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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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Partnering for Growth

Centum Learning has collaborated with the Ministry of Skill Development to establish a large number of skilling centers for training candidates for the rapidly growing Beauty & Wellness (B&W) sector across the country. This will cater to this fast emerging sector, which offers enormous career opportunities and will significantly help to fulfil the increasing requirements of a skilled work force in the category. These centres will be undertaking skill development programs under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme. Additionally, Centum Learning has also formed an association with the Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission (BMVM) for training 1840 candidates in the same space.

Placements are an important outcome for the candidates, therefore, Centum Learning has proactively tied up with industry giants like Lakmé, Naturals and Urban Clap to offer placements to skilled professionals, ensuring a secure future for candidates enrolled under various job roles of B&W sector. We also have strategic partnership with Godrej Consumer Products Limited in the area of Knowledge and Technical expertise under the ‘Go Green Funds Supporting SalonI Program.’

Extended government support
The Government has played an important role in helping expand and grow the skilling eco-space in the country. The Beauty & Wellness Sector Skill Council (B&WSSC) was created as a regulator, assessor and a certification authority. The council has developed National Occupational Standards (NOS), for various job roles in the beauty and wellness domain. A Qualifications Registration Committee (QRC), constituted by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), ratifies these standards. Centum Learning is poised to deliver all training programs based on these NOS. By 2023, the SSC aims to accredit 390 Training organizations, train 2,200 trainers and provide certification to an almost 1.67 Million (16.7 Lac) workforce. To motivate young women further, the reward amount for the beauty and wellness sector under the PMKVY has been increased to Rs10,000 for which training is provided on higher levels of the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF).

Charting growth
The wellness industry in India stood at about Rs 70,000 crore in 2012 and is now worth approximately Rs1 trillion showing a compounded annual growth rate of 15-17 per cent. The industry is likely to experience a shortage of 6,00,000 skilled personnel by 2016. Previously, FICCI-PwC report had forecasted that the number of people employed in the wellness space could potentially treble from over 1 million lakh in 2011 to 3 million by 2015.

Centum Learning’s push for growth
Centum Learning encourages needy and underprivileged young men and women to pursue skill development courses in the growing beauty and wellness domain to take advantage of the enormous career opportunities opening up in this sphere.

Revolutionizing skill development
India has the highest acceptance and demand for beauty and wellness services. With tier I and II cities witnessing the advent of international players getting established, it has resulted in rapid growth of organized players leading to standardization of services. In order to capitalize on this, vocational training, skill development and quality education has been made available to youth in the remote and rural areas of India. The game changer has been the industry-academia-government linkage that has created work-ready human capital.

Mobilization is a major area of concern in the skilling ecosystem and in order to meet this challenge, Centum Learning launched a massive outreach programme. The pilot for the outreach campaign was executed in Bihar, with a target base of 2.24 million. Interested candidates were mapped to one of the 136 counseling centers set up by Centum Learning in 38 districts of Bihar. In less than a week of the launch, 3,87,408 candidates were profiled and over 40,000 candidates across 38 districts in Bihar were enrolled under various skilling programmes. These multi-skill centers offer courses for sales associates, computer operators, medical sales representatives, mobile repair engineers and helper-plumber besides beauticians, hair stylists.

Growing geographical presence
In India, we have 964 Centum Skill Development Centers. In addition to this, we have established and expanded our global footprint across Nepal and 18 countries in Africa. Our domain expertise spans 21 industry verticals and over 1350 training and development specialists

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Mission Skills Heads North East

Article first published in Yojana across all editions

Resonating to the clarion call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of Skilling India, the mission is branching out to all corners of the country. And with the north eastern region receiving renewed attention from the central government, it is imperative that one of the key central missions of the Government of India, the Skill India mission too is looking to establish ground there. The NE region has a great potential to develop not just as a self-sustained economic unit of India but also contribute to the overall economic growth story of the country. The Centre had recently announced to take up its Skill India initiatives in the Northeast in a “big way” by setting up skill development centres and industrial training institutes (ITIs) in new districts. Union Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has urged the industry of the north eastern region to actively participate in skill development of the region and also recommended one member each for all the 40 Sector Skill Councils from Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER). The minister also proposed to restructure National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and include FINER as a member.

