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Infosys president: HBCUs offer ‘a jewel of talent’ for the digital jobs of the future

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Ravi Kumar, Infosys U.S. President, joins Yahoo Finance's Jared Blikre and Akiko Fujita to discuss a partnership with Madison Square Garden, creating a more diverse pipeline for digital jobs by recruiting from HBCUs, and the forces affecting the labor market.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: Consulting firm Infosys just announced a strategic partnership with MSG, formerly known as Madison Square Garden, to become the official digital innovation partner of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, and the arena. Joining us now is in Infosys US President Ravi Kumar.

Ravi, thank you for joining us here today. And I'm reading the description of what you're doing for the arena. You're building a digital command center that will use real time data and analytics to inform strategic decisions for a better fan experience. It sounds like some cutting edge potentially disruptive stuff. Can you fill us in on the details here?

RAVI KUMAR: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you and your audience. Yeah, this is a very important partnership for us as the world moves into a hybrid model of bringing physical and digital spaces together, and I think the value is going to be in the intersection of physical and digital.

Over the last few years, we have been working on ATP and tennis, and now we are progressively moving into bringing that technology to the Madison Square Garden's New York Knicks and New York Rangers. I think it's a combination of data analytics, digital technologies to the arena. It's going to power two things.

First, it's going to power the employees of the Madison Square Garden who work on these events and give them more real time data so that they could create immersive experiences. The second is the fans in the Madison Square Garden, the iconic historical Madison Square Garden, we are going to actually get them an immersive experience about the games which are happening, statistics around it, insights around it, analytics around it.

And, of course, bringing the physical and virtual worlds together so that they could really enjoy the game. So this I believe is very critical in a post-pandemic era and we are bringing digital technologies to make this happen.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah. Ravi, talk to me a bit more about that experience. You just mentioned sort of merging the physical and the digital, what specifically does that mean, if you can bottom line that for us? And what's Infosys' role in trying to get it to that point?

RAVI KUMAR: Yeah. So, the Madison Square Garden as you know is one of the busiest centers of the world. It has events of multiple types, sports and for today we are doing a client event for Infosys. We are building a control center here, the control center is going to be fed with digital touchpoints.

And the data and insights which comes out of those digital touchpoints is going to allow the employees of the event venue to actually create immersive experience for the audience and the fans who come to see the sport.

Knicks and Rangers are going to benefit significantly because we're going to use their stats, past data and the data of the games which are going on, and create very immersive experiences for the fans. And therefore the game is going to be much more superior in terms of how you experience it.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, this might even bring me back to the arena. I want to shift gears here and talk about an important partnership that you have. This is a three year investment in the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to hire historically Black college and University graduates for the tech sector. Can you give us some information about this program?

RAVI KUMAR: Sure. You know, if you've heard me in the last few years, Infosys has been investing heavily on building digital talent. We are in an era now where there are 11 million jobs of the future and there are only eight million people of the past. So there are people who do not have skills and there are jobs who do not have people. And this has been the biggest gap ever in the last 20 years.

We believe the only way you could fix this is to breed feeders from diverse and inclusive talent pools across the US. Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a fund which is dedicated to historically Black colleges and universities, we believe there is a jewel of talent there. We're going to build those feeders from these colleges and get them ready for digital jobs of the future.

We do eight to 12 weeks of training for people we hire. So, this particular partnership is going to allow us to access historically Black colleges and universities, hire them, build training capabilities, and then transition them to digital jobs. In 2017, Infosys actually said we're going to do 10,000 jobs, we crossed that number in September 2020.

We increased that commitment to 25,000 jobs, we set up six hubs in the United States, we're setting up a large corporate training facility in Indianapolis. So this is a part of that journey as we are evolving. And right now we are hiring people without degrees, hiring from community colleges, hiring from diverse backgrounds where the pool of talent is available.

And to bridge that gap, look at what's happening in the US. On one side you have this big gap between jobs and people, on the other side, four and 1/2 to five million people are leaving jobs every month in anticipation of looking for jobs which have upward mobility. So we think the jobs we are going to build on are going to have upward mobility to build careers of the future.

AKIKO FUJITA: So Ravi, let's talk about that a bit more because you've always had a really good pulse on the labor market here in the US. And even before the labor shortage, you were talking about how the shift is happening within companies, the way they view employees it's not necessarily about degrees but skills anymore.

The reality is it's becoming harder and harder for these companies to hire employees with the skills that are needed with such a small pool to choose from. How do you think that's changed the way that companies think about their hiring practices? And is that really going to lead even more to these types of partnerships that we've seen companies engage with colleges to try and prep for a future workforce?

RAVI KUMAR: Akiko, thank you so much for that question. I have actually spoken to you many times about this. We are in a complex confluence of forces. On one side we have jobs of the future, which is significantly higher, on the other side we have people who are looking for jobs.

The hybrid paradox I talk about is there is a confluence of work getting disentangled from the workplaces. So we have an opportunity to actually bring work to a much diverse and inclusive workplace. The third force which is coming to us in a big way is hybrid work.

70% of the people are actually now saying they want to go to physical spaces to work, 70% of the people are actually saying they want flexibility. 50% of Americans are actually saying they actually want to be freelancers. The labor participation in the US is only 60%, 60% to 65%, 4.5 million people are resigning from jobs every month.

So if you put all this together, you need to build diverse pools of talent to feed into the jobs of the future, there are still 10 million jobs open. So the only way you could fix that is go away from the traditional degrees hiring, go to community colleges, go to historically Black colleges where the access for talent is very high, go to talent pools which do not have a degree. 50% of the US workforce doesn't have a degree.

How do you actually create socially movable, socially upward mobile jobs for people who can actually get access to these digital jobs which are still existing? AI technologies is going to constantly take away jobs of the past and it's going to create jobs of the future. So employers like Infosys are building these bridges in between so that the reskilling infrastructure copes up for the need of the future.

AKIKO FUJITA: Ravi Kumar, it's always good to talk to you about these issues. I appreciate you being on the show. Infosys US President joining us today.