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India’s Urgent Need for Skill Based Education

The growth agenda of our country is critically aligned with the skill-levels of manpower available to industry and employers. NSDC figures show us that there is a skill gap of over 240 million across major sectors from 2008-2022. Official and other statistics show that India has a demographic dividend advantage over many other countries because 75 per cent of its population falls in the working age group of 15 to 59 years. As per estimates, by 2050, India’s working population would be in excess of 1 billion. This will result in the number of people in the age group 20-60 being substantially higher. The high school dropout rates of India’s education system has as many as 56.8 per cent students leaving school before reaching the qualifying Class X exam. In order to enable this section of society to become employable, there is an urgent need for skill development across the entire country.

At the planning level, realization has now dawning that skill based education is not a choice but a need in India. The dichotomy of our economy is that, while the demand for skilled professionals very high, the desire to get skilled is low. Pure academic subjects are always more popular with learners, parents and society as socially acceptable qualifications. Most youth in the country still incorrectly believe that skill based education leads to low paid jobs and it is perceived to be meant for only academically weak students, school dropouts and for people in the lower strata. Another aspect of this challenging issue is to create the right kinds of jobs for which people are being skilled. Overcoming these challenges requires the concerted efforts of government agencies and companies operating in the skilling domain working in close collaboration with the other stakeholders in the economy.

Millions of graduates pass out of our universities annually, a rich vein of talent and resource for the industry to tap into. Yet, every year, the gap between offered ability and employability widens and the industry struggles to map the right set of skill sets to the jobs on hand. The result? Relentless training in the required skills to make candidates job viable and a resultant loss of productivity and competitiveness at the industry and the national level.

Only 25 per cent of graduates today are considered “employable” by employers. The biggest challenge comes due to lack of employability skills. As a result the individual’s ability in the work environment in terms of communication, presentation, interpersonal skills, team working, does not meet desired levels. Inculcating employability skills requires a huge task for our education system to bring in the transition in the role from “student” to worker and prepare the candidates for the new working world.

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Technical Skillsets Help You Hit The Ground Running

The resume reflects a Master’s degree, but the professional status still reads the same – educated but unemployed. This is story is common to a burgeoning number of students in the country, they are educated but lack employable skills. The high skew towards theoretical education with little or no exposure to practical skillsets has contributed to this scenario.

15 million youth enter the workforce each year but more than 75 per cent of this number is not employable due to deficient skillsets. India needs 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to meet the demands of a growing economy. This imbalance is due to lack of technical and soft skills and it points towards the urgent, growing need to make young Indians job ready, with a focus on young graduates to augment their employability.

India is a young nation with 62% of our population in the working age group and more than 54% of the total population below 25 years of age. We need to make drastic amends to solve the great Indian talent conundrum. To make the most of this demographic dividend that we possess, the first step we need to take is to celebrate skills and accept their need and importance with an open mind, just like China. For instance, the country currently faces a huge shortage of Sales Associates, Computer Operators, Beauticians, Hair Stylists, Medical Sales representatives, Mobile Repair Engineers, Helper-Plumbers, Helper-Electricians, Sewing Machine Operators, Helper-Masons/Bartenders, Painter – Decorators. Yet the scant regard we have for vocational training and skills development has led to decades of neglect of these crafts.

Once this due regard to skills is given, we need to support the technology growth with investment in skills and knowledge to prepare for the future. Revamping the education system can help bridge the talent gap, especially at the college level that forms the first steps into the professional world. Colleges need to collaborate with industries to chalk out a curriculum that entails integrates technological education and advancements.

Technical Education plays a vital role in the development of the country’s human resource by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. This helps increase the availability of better talent in the job market. Of among the 7 lakh engineering students that graduate annually, merely 7 per cent are fit for core engineering jobs.  What would also help, would be the providing of training in not just technical skills but also soft skills or communication skills, preparing them to transform into capable workers. Most of the institutions do not prepare the candidates for the new working world, making them struggle while facing the competencies of the professional realm. There is an urgent need to make the graduates job ready with basic skills of inter-personal communication, abilities to speak English, work as a team and possess basic computer knowledge.

