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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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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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Bridging The Skills Gap

Article first published in Indian Management across all editions

The government’s proposal to make skills training a fundamental right could not have come at a better time. Lack of job skills, rapid increase in urbanisation, and fewer job opportunities have led to the rise of an army of educated unemployed in India. The country sees millions of graduates pass out each year. According to a 2013 Labour Ministry report, one in three graduates up to the age of 29 is unemployed. In its India Skills Report for 2014, Wheebox, an online talent assessment company, observed that only 10% of MBA graduates and 17% of engineering graduates in the country are employable. In its National Employability Report of Engineering Graduates for 2014, Aspiring Minds said “less than one out of four engineering graduates are employable in the country.” As per a NASSCOM report, only 25% of IT graduates are readily employable. Basically, 75% of technical graduates and over 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India’s high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centres.

On average, Indian companies spend nearly $330 per employee on training in order to create a work-ready force. According to consulting firms such as Deloitte and PwC, Indian IT and ITeS companies spend anywhere between 3 and 3.5% of their payroll costs in training talent. In contrast, according to a recent survey by Deloitte, training expenditure in the US grew by 15% last year, the highest in seven years—a clear indication of the skills gap perceived by American companies. The situation is exacerbated when companies make wrong choices in hiring an employee. India figures among the top four countries worldwide, with the cost of one, single bad recruitment seemingly over $31,000, according to a survey conducted by global human resource consultancy firm CareerBuilder. The survey states that 88% of companies in Russia said they were affected by bad hiring last year, followed by 87% in Brazil and China, and 84% in India. In the US, it was 66%. While one could blame universities for failing to provide industry-relevant skills, the problem is rooted in our dismal education system. Pratham’s annual survey found that about half of fifth graders in rural India cannot read at a second-grade level. The non-governmental organisation, which aims to improve education, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools in rural areas, where 70% of the population still resides. Going by recent studies and reports, here are some facts:

  • Only 2% of the existing workforce has undergone formal skills training
  • Only 15% of the existing workforce has marketable skills
  • It is estimated that 90% of jobs in India are skill-based and require vocational training
  • India will have a fifth of the world’s working population in the next decade

Demographic dystopia
Today, India boasts of having a young population with nearly 365 million people in the age group of 10-24 years. It is further estimated that the average age in India by 2020 will be 29, as against 40 in the US, 46 in Europe, and 47 in Japan. The Indian government hopes to take advantage of this young, dynamic, and productive workforce to make the country a global manufacturing hub and the skilling capital of the world. Interestingly, while the labour force in the industrialised world will decline in 20 years, India’s demographic dividend will begin to kick in. Over the next decade, 13 million people in India are expected to join the workforce. If these facts seem a reason to celebrate, do not break the bubbly yet. If India is unable to transform the young brigade into a work-ready band, the demographic dividend it is so proud of will turn into a disaster. Two things can help avert this catastrophe: skills development and vocational training.

Bridging the skills gap
The skills gap is a common thread bringing together emerging economies—from Africa to
Bangladesh to Nepal—and India must lead the way in showing the world how to narrow it. Successive governments have recognised this and initiated various schemes to help bridge the employability-skills chasm. But it was only through the formation of the National Skills Development Council (NSDC) the battle to tackle the skills gap got a firm footing. The NSDC’s vision to train 500 million youth by 2022 has seen a plethora of initiatives and greater public-private collaboration.
More importantly, the government’s proactive measures such as Skilling India campaign, setting up a Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship—a first in the country—along with more recent initiatives such as the National Skill Development Mission, Skill Loan Scheme, and the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) aim to create a ‘Skilled India’. The government has also brought about some changes to labour laws to enable young job seekers gain industry-relevant skills. In the Apprentices Act, the government is seeking to expand the scope of employment vis-a-vis apprenticeship on the shop floor. Until now, most apprentices have been from engineering backgrounds; the government aims to induct more non-engineers as apprentices through this measure.

