Interview with Radhika Zahedi – Higher Education Digest

Dec 17, 2019 | Interview

A Quick Summary:

On being asked about the core of industry 4.0, and what industry leaders and academicians need to know before embarking on this journey, Radhika Zahedi, School Director at The Green Acres Academy, said that leaders know best about the availability of data and its automation. Academicians need to know exactly what industry 4.0 entails, and create programs accordingly.

Speaking on whether India has good skilling infrastructure for education in the country, she mentioned that there is a gap between the education we receive and the jobs we look out for. Often, employers are not confident about their employees’ potential. It is estimated that by 2030, students won’t even possess basic skills needed to obtain jobs.

When Ms Zahedi was asked about the challenges an academician faces in a digital landscape, she responded by saying that teachers need to figure out how to make the best use of technology to teach a subject in depth, covering all necessary information. Just a Google search may not be enough to get answers to complex questions; this is where an academician’s expertise comes to the rescue.

About major changes expected in jobs, she said work will be done at a much faster pace. As for skills recruiters look for while hiring graduates, she believes they look for expertise and relevance, along with their qualification.

She maintains that keeping employees motivated today is simple, and the following are opportunities they should be given:

  1. Purposeful work
  2. Autonomy
  3. Competence

Her sage advice to students is to gain as much knowledge as they can and seek mentorship under someone whose influence will help you go ahead.

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(This interview with Radhika Zahedi of The Green Acres Academy was first featured in Highed Education Digest here.)

What according to you is at the core of industry 4.0? What should industry leaders and academicians need to know before embarking on this journey.

As an educator I think that Industry leaders – who are most likely to be experts in their respective domains, are the best people to identify the changes that automation and availability of data demand from their industries. I should be asking them what we need to know instead of offering advice. For academicians, I think we need to make a very deliberate effort to understand from leaders and people in industries what the demands of industry 4.0 are and design our programs and research backwards from there.

Despite being a developing nation with a promising number of young talents, do we have appropriate skilling infrastructure in our country? Also, please elaborate on the employability status of young Indian students.

Many reports in recent years have indicated that we may have an education-to-job skills gap on our hands. For example, a World Economic Forum report in 2016 estimated that only 53 percent of industry leaders today are confident in the potential and capacity of incoming employees. Another recent educational research report from The Brookings Universal Centre for Education projected that by the year 2030 more than half of the world’s 2 billion children will not be on track to achieve basic skills at the secondary level, including literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. In India, the same trend is reflected – a report from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2015 indicated that a large portion of Indian youth do not possess employability skills.

As the country progresses into a knowledge and digital economy, what are the major challenges for academicians in India?

Everyone talks about the importance of 21st Century skills like the 4Cs – Collaboration, Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication. Yes, they are important. But I think one of the most overlooked realities that this new knowledge/digital economy has created is need for deep domain knowledge or expertise. The nature of work and problems that need to be solved are complex in this age and googleable information will not be enough to come up with effective solutions to these complex problems. There seems to be a misconception that deep industry/domain specific expertise is not as valuable today as it may have been in the past. It is still very valuable, and if anything, today’s world requires even deeper domain specific knowledge than before.

So, the challenge for academicians is to figure out how to ensure that learning is focused on depth – where deep domain knowledge and skills are taught rather than breadth – just coverage of a lot of information.

Experts in education and industry say that many of the present jobs and skill sets will soon become redundant. What are the major changes that we can expect in future jobs?

The nature of work will definitely evolve at a fast pace and we need to look towards leaders in various industries for insight on this evolution.

In this era, what are the major challenges companies face while recruiting Indian talent

Companies often recognize the skills gap that exists when fresh graduates are employed.

What are the key skills that today’s recruiters consider when hiring fresh graduates?

Recruiters look for an open-minded and learning mindset, knowledge or competency relevant to their industry and also commitment and resilience. In addition to educational qualifications, employers value Internships and other relevant experiences.

How do you keep employees motivated and engaged in this digital era?

One of the best things about the digital era is that because a lot of the menial tasks can be automated, work can become more purposeful and fulfilling for more people. Research on motivation indicates that if organizations and leaders want motivated individuals, they need to provide opportunities for the following:

Purposeful Work: People need to know why they are doing the work and what impact it has on the company/ customers and beyond.

Autonomy: People like to have autonomy so that they can use their creativity instead of being micro-managed.

Competence: People need to have the necessary skills to carry out the work that is assigned to them. If the challenge presented to them is not matched with their skillset, they are more likely to be unsuccessful and lose motivation.

What is your advice to the students?

Take full advantage of the digital era – use the information and tools available to you to further your learning the fullest extent possible. At the same time, recognize the value of expertise and seek mentors in your area of interest who will help you build this deep, industry-specific knowledge. And of course, as it has been since the beginning of time – all great achievements cannot happen without hard work and commitment!

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