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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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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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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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Creating a niche for skilled manpower, is it really a need of the hour?

Indian industry within next 10 years will be facing shortage of skilled man force. The problem of skilled man power still persists, but by 2020 the voids today will swell into an incapacitating factor for India. If the current situation continues, then automobile industry, especially automotive component makers will face a shortage of 35 million trained people; gems and jewellery industry will oversee a shortfall of 4.6 million and the construction sector will witness shortage of 1.4 million skilled labour. The data has been presented according to the estimates of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). Considering that the need of the hour is skill development, NSDC has signed agreements with many credible organisations to impart skills to the youth of the country.

There are three different sectors with a shortfall of about 40 million skilled candidates out of which only around 0.18 million have been trained yet, it’s an area of huge concern. We as partners of NSDC are working relentlessly in the skills space. Since its inception Centum Learning is working at mobilizing, training and placing individuals so that they can lead a dignified life. Government of India has also realized the need for a skilled workforce and has set up various Sector Skills Councils in this regard.

With the deliberations on making India a manufacturing hub there is a dire need of trained and skilled professionals. India is rich when it comes to youth to be trained, but there has to be rural participation as well so that the demographic divide reduces and the skill movement can become mainstream. There is a lot happening to enhance employability skills of youth, but a quantum leap in this direction is still amiss. Though there are discussions in the industry and many sector skill councils are trying to make it big, but somewhere Skills Movement per se is yet to see the light of the day.

What’s causing the bottleneck?

Since 2011 NSDC has been increasing spends significantly on advertising to increase the awareness on the significance of vocational education and thereby reduce the shortage of skilled workforce.

The challenges causing bottleneck are not lack of skill instructors or business models or corporate willingness. The issue at hand is the apprehension that is there in the mindset of people about skilling courses viz a viz mainstream education which can fetch them white collar jobs. On the other hand youth that can be skilled because they have never received much formal education do not ascertain the desire to be skilled; they don’t want to be re-located as they have never ventured out of their comfort zone and hence are hesitant. The mindset is that the standard of living that one aspires for can be achieved through mainstream education only.

If you ask a child as to what his career aspirations are, the answer you would get can be a pilot, an accountant, a fashion designer etc. Repeat the question to his parents as to what they would like their child to grow up and the answer inevitably would be MBA, an engineer or a doctor.

A thoughtfully devised advertising campaign can help change the image of career based on skills, but it’s hard to sustain a product on advertising merely if it does not yield any result. Promises of a better future and a worthy career are to be delivered in practical if we want skill development to be recognized.

An advertising campaign cannot make people hog over heels for skills courses; skills development needs solid base and until an initiative leads sustainable transformation, it will be difficult to change way people perceive skill development.

Vocational employment needs acceptance from stakeholders so that it can become main-stream, a certificate will be no good if it doesn’t fetch any job to the candidate.

What are the apprehensions?

The basic ones that concern youth that are yet to be trained are; where will they relocate and what sort of adjustment issues will they encounter. What about their day-to-day expenses and housing concerns? Is there any job security as skills based courses does not come with recognized degrees? Will there be any health insurance? What about provision of basic health facilities? Does the skill they get trained in provide them with multiple job opportunities if they would want to change in future? If ever they are laid off, will the training go waste or more avenues will open?

Acceptance is the largest issue at hand when it comes to skill development and vocational education. Will the corporate houses, government bodies, policy makers and society in general accept and absorb skilled workforce? Will the shortlisting pattern of the Human Resource department of any organization grow up to the level where not just degrees, but certificates and diplomas are also cared for? Will the job descriptions ever see any change and will the performance be measured on the tasks achieved or the degrees at hand? Will the labour laws be in tune for skilled workforce to motivate recruitment of a trained and certified individual on a permanent basis than hiring them as contractual labour.

Reality bites when these questions are put forth, the answers to these might not be easy. At Centum Learning, we address these questions and very consciously impart skilling solutions starting with mobilizing candidates and ending it with recruitment and post-recruitment support. A nation cannot stand if its youth remains apprehensive and hogged with uncertainties. We need a support system that addresses basic needs of life, a network to share and live in a decent working atmosphere, an ecosystem that respects and accepts those who are skilled in some vocation and an atmosphere where vocational training and skilling is considered the backbone of a powerful nation.

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