Recognizing this need, efforts are being made by the government with positive steps such as National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This will also lead to a paradigm shift in employment from being ‘qualification-based’ to ’skill-based’, making educational institutions focus on imparting skills that lead to employability, rather than merely doling out certificates and degrees. Integrating skills with regular main stream education at schools, will truly change the employment landscape at the most fundamental level in our country. A reinvention will need a vast paradigm shift to develop the tools of change needed to survive in the algorithm age. The demographic dividend if not given the treatment of skills may simply turn into a demographic disaster. The imbalance between the too few skilled workers and fewer jobs for the medium and low-skilled workforce is pointing towards the impending disaster.

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The Business of Social Transformation

Challenges galore in the Indian skilling landscape owing to its vast geographical expanse and varying socio-economic conditions with significant disparities. These growing challenges make it even more imperative to aim for a social transformation to further aid the growing skills landscape. Looking at Centum Learning and the challenging field of work we operate in, we deal with a particular socio-economic profile of people that makes our day-to-day activities no less than a herculean task. The skill-o-sphere, as I call it, is laced with very peculiar set of localized barriers that make the skilling gamut a tough terrain to climb. To dwell upon a few, the candidates who enroll for skilling courses often do not have necessary means to finance them. Further, the ability and the basic premise of which job profiles to take-up matching their skill sets is absent. Also, most of these candidates eventually land up qualifying for the minimum wage job, which does not encourage them to be mobile from their homes because they’re not earning enough to leave their home and the village.

There also exists a mismatch between where people live and where the job opportunities exist that can be explained from the fact that while there are people in every village who require training but there may not necessarily be a job opportunity present in their existing surroundings. As a result people are left with no other option but to migrate and move in search of a suitable job opportunity. Another mounting roadblock is in the sphere of pedagogy. Every individual has different learning behaviors with issues ranging from not knowing how to learn or having the ability and inclination to sit in the classroom and learn.

Apart from these challenges in the skilling world, there are other genuine natural constraints that people have to deal with every day. For instance, in Haryana girls are not encouraged to take up jobs or enroll themselves for training. Of those who are able to convince their families and take up the challenge, they end up traveling long distances to reach Centum Skill Development Centers. Also, with a strong agrarian focus of the region, during harvesting season many of them are needed in the family, forcing them to leave the training mid-way.

Seeing these real challenges that exist and that we deal with on a daily basis I believe that a market demand has to be created for ‘Skilling’. And a social transformation at the heart of India’s sociology is the only way forward and the pressing need of the hour. While we understand it’s a slow and long journey, it also requires tact and caution that we maintain while approaching this issue.

At the center of the Indian society studying to be a vocationally skilled person was always a lower end intuit and it still continues to be the same. The career dreams, embraced by both students and their families, are still restricted to becoming Doctors, Scientists, Engineers and joining the Army and pursuing and MBA. This basic premise needs to undergo a transformation.
While we blindly ape the western world, what we haven’t been able to adapt, respect and clinch is the basic principle upon which their entire society is built – Dignity of Labor. There is minimum socioeconomic disparity. For instance, if you go to a hotel in Sydney, the waiter will come and say, mate, can I get you a cup of coffee? He would talk to you more like a peer.

While there are challenges to skilling and changing the mindset in India, things are undergoing a rapid transformation. Candidates today come with a positive attitude and clear intentions of wanting to excel. With rural masses getting exposed to social media and getting a taste of the urban environment and lifestyle, dreams have begun to soar. The rural populace wants to go up the social ladder and have a better experience in their lifestyle and acquire better jobs to fulfill these dreams. So I think there’s a lot of positive vibe around skilling as a way to realize these dreams. During my trips to these rural centers, I always come out of sessions feeling very excited about the youngsters that we’re dealing with and the energy and the positivity they possess.

With PM Modi initiating and lending his complete faith and support to the Start-up India campaign, self-employment is a new buzz in town thing and that’s what excites me about this campaign. Startup India is not about the big and established brands like Flipkart and Snapdeal. But it’s about a plumber setting up his own plumbing shop or about a youth in a village who sets up a bicycle shop to repair bicycles. PM Modi is not trying to create 100 e-commerce entrepreneurs in his quest for encouraging people to take the startup journey. But he is asking and encouraging people to become an entrepreneur at all levels because in India just wage employment can’t solve the existing problems of unemployment. This is not about 100 people becoming millionaires. If there are 500 million people in India, the next decade won’t see a creation of 500 million jobs. So what you need to do is to get 300 million of these kind of people to become self-employed through skilling and that’s the business of Social Transformation.

