unemployment crisis is a must and much more necessary now than ever. This needs a special focus on curating skilling programs to specifically address employability, livelihood and entrepreneurship in an increasingly digital environment.
  • The glaring skill gap becomes wider as we move to the last mile. While the government has undertaken various initiatives to transform India into a digitally empowered society, these programmes often fail to include the issues of the rural population due to a huge demographic divide hampering their access. 60% of the rural economy is dependent on agriculture, based on traditional farming techniques. This dependency on agriculture, coupled with lack of employment opportunities in the sector in compliance with the upcoming technological advances in the industry, has led to rural poverty and lack of skilling the youth. Digital literacy and training and skilling the marginalized communities is significant to achieve the SDG goal of creating sustainable livelihoods.
  • Another important aspect to consider is to look at skilling from an inclusion lens as a lot of women don’t have access to necessary tools and information which hinders their inclusion in the workforce. Equipping them with relevant financial literacy and digital skills is more crucial than skilling men as majority of women are working in the informal sector with low wages and no means to enter the formal economy.


2. How can organisations power their business by using technology for skilling?

This past year we watched every organisational process and system come into question, as digital transformation became a critical strategic priority for India. Tech has reshaped everything – be it education, public health delivery systems, urban planning services. Technology as a way of life, is a trend that has accelerated post the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology has created ACCESS – our delivery mechanisms today are more robust, effective in creating social impact to a far larger audience. And this is the change that organizations need to embrace while using technology for skilling too.

Currently, the demand for digital skills in India is eight times what is available and will rise 20 times by 2024. Meeting this demand requires a combined effort from businesses, technology enablers, solutions providers, and the government, to incorporate fundamental shifts in talent strategies. Even from a CSR perspective, the tech industry has been quick in responding to this need. Skilling programs are being reoriented to include entrepreneurship, job creation and digital uptake as key qualifiers. Most partners we work from the tech industry want to spend their CSR funds on upskilling programs that help people.

Finally, a quantum change to take effect in the area of skilling, Skilling needs to be a focus for not just CSR teams but be integrated in mainstream business models. We need champions for TechForGood in the tech industry who are willing to bet revenue streams, profits and talent to drive social change through skilling models adapted to the need of the country and also for its varied audience.


3. Could you highlight some skilling trends that you see emerging, which are specific to India?

The following trends are coming to the forefront as India Inc is adopting digital technologies to skill and upskill:

  • There is a greater focus towards empowering the marginalised sections of the community by training them in digital skills. Women are benefitting tremendously as technology is enabling them to make the journey from digital literacy to entrepreneurial skill a reality. Few examples of our ongoing projects include enabling women entrepreneurs from urban slums and rural communities in India supported by VISA, Women Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Program supported by and Upskilling Women Artisan Entrepreneurship, Financial & Digital Skilling Project supported by FirstSource
  • Right up to the last mile: Digital skilling models that aims at skilling, upskilling and reskilling with an eye on what the industry needs, focus on MSMEs – A lot of this is about reaching the last mile, about access for those who needs it most. And that’s where a lot of our focus also is.
  • There is a growing need to integrate education and mainstream skills across schools, universities and colleges. The NEP 2020 framework has also taken steps in this direction to make skill development a priority. There is a push towards multi-disciplinary and experiential learning which makes the workforce job ready.
  • Finally, the fact that we are moving ahead as a Digital First nation is now increasingly clear. Starting with foundational areas such as basic digital literacy, digital-financial literacy and foundational digital skills, there is a widespread need to initiate, scale and sustain collaborative projects that cater to SDG 4 and 8. Furthermore, the other end of the spectrum has India moving towards skilling its youth on emerging technologies such as Cyber Security, AI etc. But they all echo the same call of tech based digital capability building.


4. Can you shed some light on the importance of skill in today’s world for women empowerment and inclusion?

Ensuring that every last person in our ecosystem is ready to embrace the change is the challenge.

According to multiple studies, the progress of a country in terms of social development and economic growth depends on the inclusion of women in the labour force. As India stands poised at the precipice of a digital revolution aimed at propelling the economy past the five trillion mark by 2025, it is imperative that women especially in rural India, play a substantial part in order for this objective to be fulfilled.

The best possible solution to bridging this gender gap is skilling. Skill development can play a huge role in women empowerment and is one of the most effective means to ensure gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.

