Ankit Jain is the CEO and co-founder of AayWorks, a unified mobile platform for MSMEs to hire and manage the on-demand workforce. It aims to empower people to achieve their true potential through technology and digitisation, creating immense value for workers and businesses. In his present capacity, Ankit oversees sales, operations, and marketing of the company.A computer science graduate, Ankit has gained 11 years of corporate experience with leading organizations like Dynatrace, Dell Technologies & IBM. Before his entrepreneurial stint with AayWorks, he earned hands-on experience in technology sales, pre-sales and service managing territories, key PSU & Enterprise accounts.
According to the Blue Collar Report 2021, as the economy is on its way to recovery, there is a sudden increase in demand for blue-collar workers. There is no denying that the blue-collar workforce is one of the key drivers of the Indian economy as their jobs require physical labour. These workers generally lack any educational credentials and mostly work on a contract basis. Currently, this sector is dominated by three rising trends – technological advancements, simplified labour codes and the evident rise of the gig economy.
Significance of blue-collar workers in developing India
Blue-collar workers are the backbone of any sector or business, as they undertake a significant amount of manual labour. Maintaining work quality, responding to urgent situations, managing any crisis will be impossible if ground-level staff lack the necessary skills. Sufficient skill development will enable workers to perform their jobs effectively while also easing the transition from a developing to a developed country on a micro and macro level.
During the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, when workers left the cities in huge numbers, many companies stood still. Since then, there has been a tremendous shift in the thought process in this industry. As the Indian economy is rapidly transitioning from an agrarian to industrial, businesses are devising new ways to engage blue-collar workers more professionally and retain them for the future. Employers are now looking forward to absorbing the blue-collar workers into the core fundamentals of their businesses. These workers are no longer considered an easily replaceable workforce segment but rather a long-term investment.
As the demand for blue-collar workers will continue to rise, it’s essential to address the skill gaps and provide timely training to make them indispensable. Even basic skill training like interpersonal and communication skills can go a long way to make a huge difference. Blue-collar fields are in desperate need of talented workers. These jobs will demand individuals who have a working grasp of AI, machine learning, and data analytics. Workers will need to undertake upskilling as the nature of occupations change and become more tech-driven. Companies like Ola, Urban Clap, etc., are already providing basic training to all their workers about the basic functioning of the company’s app/online platform, service quality standards and legal compliance too.
Skill development is the key to survival for Blue-collar workers
India has a massive population of blue-collar employees, estimated to be approximately 300 million. While skilling and development programmes for white-collar workers are frequently adopted, formal training programmes and institutions for blue-collar workers are lacking. The employability of the blue-collar workers has increased with the rise in the number of start-ups, eCommerce enterprises, and the accompanying advent of the gig economy.
The demand for skilled workers will continue to rise as technology improves day by day. Workers will be expected to complete tasks and follow procedures that interact smoothly with automated operations. While traditional blue-collar employment was reduced to mindless physical chores, new-age jobs have developed and require a certain amount of digital literacy to manage tasks and maintain intelligent workflows successfully. The rise of the gig economy has boosted demand for skilled individuals with a wide range of skills who can work in various sectors and industries, including construction, manufacturing, logistics, and transportation.
Training for blue-collar workforce
In the blue-collar workforce, training is sometimes an afterthought. Many businesses invest only a small amount of money in training programmes if any at all. According to research by the World Economic Forum (WEF), by 2025, the emergence of automation and technology would generate 97 million new jobs while replacing 85 million old ones. The talent gap is likely to widen due to this technological disruption. Hence, it is prudent to invest in the timely upskilling of the workforce.
First and foremost, workers need to be trained in basic digital skills as the world gradually becomes technology dependent. A basic understanding of technology includes access to virtual training, performance tracking, attendance, reporting a concern or even applying for a new job role within the same company, etc. A standard level of digital literacy can act as strong performance support for workers. Another aspect of training that is pivotal for today’s blue-collar workers is interpersonal skills. Training workers on soft skills will ensure clear communication, better conflict management, effective teamwork and increased collaboration at work. Health and safety training, too, are highly pivotal to blue-collar workers as they are exposed to varied work environments. Whether it’s face-to-face training or the use of simple tech like login portals, tech-based solutions, webinars, etc., workers should be trained on them on the first day of their joining.
The blue-collar workforce isn’t either fully accessible or digitally aware and has limited education/skills. Thus, for any training of the blue-collar workforce to be effective, training solutions and content must be developed that take into account their unique behaviours, stressors, and motivators.