With the growing influence of information technologies across processes, and surge in intelligent machines and automation, businesses today need additional skills for employees to handle the new age workloads. Dassault Systemes is trying to bridge this gap with Learning Lab and associations with Educational consortiums globally as well as in India.
Can you shed some light on the idea behind the Labs?
There has been a continuous evolution in technology and methodology of engineering practices. New techniques clubbed with growing prominence of IT, Intelligent Machines, and collaboration in development processes demanded additional skills. Also, in our conversations with Academic Institutions, we found out they were unable to bring additional skills to an already packed curriculum. This gave us the idea to help educational institutions in adopting new educational content that is relevant.
“In India, we are right now in discussion for re-enactment of what we have already done globally, the creation of centres together with industry and government to accelerate transfer of knowledge to specific industries and regions.”
Senior Director Programs
Global Academia, Dassault Systemes
We started by trying to make half of their work easy by documenting the happenings in the industry in terms of methodological innovation with digital tools in a way that is digestible in educational context. This is when we created the learning lab which basically works together with the industry and universities to produce generic learning content about new techniques and concepts around diverse engineering activities.
The second aspect of this lab is about using digital techniques in the specific process of education. Education is an industry that is lagging the most in terms of digital purchases in their own core business. That’s why MOOCs are important, Classrooms all types of educational innovation that requires the help of digital tools. So we help inculcate new industry methods into the curriculum, and digital practices into education system.
With this lab, we work with our colleagues in different countries to create programs that will be helpful either at the level of an institution or at the level of a country or state in India. These programs are also linked to the local industry. It’s not just about the multinationals and the employers everywhere but the national champions that we have here with the smaller businesses. They need exposure to these new methods in a simple and accessible manner.
In India, we are right now in discussion for re-enactment of what we have already done globally, the creation of centres together with industry and government to accelerate transfer of knowledge to specific industries and regions. The Aerospace & Defence learning at the CoE set up at VTU in association with Government of Karnataka. These types of centres are very efficient instruments to re-deploy what we learn centrally and collect from innovation worldwide.
Why did you find the need to have independent centres? What was lacking in the educational institutions and their ability to enact these new skills into their curriculum?
There are two dimensions. One is the real difficulty to bring the corporate context into the learning context. It’s very difficult because it’s not a habit in the Indian ecosystem for companies to invest a lot of time working with universities. We now need to move to not just stay in the IT sector but also reach core businesses like manufacturing industries for instance. The second reason is a more generic cultural attraction for abstraction. Because what we are talking about is knowledge that has to be applied in factories, buildings, and bridges etc.; culturally it is a bigger effort to interest students in practical material things than in theoretical things.
Is this skill shortage a regular headache for the CEOs and the top level CXOs? Or is it something that has been neglected?
Comparing with other countries, there is no set routine yet in India by which corporate and academia would interact in a regular and constant sustained manner. A good way forward is the notion of internships. Internships are one of the silver bullets to construct employability skills. The process to get there is a system transformation. It’s not just a decision by educational institutions but also the government.
What do you think should be the contribution of medium to large scale Indian businesses towards the economy?
The smaller the company, the more difficult it is to institutionalise. But then again, the best knowledge you can give to students is how to start new things in a small or medium business context because if you prepare only for the big companies it means you are losing a big opportunity that is the SME economy.
The effort has to come from academia. When academic institutions today define programs, they do it from the angle of the big industries and not SMEs because it’s easier to go to the HR division of a Giant than to several smaller businesses and understand their need in terms of competence profile.
SMEs always wait for innovation to happen in the big OEMs, and Manufacturers to themselves embrace new ways of doing business. So in conclusion, there has to be something happening from the academia on the SME level.
So what are some of the ways where enterprises can cultivate innovation and develop skill for that work force?
Enterprises should send middle management personnel for short internship of professionals into the education system where they should explain the real life business scenarios related to their subject. Businesses should try to understand why Universities have a hard time in teaching these skills. The problem today is that too often this is all done in a very superficial manner. There needs to be an understanding in companies on how can they institutionalise and authorise skill development at individual level too.