Transformative collaboration
Earlier, lack of a coordinated effort between various ministries, the Centre and state governments, public and private sector, and the academia made any skills development related schemes a failure, even before they began. However, current efforts by the government(s), the NSDC, trade bodies, and the academia have been relatively successful due to better collaboration. Partners such as Centum Learning have made NSDC’s ambitious target to skill 500 million people achievable. A key ally to the
NSDC in fulfilling India’s national skilling mandate, we have become their largest partner contributing 20.2% of its overall achievement in the last financial year.
Our unique approach to skilling has made us the trusted go-to partner for companies looking to deploy skills development and vocational training initiatives. With domain expertise in 21 industry verticals and over 1,358 learning and development specialists, Centum has partnered with over 350 corporations to address the ‘skills-demand’ gap. We have taken our skilling engagement even further to establish corporate universities with clients such as Airtel and Skoda. Enterprise Training Solutions have become popular with companies, including Titan Industries, Punjab National Bank, and American Express. Take the case of Rajeev Bairwa, an uneducated and unemployed youth from Gaya in
Bihar. Like any other rural area in India, his village had sparse electricity with no access to modern technology. He was selected for training at Centum Skill Development Centre and today works at Navabharath Fertilizers in Jagdishpur, where he is an agro-consultant counselling farmers on the use of fertilisers. He has learnt to operate computers and is the only person in his village with this skill set.
We are also partnering with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) in an interesting experiment. Together, we have launched a massive outreach programme to mobilise disadvantaged youth for skills training. One of the biggest challenges facing the implementation and execution of any skills development initiative is reaching out, educating, and motivating youth in the rural and remote parts. The outreach programme would help implement PMKVY, the government’s flagship outcome-based skill
development scheme. The pilot phase will be rolled out in Bihar, covering a subscriber base of 22 million and subsequently a nationwide roll-out by all the telecom operators that will cover nearly 400 million subscribers. Telecom providers will send text and voice-based awareness messages to the target audience. Interested youth can give a missed call to a toll-free number and an interactive voice response pushed to them would capture relevant details through an application. Dedicated teams managing the application would then enrol those interested in different skilling programmes under the PMKVY scheme.

While the success of this programme can only be gauged at a later date, it is a great example of transformative collaboration. Besides the realm of vocational training and skills development, such creative partnerships are also necessary in the education sector. India continues to confront a high ‘school dropout rate’—nearly 56.8%—by the time students reach the tenth standard. Further, we have partnered with CBSE and trained over 3,200 school principals and senior teachers under the Leadership and Strategic Management Training programme; and implemented National Skills Qualification Framework in Haryana for nearly 28 schools.

An inclusive approach
By making skills training a fundamental right, the government can pave the way for youth in rural India to unleash their latent potential and be a part of nation building. Only through an inclusive approach can India accelerate its growth rate. Vocational training, skills development, and quality education need to be made available to youth in the remote and rural areas. Such a holistic approach will also lead to ruralisation and stem urbanisation, easing the pressure on crumbling infrastructure. The game changer would be a better industry academia- government link that creates workready human capital. The proposed ‘right to skill’ [legislation] will task state governments with the responsibility of imparting vocational training through special universities that will be overseen by a regulatory body at the Centre. Chhattisgarh already offers the ‘right to skill’ as in countries such as Germany and Switzerland. Indeed, the country’s ability to seize the opportunities available to its young population completely depends on its success to tackle the issues plaguing its education and vocational training. Moreover, companies must find the right balance between building skills for today and preparing for an uncertain future, which calls for agile learning systems that are scalable, technology-driven, and innovative

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Mobilization in Digital India

Mobilization_campaignBihar is historically one of India’s poorest regions and continues to remain so. The acute poverty in the state can be traced back to the economic decline of both its agricultural and industrial sectors. Both structural and institutional factors have played a powerful deterrent to the agrarian transformation. Even technological factors such as poor infrastructure development of resources including power and irrigation, non-availability of modern inputs, low quantum and high cost of credit and poor extension services have also contributed to the dismal performance of Bihar’s agricultural sector in the post-independence period. Not surprisingly, there is limited occupational opportunity outside the agriculture sector in Bihar.

