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Sridhar Vembu is the co-founder and CEO of Zoho Corp., an India-based software development company that creates web-based business tools and information technology solutions.

A new labour market is taking shape and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are blurring the lines between tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines.

Should entry-level workers fear losing their jobs? Where will people go to acquire the skills that employers are looking for? How can companies upskill their staff as they introduce more technology into the organization?

Managed correctly, technological innovation can lead to an era of meaningful work, opportunities for growth and an improved quality of life for everyone. Managed poorly, advancements in AI, machine learning and robotics can displace unskilled workers, widen the skills gap and lead to greater inequalities around the globe.

As the nature of work evolves, we need to embrace non-traditional forms of education to keep pace. It’s time we upskilled workers at the bottom of the ladder to complement technological advancements across all industries. Let’s explore some educational options for workers who feel increasingly displaced by technology.

Degrees aren’t everything

Until recently, having a four-year college degree was a standard requirement for all high-level positions. Thankfully, big technology companies such as Google, Apple and IBM no longer require a college degree for some of their top jobs – understanding instead that formal postsecondary education is not an option for many young people today. Potential hires now become self-taught experts in certain fields such as coding and graphic design and enter the work force that way.

Talent comes in many different forms and the internet has allowed people to acquire sought-after skills through self-taught education. Workers can gain skills on their own to reach their career goals without the need of formal degrees or accreditation.

White-collar apprenticeships

Apprenticeship programs help new employees to quickly gain hands-on skills from a subject-matter expert. Tech companies are looking at apprenticeships as an alternative method to train skilled workers without requiring higher education.

The benefit of apprenticeships for white-collar jobs is that students get to earn while they learn. They avoid student loan debt and get mentored by experts while building a network of contacts. Apprenticeships also give students a chance to prove their worth within an organization.

Build out your own program

Companies are shaping the next generation of skilled workers by creating their own schools or collaborating with school districts to develop technology curricula. In 2016, Oracle opened Design Tech High School (, the first charter school located on a technology campus.

Design Tech teaches design thinking – a problem-solving strategy popularized by Stanford University’s design school. By learning soft skills and technical skills, Oracle is preparing students to become the next generation of workers who collaborate to solve complex problems.

Zoho University, our company’s school located in Chennai, India, provides free education and training to low-income students throughout India. The end goal is to provide a free college alternative to train the next generation of engineers and developers. Students who complete the program are automatically offered positions at Zoho Corp., but they can still look for employment elsewhere. With Zoho University, financial barriers do not prevent students from taking the opportunity to learn in-demand skills to advance their careers.

Look for external resources

Many workers displaced by technology have a wide variety of external resources to consider for additional training and upskilling.

LinkedIn Learning helps people discover and develop skills through curated and personalized courses. LinkedIn uses skills and job data to identify emerging trends. From this data, they create video courses taught by industry experts.

Udemy is another online learning platform aimed at professional adults looking to acquire job-related skills. Students have access to thousands of free and paid courses to learn new skills. With lifetime access to registered courses, students can find the right instructor for a particular topic and learn on their own schedule.

Traditional educational institutions are collaborating to create non-profits that provide free education. Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is a global non-profit educational platform that removes the barrier of cost, location and access to world-class education. Students can receive professional certificate programs for free and learn in-demand skills to advance their career opportunities.

Reimagining education and training

Technology is changing the work force and widening the skills gap at breakneck speeds. Many lower-level jobs will be automated by AI, machine learning and deep neural networks. The question isn’t whether workers will be displaced by technology, it’s when, and what can we do about it. With this in mind, we need to reimagine what modern education looks like.

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