The country realizes the sheer seriousness and importance of possessing a skilled workforce and needs a coordinated and cohesive effort to make this transformation a vivid reality.

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School Education – Changing Times, Changing Needs

The Indian education system was a gift of the British legacy, which is prevalent across all Commonwealth Nations. Back then in the 1940’s – 50’s, the job market did not present many options with Government Services or Defense Forces being the most prominent choices. There was dearth of private enterprises and more than half of the industries which operate right now didn’t even exist at that time back. The entire context of education was different in terms of pre‑partition and post-partition era as independence, seeking knowledge and self-development were the primary motivating factors during those years.

While the country attained independence more than six decades back, the mindset of educationists that lead education institutions still holds the same old school of thought. A student studies history, geography or a language like English, French that builds his cognitive ability, makes him think and makes him broad minded. But these subjects and knowledge does not give him any hard marketable job skills leading to the rise of very high-educated unemployed in the country. The generation passing out of schools and colleges, despite being educated and intelligent, is not fully aware of the current industrial trends. This lack of know-how makes them deprived of the right job skills, clueless about a number of industrial requirements and leading to the growing tribe of educated unemployed.

And that’s not the complete picture. While the quality of education leaves much to be desired, the 21st century children have different aspirations from the education system than the preceding generations. This present generation is constantly seeking, thinking, formulating, exploring and challenging their own views and opinions. A few years down the line, these children will be in positions of power in diverse sectors, dictating the direction of our country and economy. And to nurture their evolving minds, we need a system that puts the child at the center of education and facilitates the shift from rote learning to student understanding. This requires us to constantly re-examine education in terms of institutions, pedagogy and methodology. A paradigm shift is needed and it’s pertinent that we break from our conventions and rethink the kind of teachers, the curriculum and the kind of school leadership is needed. In other words, a sincere rethinking of the school space is the need of the hour. These changes are not possible without structural changes at a policy level that will both facilitate and reinforce them.

Mature governments around the world have recognized these underlying issues and taken corrective measures. The Indian Government too recognizes that India’s youth is her biggest asset, holding the potential to make her possibly the youngest nation in the world by 2030. But the burning question is whether enough steps are being taken to train and skill these youth to make India make the most of this demographic advantage? Historical data suggests that cognitive education by itself does not educate people to pickup jobs and work in today’s world. While the student is going through his cognitive education, it’s necessary that we provide them with a few options to help him pick up a trade or a skill without giving much thought to the future perusal of that skill.

There also exists a socioeconomic hierarchy when you come to vocational skills. Let’s say there is a course on hospitality, which focuses more on service. We don’t think we can sell it to the Delhi Public School or Modern School in Vasant Vihar because the kids who are coming there don’t hold the ambition to join a hotel and become a waiter. On the other hand if you go to a government school in the rural areas where the child comes from a poor family, for him that hospitality course will be more relevant. He may want to just go to a closest restaurant or hotel and pick up a job immediately to support his family’s needs right after completing his class 10th or 12th. This is why the vocational skill structure has to be layered, offering different skill sets for the different segments of the society.

A big leap in this direction was setting up The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) – a competency-based framework that organizes all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. The task is to build upon the NSQF in schools by setting a target of five million students with a vocational qualification every year. The overarching ambition of the Government is to get a salience between formal degree and vocational education to widen the skill gamut.

Efforts are already underway with the Central Board of Secondary Education already offering over 40 vocational courses in different sectors at the senior secondary level under NSQF framework. It makes sense to make CBSE the fulcrum to catch them young and train them early in the skill sets that are essential drivers for the nation’s economy. While providing vocational education in schools is the most important aspect of the entire gamut of skills development, what is even more important is the quality of education that is provided.

Introducing students to vocational training of high quality at an early age is the most effective way to ensure that vocation training earns its rightful place in society. Considering the growing importance to offer skill based training programmes right at the school level and with the introduction of National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) from class IX, the demand for vocational education programmes is going to soar across all levels. This training will enable students to acquire desired competency levels with upgraded skills, which will help them in entering the job market proficiently. These small measures taken at the right time will make India become the skill leaders and take the maximum advantage of its demographic dividend.

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Learning & Development: Critical Challenges & Best practices in India Inc.

