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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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