The eight north-eastern states–Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim (added in 2002) and Tripura–are growing fast, educating their people at a rate much faster than the rest of India, reducing their dependence on agriculture and inching towards prosperity. But unfortunately the growth is not creating enough jobs and livelihood opportunities, creating a huge mismatch. To address the region’s development challenges, including infrastructure, the Central government created the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region in 2004, allocating Rs 2,362 crore to the ministry in 2015-16.

The region has certain distinct advantages with its strategic location having access to the traditional domestic market of eastern India. Also, with its proximity to major states in the east and adjacent countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar the region has the advantage for being the vantage entry point for the South-East Asian markets. The resource-rich north east with its expanses of fertile farmland and a huge talent pool could turn into one of India’s most prosperous regions.

To realise the economic potential the region holds, it is imperative to utilise the demographic advantages and parameters that will lead to market linked skill development. However, owing to its unique challenges the conventional market-based solutions may not work here, given the issues related to poor infrastructure and connectivity, unemployment and low economic development, law and order problems, etc.

Though India has the edge of a young workforce, the quality of skills is still a challenge. A survey conducted in 2014 reveals that around 78 per cent of the surveyed employers said they are concerned with the growing skills gap in India while 57 per cent said they currently have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. Of the 14 million people that enter the workforce every year barely 2 million are formally trained. Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship data reveals that only 4.5 persons out of every 100 are skilled, according to the latest National Sample Survey, with the percentage even lesser in the Northeast. Countries such as Korea with 96 per cent skilled workforce and Japan having 80 per cent skilled manpower are way ahead.

Lack of skilling models that are workable and can be practiced is one of the major factors hindering the skill development practices in the region. It said although many agencies were doing skill development through various approaches, yet most of them lacked innovation and were not scalable.

Skilling Challenges in the North East

A “Skill University” in the Northeast needs to be urgently set up as “engaging” with the aspirations of India’s youth is a “challenge”. Setting up “Migration Support Centres” at big hubs can provide better retention and career opportunities for candidates. This measure will be more essential for trainees coming from the Northeast, hilly states and other difficult areas, including LWE (left-wing extremism)-affected districts.

Employment opportunities can be created swiftly in agarwood plantations in Meghalaya vis-à-vis local resources and livelihood opportunities. The South East Asian countries’ business model based on creating a vertically integrated business from the management of plantations to the inoculation, harvesting, distilling and processing of agarwood inputs into a multitude of agarwood end products, including the highly-prized Oud oil can be replicated.

According to a study on development and employment generation potential of the north-eastern states, between 2011 and 2021, the region will have only 2.6 million jobs. And half of this demand will be in Assam alone, which is about 1,234,357 jobs. As opposed to the low demand, there will also be a supply of 17 million people in 2011-2022, an excess of 14 million job seekers. The region will generate 2.6 million jobs, but the manpower supply will be 16.8 million persons. So there is a need for a twin approach for developing skills for both local employment and for those who seek to migrate.

Another big challenge facing the implementation and execution of any skills development-related scheme is reaching out, educating and motivating youth in the rural and remote parts of the country. With over thirty years of experience in Learning & Development, 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.

I have often talked about, on various platforms, about how the Government should make vocational education mandatory for women not pursuing full time education. Jobs and hiring in India needs to shift from being ‘qualification based’ to ‘skill based‘. With ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ and ‘Digital India’ schemes being rolled out by the Government, youth and especially women must be compulsorily taught to use computers and be skilled (in any field). Government also needs to take specific steps for differently-abled people and help create job opportunities for them by building relationships with employer and industry groups. If the Government can get the major chunk of the above target groups in its umbrella, the dream of empowering and transforming lives will be achieved to a great extent.

Building Bridges

There is an urgent need to facilitate introduction of multi-skilling institutes for NE states. Along with this, higher education in the region needs to be connected with apprenticeship. Work based learning will lead the career-pathways. There is also a need to make skilling attractive, relevant and be able to serve the demand to address the major challenge of migration.

There is a need to look at the skilling initiatives in the NE region in a different light. The region’s population comes with a dominant agrarian mindset. There is an opportunity and a requirement to inculcate need based skill development and entrepreneurship promotion in North East Region. The young and growing population is the region’s prized possession and asset and to realize the economic potential the region holds, it is imperative to utilise the demographic advantages and parameters that will lead to market linked skill development.

It is necessary to address the issue of employability and design a roadmap for capacity development and skill upgradation in the North East to keep the local talent reap the best of the opportunities and not migrate for employment. A number of sectors can emerge as important sources of employment in the region and it is crucial to identify the relevant education streams and skill sets that need to be developed among the people to enhance their employability.

