Interviews

Bridging the Tech Talent Gap: Kotak Mahindra Bank’s Initiative and the Role of TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship in the Evolving BFSI Sector

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Sumit Kumar, Chief Strategy Officer of TeamLease Degree Officer

 

1.Can you elaborate on the specific skills and competencies that are in high demand in the tech industry, particularly in light of Kotak Mahindra Bank’s initiative to hire 400 engineers?

The Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) sector in India is undergoing dynamic transformation fueled by technological advancements. With remarkable growth recorded in 2023 at 30-32% year-on-year, the sector is poised to sustain its momentum into 2024. It was one of the pioneers of digitization drives in India, with digitization and technology revolutionizing customer experience through digital banking and personalized services, improving operational efficiency with automation and blockchain, and promoting financial inclusion via digital payment systems and microfinance. Additionally, these advancements have strengthened regulatory compliance and security, spurred fintech innovation, and introduced digital-only banking models. With the next wave of adoption centered on Gen AI, Cloud computing, Deep tech & cybersecurity,  there’s a notable demand for professionals skilled in AI, ML, blockchain, and cybersecurity, with increased interest in data analytics, cloud computing, and DevOps.

According to a recent NASSCOM-BCG report, there has been more than a 15% growth in AI/ML jobs over the past 12 months, with positions like AI engineers rising by a staggering 67%. Moreover, there has been a 25-30% growth in demand for talent skilled in cybersecurity expertise protocols. This rapid growth is leading to an inter- and intra- industry fight for skilled talent, manifesting in skill shortages. And despite the BFSI sector’s high attrition rates (estimated to be around 40%), entry-level positions have surged by 20-25%. It is expected that the sector will need nearly 1.6 million skilled people in the next 2-3 years to maintain its growth rate. The best pathway to address this gap is through ‘on-the-job’ training, where individuals with strong foundational concepts gain exposure to actual working conditions, the latest technology, and industry-specific best practices. This immersive learning experience not only enriches their theoretical knowledge but also hones their practical skills, making them valuable assets for future employers.

 

2. Given the increasing investment in technology and cybersecurity by organizations like Kotak Mahindra Bank, how does TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship ensure that participants are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills in these areas?

In challenging job markets like India, where significant talent demand-supply mismatch exists, apprenticeships and work-based learning (WBL) programs play a crucial role in bridging the skills demand-supply gap. Our educational pedagogy and curriculums often lag behind real-time technological advancements, making it difficult to find ready and sufficient talent adept in the latest technologies such as Generative AI, ML, deep data science, robotics, and the Internet of Things. Apprenticeships serve as a crucial pathway to equip the workforce with requisite skills, offering hands-on training in AI/ ML, blockchain, cybersecurity, data analytics, cloud computing, and DevOps. Through structured apprenticeships, individuals gain industry-relevant skills, real-world experience, and networks, enhancing employability and contributing to sectoral growth. This integration of apprenticeship initiatives with the sector’s evolving demands not only addresses the skills gap but also fosters a workforce ready to drive innovation and efficiency

In the BFSI sector, degree apprenticeships have significant potential to support this pathway by offering modular and interlinked industry-academia collaboration. This allows for continuous updates to pedagogy and curriculum in response to the changing nature of jobs and technology. Recognizing the dynamic job market, we advocate for a shift from viewing apprenticeships as solely for entry-level talent or younger individuals. Instead, we promote lifelong learning, blending theory and vocational training in formal and recognized programs. This inclusive approach ensures that individuals of all ages have access to continuous skill development, addressing the evolving needs of the BFSI sector.

At TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, we have been at the forefront of advocating for private sector apprenticeship programs by collaborating closely with industry, government, sector skill councils, academia, and youth. Our mission is to address the skill deficit in India and enhance the employability of the youth through comprehensive work-based skilling and learning programs, including Degree Apprenticeships. Over the past 10 years, we have placed 700,000 apprentices across various sectors, achieving an outstanding transition rate of 98% into formal employment, with nearly 40% absorbed by the same organization. Additionally, our Work Integrated Learning Programs (WILPs) and the administration of NAPS and NATS apprenticeship programs emphasize real-world skills and job readiness, ensuring that our youth are equipped with the competencies needed to thrive in today’s dynamic workforce.

 

3. In what ways does TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship facilitate collaboration between educational institutions and employers to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant and aligned with industry requirements?

Our Degree Apprenticeships (DA) program, aligned with NEP2020, creates a unique educational model that is 1/3rd college, 1/3rd employment exchange, and 1/3rd ITI. This program represents the future of higher education by emphasizing hands-on learning, earning while learning, modular and flexible education, and social signaling values. By ensuring our youth acquire real-world skills and job readiness, we aim to prepare them for the evolving workplace with the necessary competencies and qualifications.

To enhance the scope and effectiveness of the apprenticeship ecosystem in India, we collaborate closely with all stakeholders—Government, Industry, Academia, Skill Councils, and the youth. One major initiative we propose is to integrate apprenticeships within the lifelong learning framework of the National Credit Framework (NCrF). Developed by the UGC and high-level government committees, the NCrF is a comprehensive framework that integrates credits earned from school education, higher education, vocational training, and skill education. By embedding apprenticeships into this framework, we support reskilling and upskilling for people of all ages, reflecting the evolving dynamics of learning and work. Our vision includes adapting the apprenticeship model to mirror higher education pathways, providing an inclusive route for learners to progress from secondary education through postgraduate levels while gaining practical experience and financial independence. By aligning apprenticeship durations with traditional academic timelines—extending to a structured 7-year journey (2+3+2)—we open doors for individuals to pursue comprehensive education and skill development concurrently.

At TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, we leverage extensive sourcing channels to match talent with employer requirements. Our network includes 22+ universities and 300+ colleges, supported by 150+ field recruiters, three in-house and external portals, and partnerships with multiple government agencies, including 30+ Sector Skill Councils and four Regional Boards of Apprenticeship Training. Additionally, we collaborate with 1000+ skills training centers and skilling partners across 50 industries. Furthermore,to facilitate this process, we continually invest in our in-house Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Mobile Apps, providing real-time information to applicants and employers to track apprentices’ life cycles from start to finish. This comprehensive, integrated approach ensures that we not only meet the current demands of employers but also prepare our youth for future challenges, thereby fostering a robust and effective apprenticeship ecosystem in India.