When thirty-two-year-old Sony G Tharakan, a former HR professional, decided to resume her career after having her first child, she did not know where to start from. She took a course in lifology and a master’s degree in counselling psychology. Now, she has been working as an associate lifologist or a parent coach.
She is one among the growing number of Indians in their 30s and above who are learning again in pursuit to stay relevant. While some are learning new-age courses in their own streams or are ‘upskilling’ themselves, others are opting for ‘cross-skilling’ or ‘re-skilling’ themselves by learning things which are not traditionally part of their job profiles. Not just working professionals but stay-at-home mothers are also diving into the online education space.
“The online course is certainly a boon for me. I could start a career in a field which was related to my previous work experience and it allows me to work-from-home with flexible timings. Having responsibilities of my child and my husband not being in the country often, I could not follow strict timelines. I soon realised that I might not be the first one to complete the race but I will definitely complete it,” said Sony who helps students make wise career decisions.
Coursera – India’s largest online learning platform – claims that 30 per cent of its 10 million users in the country are in the age-group of 30 years and above. UpGrad claims that while most of its user-base is 25 years and above, people with over 10 years of experience make about 30 per cent of total enrollments.
As the traditional definition of students being below the age group of 25 years is expanding with people in their 30s and above rejoining academia, this could mean not only a change in the workplaces and tougher competition for fresh graduates but also an overhaul of the online learning space.
While currently most funding and innovations are happening in the K-12 market or test-preparation online learning space, experts believe that if the trend continues, the higher education sector can go beyond collaborating with colleges and see major fundings and innovations. Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD, India upGrad believes that the change is ‘already happening’ and results might be seen in the coming six months.
While the online higher education space has been there for a long time now, the pandemic and job distress seem to be expanding it further.
“The pandemic has made people realise that the skills needed by industry are very different from what they possess. With people losing jobs, fresh graduates finding it hard to get the vacancy of their choice, and pay-cuts happening across industries, people have spent more time on online courses. For working professionals, the pandemic has meant lesser commute time thus they had time to spend on their own career preference and grooming,” said Hari Krishnan Nair, co-founder of education technology platform Great Learning.
The pandemic, said Nair, has taken the reach further to tier-2 and 3 cities while earlier the market was majorly limited to metros and tier-I cities. “Having senior professionals in their 50s, those with 15+ years of experience joining online courses is a positive sign for the industry and implies that we are moving from one career or skill for life to life-long learning and this means this space will continue to see more growth,” he added.
The major segments which people in their 30s and above are learning online are related to technology, and management. Courses like data science, technology not only remain a hit for people in IT but also for managers and those in related fields, as most of the sectors are witnessing a shift towards digital. Online MBA programmes too are one of the top choices, said Kumar.
Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera, said, “Amid the fourth industrial revolution, traditional skills are fast becoming obsolete. The pandemic has added to the urgency with which companies are adopting emerging technologies. To keep pace with the changes, working professionals must learn at a rapid speed. As the shelf life has shortened, the window to upskill and reskill is also shrinking. A working professional must keep learning to stay relevant to the job and the industry. A large population out of 10 million learners on Coursera in India is working professionals.”
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