NE being home to diverse and exotic variety of fruits and other crops could emerge as major centre of food processing industry that can generate huge employment opportunities for the youth in the NE states. Another potential sector with immense opportunities is handlooms that are used for both local consumption as well as for supplies all across the country. Developing skills there with the right kind of technological know-how can add to the overall growth rate of the region whilst preserving the local talent and heritage.

The efforts to promote startup companies and develop entrepreneurship particularly in NE have resulted in favourable changes in the entrepreneurial scenario in the North East. A right ecosystem for the startups has to be created by accessing the right skill, smart capital, networking and exchange, entrepreneurial culture and sound marketing strategies.

Some of the other sectors that could change the face of skilling and employability in the region include hotel and hospitality management, medical and paramedical degrees, agribusiness management, , ITeS, BPO and KPO skills, engineering degrees, business management, vocational skills dealing with automobiles, construction, electronics, plumbing, textiles and apparels etc.

While big-ticket investments may be the overall game changers, what is also important is to empower rural communities to create sustainable institutions so that they manage common activities around microfinance, livelihoods and natural resource management. The need for economic empowerment and partnership development follows close as all these initiatives require a committed effort from both the public and the private sector to make a countable impact.

“Vision 2020’ targets by North Eastern Council (NEC) and the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER):

– Overall GSDP growth at a CAGR of 11.64% between 2007- 09 and 2019-20

– Overall per capita income growth of 12.95% between 2007- 09 and 2019-20

To support ‘Vision 2020’, the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has formulated a strategic plan (2010-16) highlighting:

– Building capacities and competencies in critical sectors in the region

– Preparing a plan of action for building capacities and competencies in critical sectors

– Identifying institutes and organisations for imparting training and building capacities in the region

– Setting up of training institutes in the region in important fields through line Ministries, NEC or states

– Augmenting the capacity of the existing training institutes in the north eastern states

– Using IT as a tool to upgrade skills

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Skilling India is akin to evangelizing: Sanjeev Duggal, Centum Learning

The Interaction first Published on The Financial Express on February 8, 2016 12:20 am 

Sanjeev Duggal, the MD & CEO of Centum Learning, believes that ‘Start-up India’ has to be synergized with ‘Skill India’. “The way things are playing out, the nation’s growth agenda is directly getting aligned to the skills-level of its manpower,” Duggal says. Centum Learning, which is NSDC’s partner, is also making efforts to reach out to the remotest parts of the country. For that, Duggal says, we need to reach ‘media-dark’ states in the country, where TV and print reach only 20% of the population. In an interview with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, he adds that we also have to change the ‘poor country cousin’ image of a skills-based career.


What are your views on the ‘Start-up India, Stand up India’ campaign?
Start-up India is not about only Flipkart, Myntra or any other e-commerce/IT start-up. It’s about a plumber setting up a plumbing business; a carpenter opening a carpentry shop. It’s about encouraging entrepreneurship. The government has realised it is not possible to skill and provide employment to everybody and, at times, not practical. Hence, it is a good idea to skill people to become entrepreneurs on their own terms and conditions.
The other day I was speaking to a friend who said he was impressed by a young man who had set up a grocery portal. We are witnessing this trend all over the country. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), we are helping women get trained in the beauty sector, and making them realise their dreams of being an entrepreneur instead of pursuing jobs in established companies.

What synergies do Start-up India and Skill India share?
There cannot be a more opportune time to consider how closely Start-up India can be synergised with Skill India. The way things are playing out, the nation’s growth agenda is directly getting aligned to the skills-level of its manpower. We are playing a key role in evangelising skilling and making youth job-ready so they, in turn, can make India a manufacturing hub, thus helping fulfil the Make-in-India vision. In fact, Centum Learning is mustering all resources to become a prime catalyst in the delivery and scaling up of the government’s self-employment mission. There are thousands of opportunities to start a thriving business, but there is not enough skilled manpower that can engage in such entrepreneurship.
What all have Centum Learning and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) achieved as a team?
We have been NSDC’s number 1 partner for two consecutive years, having skilled more than 1.2 million people.

Who all form your training and development specialists?
We have created Centum Skill Instructors’ Guild (CSIG), a forum that aims to reward skill instructors in recognition of the crucial role they play in building a skilled and employable India. Through this initiative, we are ensuring that the quality of trainers that train the future of our country are constantly motivated, are looking to enhance their personal skill competencies and realize their direct impact on skillsets of trainees. This platform will serve as a means for us to engage with the skills instructors’ community in the country.