Across almost all industries in India there exists a wide gap between supply and demand of skilled workforce, mainly because of an obvious shortage of skills. The shrinking pool of workforce necessitates availability of highly effective and efficient manpower, which in turn demands highly comprehensive, end-to-end, sustainable training solutions. To remain effective and contemporary, today’s organizations want employees to be good at team building, fluent in conversations, understand present-day issues like social networking, forge collaborations and keep up with competitive trends. In short, they need skills that impact the bottom-line, namely sales and customer service skills, product/process knowledge etc. Employees engaged in such critical functions must be effectively trained in the shortest possible time.

Implementation of training solutions, therefore, is an obvious requirement for launch of new products in a highly competitive market to achieve sales targets. Basic skill sets are no longer adequate these days to deliver desired results and organizations cannot afford a slow learning curve for employees any more. Therefore, induction training, product and process training across the company, right down to the last mile, are non-negotiable. Today, all Learning & Development professionals face a wide range of issues and some of the most prominent challenges are around the practice of training itself. The reason why very often trainings are ineffectual is due to inappropriate content, ineffective delivery, lack of standardization and ad hoc training practices. These inadequacies are especially more glaring in times of globalization where standardization of practices is must and, yet at the same time, one needs to recognize the nuances of culture and its sensitivities.

Currently, the entire gambit of L&D universe faces variety of challenges. Making Learning & Development content more relevant is as old as chicken and egg problem. While standardizing this up-to-date and relevant content to achieve scalability follows this premise. Using appropriate technology to enhance efficacy of training and choosing the right kind of collaborative and experiential approaches, to follow up on training and monitoring application at work place has become need of hour. Additionally, making training flexible and not limit to class room style of teaching and creating content very crisp and concise for the rapidly changing environment remains bone of contention for many.

With over thirty years of experience in Skills Upgradation business, I have concluded that Learning & Development can dramatically impact ROI (return on investment) of training. In a fast-changing dynamic world, we feel Learning and Development plays a strategic role only if it provides relevant insights; not just basic skill courses. Hence, the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time.

At, Centum Learning, we have realized that the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time. Towards the end, we have adopted off-beat training modules which can be as simple and varied as storytelling or Team building using theatre workshops to solve this problem. Depending on the clients, Centum Learning, which believes in the mantra of “Business of positive transformation”, has devised training modules which can enhance business results and develop skills as per industry requirements. Working closely with our partners, we develop appropriate content and requisite expertise to offer end-to-end training solutions in a standardized manner. This is being done across levels of hierarchy in diverse locations across continents. All our courses are industry specific and are prepared in consultation with the Industry Experts to impart training which would actually enable the candidates to work more effectively in their jobs in terms of Domain Knowledge, Technical Skills and Soft Skills.

For the delivery part, we have developed a pool of qualified and competent trainers who are certified by Centum Learning. These Trainers undergo Train the Trainer programs wherein training is imparted on Platform Skills, Expectations Management and Counseling & Mentoring Skills.

Our unique approach to Learning and Development has made us most trusted ‘Go-To’ partner for corporate in need of skills development and vocational training initiatives. With domain expertise in 21 industry verticals and over 1,358 Learning and Development specialists, we have partnered over 350 corporates to address the dreaded ‘skills-demand’ gap. We have taken our skilling engagement even further to establish Corporate Universities with clients such as Airtel, Mahindra First Choice, Skoda, Matrix Cellular and many more. Our Enterprise Training Solutions has become very popular with corporates including Titan Industries, Punjab National Bank, Delhi International Airport, Punj Lloyd, American Express, Ashok Leyland Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Lafarge Cements, Global Trust Bank, Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), etc. We have unlocked global factories of talent in these entities.

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Harnessing Skills

The Article First Appeared In Khaleej Times on January 26, 2016

The future of higher education system in India lies in industry-academia-government linkage

In recent years there has been a new trend in India’s higher education system. Instead of setting up centers of excellence or merely sponsoring research, Indian corporate are getting into the educational sector establishing universities. Perhaps, they see this as the only way of creating a skilled workforce.

The obsession of many Indians for textbook education and white collar jobs has created a conundrum of gigantic proportions. Where there will be 13 million youth entering the workforce every year, there are not enough jobs to go around. Yet, look at any of the major sectors – construction, retail, agriculture, transport and logistics – there is a dearth of skilled labour.

Take the south Indian state of Kerala for instance. A labourer will earn Rs350 a day (or Rs10,000 a month), which is six times the national average of Rs50-60 a day. The state is facing a huge shortage of skilled labour since most of its working population prefer migrating outside the state to greener pastures especially in the Gulf. According to government data, half of the 6.5 million people working in the Gulf comprise Malayalis and a large chunk of them are engaged in blue collared jobs.

