With over 4 lakh information technology (IT) professionals skilled in artificial intelligence already in play, India is close to being able to meet her current demand of 62.9 lakh AI positions, a number that is expected to rise to 10 lakh by 2026.
This is a key finding of the ‘India Skills Report 2024’, released last week by Wheebox, a leading India-based firm of remote assessment consultants.
Compiled by inputs from 3.88 lakh participants and 152 corporations, and corrected up to August 2023, this is about as accurate a picture as one can get about the employability of India’s predominantly young workforce.
Interestingly, the study reveals some nuances and demographic characteristics of this workforce and highlights regions, states, and cities which emerge as useful concentrations of skill sets on the one hand and the preferred destinations of professionals on the other.
Among states with large talent pools, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Telangana report the highest concentration of highly employable youth.
Specifically, Haryana leads with 76.47 per cent of test takers scoring 60 per cent and above on the Wheebox National Employability Test or WNET.
UP Has Young Talent
Uttar Pradesh has the highest talent concentration at 74.77 per cent in the age group of 22 to 25 years, followed by Maharashtra at 71.97 per cent. This is also the age bracket with the most impressive employability rate across the top 10 cities — 63.58 per cent.
Some regional variations and demographic factors play an important role in influencing the employability landscape in India.
While the central government has stressed the importance of imparting education in professional streams like engineering and the computer sciences in Indian languages, there is no gainsaying the fact that good communication skills in English remain an employer priority, not just in key employment markets abroad but domestically too.
The report highlights that Karnataka is the state with the highest availability of English skills at 73.33 per cent, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 68.75 per cent and Kerala at 61.66 per cent.
Among cities, Bengaluru topped the list with the highest availability of English and numerical skills. But in computer skills, Thiruvananthapuram is number one this year, pushing Bengaluru to second place.
In a state-wise comparison, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala are the top three states with the highest availability of talent with computer skills.
In vocational education, other states rule: Andhra Pradesh offers vocational training in 31 engineering and non-engineering trades. Gujarat does even better, with vocational training offered in 132 engineering and non-engineering trades.
Kerala's Surprise Entry
A key factor which decides which state or city emerges as an AI skills magnet is employee preference.
The report highlights data on the ‘preferred state to work’. Bengaluru is the top choice for male professionals, underlining the city’s prominence as a thriving hub for career opportunities. Kochi takes the second spot.
As far as preferred states for males, Kerala takes the lead, followed by Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
The choice of women is along similar, but not identical, lines as the accompanying graphic shows.
In the 18-29 age group, Kerala surprisingly ranks the highest nationwide in multiple skills — English-language proficiency, computer literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills — which makes for a workforce adept at meeting the diverse needs of various industrial sectors.
The report quotes the 38-nation Intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to underline why India’s strength in AI skills may be her agni astra or secret weapon:
“Artificial intelligence is rapidly reshaping economies and societies. It is more and more pervasive among products and services used every day by consumers, and may help tackle societal challenges, such as climate change or access to medical care, while bringing challenges for governments and citizens alike.”
“The India Skills Report 2024 will serve as a valuable resource, guiding us through the uncharted territories of the future workforce… It will provide nuanced insights into the talent landscape, benefiting professionals, aspirants, hiring managers, business leaders, policymakers, and academia," said Aditya Ghosh, Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries’ National Committee on Skill Development & Livelihood.
”As we navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI," he adds, "this data will show the way forward in our quest for talent that aligns with the evolving industrial landscape.”
(Full India Skills Report 2024 here)
Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.
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