At NASSCOM Foundation, one of our key focus areas includes Women Entrepreneurship, where we support existing women entrepreneurs scale and sustain their businesses by technology upskilling. One amongst many such projects under this program, is the initiative supported by that aims to empower the rural women with digital skills, financial skills and entrepreneurship skills training resulting in increased income & economic independence. Under this program, 1200 rural women are being trained on digital, financial and entrepreneurship skills to become the master trainers and further train 20000 rural women in their localities. To further empower women and aid their entrepreneurial aspirations, we announced the launch of DigiVaani call centres in New Delhi and Lucknow aimed at empowering rural women with digital, financial and entrepreneurship skills in seven aspirational districts across six states.

We also work with other industry leaders including VISA and First Source to support women entrepreneurs through financial, digital and entrepreneurship skilling by leveraging technology resulting to increase their income and aid their economic independence.

Having economic independence allows greater livelihood opportunities and helps them to exert influence over society. Social outcomes can be improvised if we invest in income-generating and employability skills of women and people from the marginalized communities who do not have access to basic means of livelihood. We believe, and we have seen that a woman empowered means a family empowered, and often the impact is felt right across her community.


5. How can leaders address the approach to bridge the gap to employability through skilling?

Leaders have to think in terms of investing in a skill-based approach while developing the education policy or while hiring and developing the talent pipeline. Following steps can be taken in order to adopt such an approach:

  • University education should evolve to incorporate the kind of skills required in jobs like communication, presentation, attention to detail, research, data analytical skills, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. Also, in line with the Digital India dream we need to ensure that The new education policy, NEP 2020, has a big focus on vocational training but it all depends on it being executed and implemented because such a policy also needs a conducive environment where there are equal opportunities to resources.
  • Companies have to continuously invest in upskilling and reskilling their employees and take a skill-based approach while hiring new employees. There are several ways in which this can be done.
  • Finally, the key lies in Inclusivity and Tech needs to be the great equalizer. Skilling programs that are based in an approach that puts people first will help create an innovation ecosystem. But if this social transformation occurs in the absence of inclusivity—or empathy—we would have failed even before the real impact of the skilling and innovation narrative can unfold.


6. What is NASSCOM Foundation doing with regards to skilling?

One of our key focus areas is Skilling and Employability. Our skilling programs ensure that all of India has the digital skills and better employability quotient needed to join the workforce – and the people we work with are diverse, whether it be gender, LGBTQ or PwDs. The foundation provides skill based training to women, men and youth (tier 2 and tier 3 cities across India) from marginalized communities to empower them with the job requirements of the economy.

There are also few programs which provide specific placement opportunities. NASSCOM Foundation utilises CSR funds to train young job aspirants in current and future industry skill needs like Big Data, AI, CRM (non-voice) etc.

Under the Skilling and Employability program, we are working with various corporates on skill development projects that equip the workforce with the necessary expertise in technology. One of the projects include NASSCOM Foundations’ Resurgent Communities Program supported by Micro Focus, Bangalore and Ciena, New Delhi where we work to empower individuals from marginalized communities with digital literacy to make the community digitally empowered, delivering life skills and socio-emotional skills; job-specific skills and provide a platform for the youth to enhance their knowledge in the field of BPO, Retail and E-Logistics; and providing entrepreneurial skills to enable the youth to become self-reliant and future –ready.

Additionally, we are also working with American Express, with an aim to provide equitable opportunities for education and economic empowerment to 700 women in Haryana through employment linked training and advanced computing courses such as Full Stack, JAVA, Python, Data Analysis, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security etc. and also supporting them with relevant job placement.

NASSCOM Foundation has also partnered with Google India for an initiative to help mobilize students from rural communities for the Google Career Certifications Scholarship programme. The project is aimed to help mobilize 50,000 learners for the Google career certificate scholarships program. Additionally, all successful learners will be provided assistance in placements for gainful employment opportunities.

The foundation works closely with the IT Sector Skills Council – NASSCOM SSC. All training curriculum is in line with the ‘Qualification Packs’ prescribed for similar skills by the SSC. The foundation helps the donor organisations finalise various aspects of the skills-based CSR intervention. These include skill-need discovery, course curriculum and the region of intervention. It next finds the right training partners to deliver the course to the youth from the region. The foundation also helps support the placement of the trained individuals. For example: Last year we trained about 5000 underserved youth from regions across Karnataka, Telangana and Delhi-NCR in Data Science and Cloud computing, and placed over 2000 of them through a CSR program with IBM. Over the past few years, NASSCOM Foundation has been able to train over 2 lakh people in diverse skills through various CSR interventions in partnership with tech OEMs.

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