If India does not build a corpus of skilled labour, the ‘Make in India‘ vision of the government is sure to come to naught. For instance, the country currently faces a huge shortage of painters, masons, electricians and welders among other construction trade workers.

Yet the scant regard most Indians have for vocational training and skills development has led to decades of neglect for these crafts. Worsening the situation, students who finish tertiary education and choose to learn any one of these trades have to depend on the ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), which are poorly managed and outdated.

Skills are not celebrated in India unlike China, where students are steered into vocational training right from their secondary education levels. India’s education system has a big task at hand to bring transition in the role from ‘student’ to ‘worker’ and prepare candidates for the new working world.

Class 12 is too late for a student to pick up employability skills. Instead, from class 7-8 onwards there needs to be a move away from student-oriented to teacher-oriented learning. Besides, the curriculum should be aligned to current industry requirements.

Fortunately, the Indian government has made provisions for upgrading skills under multiple disciplines and even created a separate ministry to achieve its dream of a Skilled India. Positive steps such as the National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) are in the right direction, which will also lead to a paradigm shift in employment from being ‘qualification-based’ to ‘skill-based.’ This change is sure to result in educational institutions focusing on imparting skills that lead to employability, rather than doling out certificates and degrees.

The NVEQF seeks to bring parity with formal education by defining various levels (eg, making Level 1 equivalent to Class 9 and so on, continuing till Level 10). Other initiatives such as vertical mobility will allow a student pursuing vocational education to have the flexibility to move into mainstream education and vice versa. The government has also set up a Sector Skills Council in order to bring in industry linkages, which in turn is setting up National Occupational Standards as per industry recommendations.

A nationwide network of affordable community colleges could be set up with courses and diplomas closely tailored to the skills related to the local labour market. Higher education available in the local market will also stop unsustainable migration to cities. Besides, skills development and vocational training will bring about inclusive development and growth for rural areas, where poor children are compelled to drop out of the education system due to several socio-economic constraints. Incorporating vocational training into post-elementary education and using an ICT-based long-term plan that involves the industry will go a long way in addressing skills shortage.

Perhaps, a mandate for major industry bodies in India to work closely with NSDC and NVEQF, along with universities to encourage innovation, help improve skill levels and address employability challenges that may solve the issue of skilled workforce in India. Vocational courses could also be converted into full-fledged ITI/diploma courses.

If the Indian government can make it possible for the industry to embrace Corporate Social Responsibility through an amendment to its Companies Act, why can’t the same be done for something equally, if not more important, skills development and vocational training?

Only through industry-academia-government linkage and close partnership will skills development and vocational training programs become an integral part of the Indian education system. If not, India will lose out on its demographic dividend of having a huge youth population, and one ready to enter the job market soon.

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Technology Can Fight Education Disparity

Article first published in Education Technology across all editions

Education is not merely about classrooms, with technology playing a very smart enabler in the process of basic as well as vocational training. With mobility and e-Learning taking the forefront, there are new initiatives that the government has, partnering with efficient private enterprise to use T to better the education levels in India. Mr Sanjeev Duggal, Co-Chairman of FICCI and CEO & Director of Centum Learning, a leading multinational organization in the global skills development landscape with presence in 21 countries, shares his views and Centum Learning’s achievements in a conversation with education technology.

1. Tell us something about Centum Learning.

Centum Learning was founded in 2006 with the objective to enable sustainable transformation through learning and skills development in the global landscape. It has, till date, skilled more than 1.2million youth across India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and 17 countries in Africa with domain expertise across 21 industry verticals and more than 1358 training and development specialists. Wefocuson four key areas- corporate training, vocational education & skills training, skills for schools and colleges and skills for global employability CL has successfully partnered Central and State Ministries, Public Sector Enterprises and more than 350 corporates, setting up WorkSkills to skill 12 million youth across 469 learning centres in rural and urban locations.It has also been empanelled as a Skill Knowledge Provider (SKP) for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)-affiliated schools to impart vocational courses to students in select states.

2. Do you think India has adequate technology usage and adoption in the education sector? What more can be done in your opinion?