How to reach out to the remotest parts of the country?
Skilling India is akin to evangelizing. What is required is a disruption in the existing ecosystem to reach ‘media-dark’ areas in the country, where TV and print reach only 20% of the population. To counter this problem, Centum Learning recently launched a massive outreach program through mobile phones to address the ‘awareness gap’. Though the initial scope of the pilot project was restricted to Bihar, it eventually was rolled out to cover nearly 400 million subscribers nationwide.
Under the initiative, telecom providers sent text and voice-based messages to the target audience who were required to give a missed call to a toll-free number. Interested candidates would then be profiled on the basis of their age and location and finally mapped to their nearest enrolment centers. This exercise was quite successful. In less than a week of launch, as many as 3,87,408 candidates were profiled and over 40,000 candidates across 38 districts in Bihar were enrolled under various skilling programs. We take help from Gram Panchayats and other local governing bodies to spread awareness about these mobilization drives.

Where do you train the untrained?
Infrastructure is neither a challenge, nor a constraint. We’ve tied up with CBSE and AICTE to offer vocational training in schools and colleges. We use existing infrastructure like AICTE-approved colleges and private ITIs, rented commercial space, etc, which comply with government regulations, instead of setting up new centres. Most of these centres are already equipped with computers and laboratories to enable smoother implementation of project deliverables. In case of certain hostel-based training centres, Centum provides transportation facilities from the hostel to the training centre. Given the government’s emphasis on skilling, we are even looking at utilising public spaces like railway stations in the What steps are needed to change the perception that skills training is only for those who are not good in academics?

Unlike the West, where a PhD can pursue the vocation of a cab driver and is considered a respected member of society, in India, a father’s heart will skip a beat if his daughter announces her interest to marry anybody less than an engineer or a doctor.
But things are slowly changing and there are discussions in the corridors of power about skilling, bridging the demographic divide, providing employability skills, encouraging rural participation to make the skill movement mainstream. Well-crafted and strategic advertising campaigns are being floated to change the ‘poor country cousin’ image of a skills-based career.
A social ecosystem that respects those skilled in vocational education, a support system that addresses some of the basic necessities of life, a network to share and live with, a decent working atmosphere … all these will go a long way in changing the mindset of people towards skilling.

Have you been able to gainfully transform the lives of women in smaller towns?
We provide training to vulnerable youth in the 18-35 age group, mainly from rural areas, scheduled castes and tribes, backward communities and women. Our ambition is to reach a larger pool of trainees to offer exhaustive skilling opportunities as we believe only scale can bring inclusivity. Our target is to reach more women candidates and, if necessary, provide exclusive female-only hostel facilities, employ female instructors and wardens to ensure safety and comfort of female candidates. Further impetus to attract female trainees is done by counselling parents and providing references from past women trainees, who belong to the same location as potential candidates and who are employed, thus contributing to their family income.

Does your skilling model take care of placements?
The approach towards skill building consists of five steps: Employment Generation, Mobilisation, Skill Training, Certification & Assessment, and Placement. Basically, we cover end-to-end of the skilling cycle. As of date, we have generated 3,81,000 letters of intent from various organisations nationwide in various sectors and trades. Our focus is on conducting placement-linked training programs. As soon as the batch formation process takes place, the placement team starts mapping the profiles of trainees for placements. Each state-level centre has a placement head who coordinates with the placement team to organize on-the-job training and placement for trainees. A prospective employer usually visits the centres to conduct interviews and hire trainees. A majority of our trainees are absorbed within the same organization where they undertook on-the-job training.

What was the need to expand your footprint across countries?
We are the first skilling MNC in India. We forayed into Africa anticipating the similarity in culture, topography and linguistic diversity of Africa with India. The key to unleashing the continent’s potential has always been its talented youth. One critical difference is the larger scale in Africa. It is an opportunity and also a challenge. In the normal course of events, Centum Learning would have probably never gone to Africa. We were happy growing in India and had no plans to go to this emerging market. Similarly, we had not chalked out a ready plan to venture into the global market as we had our hands full in India. But the fact that the skills gap is a global phenomenon has opened the world for us. So now, besides Africa, we have offices in Nepal where we are conducting training programs. We have now trained over 1.2 million youth in India and abroad.

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