Education sector is a very broad term that encompasses wide range of outlets, from ITIs to Schools and colleges and professional training centres. Technology has had, and will continue to have a significant impact on the entire skilling ecosystem. It integrates with the delivery mechanism to allowbroader reach, helping bridge the urban rural divide, thus arrest the increasing disparity in accessing quality education, including skills training. Tech innovation will have a major influence on teaching methodologies over the next five years. Online learning is gaining a firm foothold in schools and universities across globe, where smart-classes have become modus operandi. India has also evolved in digital learning which we use in building capacity and creating new opportunities. Digital learning is already engaged in helping India build its capacity in world class content, pedagogical intervention and creating more jobs by creating new solutions for skill building at the basic level.

3. What technology initiatives do you see gaining maximum ground for Corporate Training, Vocational Education & Skills Training?

Centum Learning’s scope of work revolves around Corporate Training, Vocational Education & Skills Training. In these areas, usage of technology is already underway and creating more jobs through creation of new skill building at the basic level.

In spite of the recent war going on about net neutrality, there is no doubt that technology has become an integral part of all curricula including vocation education. Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi talks about “Digital India” with equal emphasis as “Skilling India” and “Make in India”.

4. Do you think eLearning can help in educational progress in a vast country like India? Does Centum use it?

Centum Learning has always been at the forefront when it comes to providing industry based skill training and we believe that there is a surfeit of career opportunities for skilled professionals. In Hisar, Haryana 170 Km from the corridors of power where policies are made, we are running a center where technology and best in class training infrastructure is changing the way people are getting skilled to become job ready. The Skill Development Center is offering candidates courses in Retail, Life Skills and IT Skills under the Deen Dayal Upadhya Gramin Kaushal Yojana of the Ministry of Rural Development. 60 candidates in each batch from BPL category attend this programme which has:

  • Biometric attendance – which students undertake twice every day is improving attendance, preventing spillage and therefore improving learning outcomes.
  • Tablets – Tablets which are provided to the students as a part of this programme as per DDU GKY guidelines are loaded with standardized learning content. This is enabling Technology Enabled Learning
  • IT Skills Lab – Besides, IT skills lab at the center allows students to work on the practical aspects related to IT – How to create presentations, how to create a column in MS Excel, how to apply formulas in MS Excel etc Core / Domain Skills Lab I was totally surprised to find that as many as 70% of my class students, all of whom are from the BPL population are on Facebook and as much as 50% of this from the class operate Facebook on mobile phones. The scope and work in skilling will remain an ongoing process towards nation building and we at centum are committed to skill 12 million people across 11 states and 383 districts by 2022.

5. Mobility technologies provide a major push to e-learning technologies. What value does it add to your venture?

The National Policy on Skill Development has set a target of 500 million people to be skilled by 2022. To achieve this ambitious target millions of people would need to be mobilised and the Indian mobile telephony industry, which has grown phenomenally to become the 2nd largest market in the world, is perfectly situated to help enable such a mass outreach programme.

However, skilling in India needs a disruption in the existing ecosystem to reach even ‘media-dark’ states in the country, where TV & print reach only 20% of the population. Centum Learning aggressively took up the cause of mobilizing under-privileged youth in skills training following the launch of a unique mobile mass outreach programme. The pilot for the outreach campaign was executed in Bihar, with a 2.24 million Bharti Airtel subscriber base that were targeted as part of this campaign. Interested candidates were mapped to one of the 136 counselling centres set up by Centum Learning in 38 districts of Bihar. I would like to reiterate here that our overall mission is to build and sustain a movement around India’s social transformation through skilling and such efforts clearly showcase our steps towards achieving this goal. In less than a week of launch,3,87,408 candidates were profiled and over 40,000 candidates across 38 districts in Bihar were enrolled under various skilling programmes.

6. The education system in India is very restrictive as of now. Centum leaning has been providing vocational training as well. Do you think the entre education system needs to be vocation oriented?

Providing vocational education in schools is one of the most important aspects of this entire gamut of Skills Development, but quality is as important as well. We are committed to working around systems of quality assurance at the institutional level and examine how quality of education can be enhanced across the school ecosystem. Introducing students to high quality vocational training at an early age is the most effective way to do it. Considering the growing importance to offer skill based training programmes right at the school level and with the introduction of National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) right from class IX, the demand for vocational education programmes is going to soar across all levels. Centum Learningis all geared to tap this opportunity by offering Skill based programmes for schools and colleges. In order to fully leverage the vocational education orientation in India, weprovidesolutionslikeEngaging Young India which is about vocational education in schools;school management & leadership training, capacity building programmes for teachers and vocational courses for school students.

7. Centum has partnered with various government agencies for skill impartment. Do you think we are anywhere close to world standards of education in non – IT areas?

Worldwide, young people are three times more likely than their parents to be out of work – said a report recently released by McKinsey Center for Government. According to International Labor Organization estimates over 75 million young people are unemployed across the world. Paradoxically, 57% of the employers worldwide are not able to find entry-level skilled workforce. The story is no different for India, which continues to be at the epicenter of the world for its youth talent force. The immense talent scarcity industry faces today requires out-of-the-box thinking, decoding issues related to employability skills access, affordability and accreditation – a kind of Blue Ocean Strategy to look at the demographic dividend from a whole new perspective.

8. What plans does Centum have for the future of the education industry in India?

Centum Learning offers Skills for Global Employability – whereby it works closely with the corporates to offer end-to-end sourcing, employability skills training, certification and placement to candidates in various trades basis requirement of the industry. Instead of old dogma of first train and then seek job, Centum Learning works with the corporate houses, takes estimation of their manpower requirements and then provide workforce development training to people in respective trades- thus creating right fit of skills with the right job.

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Education: Where There’s a Skill, There’s a Way

Article first published in Business Today across all editions

A vast majority of our 2.2 million graduates find themselves at sea once they exit their colleges since most of our college education only partially equips them for jobs. This scale of unemployment – and the need to prevent them from straying into anti-social activities – is one of the biggest challenges of our society. How should India go about making its graduates and working population job worthy for the next 25 years? Sanjeev Duggal, CEO & Director, Centum Learning, a skilling company with presence in 21 countries, writes on how to change India’s skills landscape.

When she got married, Rajni Bala’s dreams were similar to those of most young women of her background – having a contented married life with a loving husband and children. Reality, however, turned out to be very different. She had to live with her in-laws, who proved tyrannical, while her husband was a drunk, who hardly provided for her two children. She finally left, along with the children, returning to stay with her widowed mother. She is still locked in a legal tussle with her husband and in-laws. But with hardly any education, what would she do for a living? She heard about a learning/training centre in her area and enrolled in it for a 12-day intensive course in retail operations. She has since been hired as a cashier at a branch of a leading global retail store. She proudly points to a badge she wears next to her ID card. “I won it for my performance,” she says. “I have been able to establish myself and support my two children, because of this opportunity I got.”
Hailing from a small village in Morigaon district of Assam, Amar Jyoti joined a 45-day skilling course to get some kind of employment. His trainers at the centre were so impressed by his zeal that, on completion of the course, they offered him a trainer’s job at the centre itself. After two years, he is now a senior trainer in charge of two centres. “I’m proud to be able to bring about the same change in other people’s lives that the skilling centre did in mine,” he says. “I’m proud to have lifted several BPL families out of poverty by imparting skills to their members.”

Jagir Kaur, a daughter of poor parents, felt guilty when she failed to get a job after clearing her Class XII board exams. The fact that her elder brother, in her family of six, was also unemployed, made matters worse. Finally, she left her village for a nearby town where she underwent a skilling course in looking after wholesale stores, which soon landed her a job. Jagir smiles often, a smile of pride. “I’m the first girl in my family to have moved out of home and become self-reliant,” she says. “I manage my expenses and support my family, too.”

The glass, half-empty or half-full – depending on one’s perception – is the best metaphor to describe the skilling scenario in India. Much has been done, but much remains to be done. Less than two per cent of our workforce has formal skills.

The glass, half-empty or half-full – depending on one’s perception – is the best metaphor to describe the skilling scenario in India. Much has been done, but much also remains to be done. The staggering statistics are well known – out of India’s 1.25 billion population, 54 per cent are below 25 years of age and 65 per cent below 35 years. India has the world’s largest workforce after China. But unlike China’s ageing population, most of India’s workforce – growing by 14-16 million every year – will still be employable 25 years from now. The tragedy is that less than two per cent of the workforce has formal skills. Even among those with some sort of training or qualification, only a third has employable skills.

Successive governments at the Centre have created multiple agencies and programmes and heaped ample funds on them to address the challenge of skilling India. There is the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which has set itself an ambitious – some even say, unrealistic – target of skilling 150 million by 2022. There is the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), which anchors and implements the National Skills Qualification Frame- work, engaging with states to dovetail the states’ skilling facilities and schemes with those of the Centre.

There is a nationwide network of government-run Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), earlier supervised by the Ministry of Labour, but transferred to the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship from April 2015. There is the recently launched Central government scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), into which Rs 1,500 crore is being pumped to provide outcome-based skill training to 2.4 million young people. As part of its rural reach out, the government has also funded the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gramin Kaushal Yojana (DDU-GKY) scheme under the Ministry of Rural Development. In addition, there are many more skill development schemes run by Central ministries, state governments and private institutions. At this stage, the glass looks decisively half-full!
But there are challenges, too. The wide gap between supply and demand across various industries persists. There is still an obvious shortage of skills. The perception of many parents that their children must go into engineering or medicine – a hangover of the 1960s and 1970s mindset – has hamstrung efforts at skill building at its most important stage: in school. However, there is change at this level, too – the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) now offers some 50 vocational courses. Further, a host of skill-based employment avenues have opened up for those who have just finished school – lab technician, beautician, computer operator, animation artist, refrigeration mechanic, digital print shop operator…
A decade ago, the Kerala government funded a statewide network of self-financing “Akshaya e-kendras” to impart basic computer skills to one member of every family. What did the young entrepreneurs who set up these e-kendras do, once the target groups in every district had been trained, and government subsidies had dried up? After a few hard knocks, the vast majority have reinvented themselves and are running small but profitable businesses today – catering to local needs and shortages in areas like PAN card and passport applications, transfer of funds, payment windows for civic taxes, college admissions, job search and applications, etc. The Kerala model is a splendid example of spontaneous skill-building.

There is still an obvious shortage of skills. The perception of many parents that their children must go into engineering or medicine – a hangover of the 1960s and 1970s mindset – has hamstrung efforts at skill building at its most important stage: in school.
Elsewhere, some challenges remain, even as school-level or undergraduate-level skill-building efforts continue. A trishul of talents needs to coalesce before skills can translate into gainful employment: technical skills, domain knowledge, and soft skills. The first two are a matter of training and application. The final one, presents some nuanced challenges.

Today, for instance, whether you are a beautician or a tour guide or a taxi driver, a working knowledge of English is a force multiplier when it comes to employability. I was reliably informed that in Bengaluru, a licensed driver, maintenance engineer or nursing assistant who can speak and read English, can straightaway add 50 per cent to his/her pay packet.

After 30 years in training and skill development, I’m also convinced that partnering large and credible training partners is critical to attaining both quality and scale. Of the 211 affiliated training partners of NSDC, the top three contribute 31.01 per cent of the skilling (as per NSDC’s 2014/15 annual report). The government needs to engage with these and others that have a track record in skilling. The objective is skill-building and not doling out patronage to all kinds of “Mom and Pop skilling shops”.

The biggest challenge in skilling is getting students to the classrooms and retaining them there. Government and training partners need to work together to ensure that the candidate is incentivised to attend classes through industry aligned courses, relevant training methodology, and deeper connect with jobs and industry. The larger training players also need to harness technology wherever available to achieve the required scale.

A trishul of talents has to coalesce before skills can translate into gainful employment: technical skills, domain knowledge and soft skills. The fi rst two are a matter of training and application. The fi nal one presents some nuanced challenges.
We must also recognise that among the not-so-well-off, aspiration levels are often low, as is capacity to pay. This problem has to be addressed with sensitivity. It is best done by government-funded programmes, executed by large training partners which have the ability to scale up.

To generate more funds across a wider spectrum from corporate houses, the government could mandate that 50 per cent of the funds earmarked as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR), should be used for skill development.

Skilling India to compete and excel on a global maidan is a multi-pronged challenge. We need our engineers and doctors and business executives. We need a rainbow of other heterogeneous skills. And sometimes we discover in ourselves skills and talents for which we were not trained, but which constitute a coming together of head and heart. To take a personal example, my elder son studied film-making, while the younger one underwent courses to become a chef. Today, both of them are entrepreneurs running a very successful “gourmet catering and food experience” venture. They started as mainstream graduates, then decided to follow their dream and carved out the vocation of their choice. As parents, let us encourage the creative outreaches of our children, by supporting them when they make career decisions driven by enthusiasm rather than societal pressure.

Read More on Education: Where There’s a Skill, There’s a Way


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