On the other hand, Bihar enjoys a greater demographic dividend compared with other Indian states largely due to a higher percentage of youth population. While the state incidentally holds the record for the highest number of IAS enrollments on an average, the youth still require immediate attention in order to fulfill of their aspirations for good quality life, better paid jobs and self-employment opportunities.

With a large pool of young workforce, India has an opportunity to become a skill provider for the world, particularly the ageing developed world. To harness this, Prime Minister’s vision of building a skilled & employable India is one such clarion call to the youth of the country to get skilled, become employable and take charge of their own lives and add to nation’s productivity. Reaching out to the youth and motivating them to get skilled in a sector of their choice is the only way to ensure that our demographic dividend does not turn into a demographic disaster.

The Pradhan Mantri Kushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) aims to leverage the potential of India’s demographic dividend by providing skill-training and making every skilled youth employable. Training will be provided based on industry aligned National Occupational Standards through training providers and Sector Skill Councils.

Under PMKVY, candidates will be eligible for a monetary reward, upon successful completion of their training and also clearing the assessment by an independent assessment agency appointed by Sector Skill Council. Moreover the candidates will also receive a government recognized certificate which helps them become gainfully employed As the largest partner of NSDC, Centum Learning is playing a pivotal role in enabling and mobilizing a large number of Indian youth to take up outcome-based skill training, gain employable skills and earn their livelihood.

Recognizing this, we launched ‘Skills Melas’ across Bihar to sensitize and mobilize youth to enroll in various courses offered under PMKVY scheme at Centum Skill centres. At these Melas, youngsters were provided with details of various courses, available opportunities and counselled on how to become employable and earn livelihood. But again we faced a similar problem which we had dealt in past, the challenge of reaching out to millions of youth in a media dark state. While Skilling in India is a kin to evangelizing it needs disruption in the existing ecosystem to reach ‘media dark’ states in the country, where TV and print reach only 20 per cent of the population. The solution was to come out with a disruption in the way we have done mobilization.

To counter this problem, Centum launched India’s largest PPP initiative in the skilling sector when it joined hands with Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) to launch a massive outreach programme through mobiles to address this ‘awareness gap’. Centum’s brainchild for mass mobilization elicited such enthusiastic response from Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal who in turn helped muster active and spontaneous support from all COAI members. Initially, the pilot launch of the massive Outreach Programme to mobilize under-privileged youth for skills training

A pilot would be rolled out in Bihar, where text and voice based awareness messages shall be sent out to a subscriber base of 1.5 crore youth. Following the pilot, the programme will be implemented nationally by core COAI members to cover nearly 400 million subscribers after the formal launch of the PMKVY scheme in July.

The mass outreach programme launched on June 18, 2015 by Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy Minister of State, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship & Parliamentary Affairs and Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communications.

From Left to Right, Sanjeev Duggal, CEO & Director, Centum Learning Limited; Shri Dilip Chenoy, MD & CEO, NSDC; Shri Sunil Arora, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship ; Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship & Parliamentary Affairs Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad- Union Minister for Communications & Information Technology; Shri Rakesh Garg, DoT Secretary and Chairman –Telecom Commission; Shri Himanshu Kapania, MD, Idea Cellular and Chairperson, COAI; Shri Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, COAI

The approach towards skill building consists of five steps being; Employment Generation, Mobilization, Skill Training, Certification & Assessment, Placement. 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 who 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.

To begin with, telecom operators sent out SMSs & Outbound Dialing (OBDs) to the targeted subscriber base, promoting a specific number for giving missed calls. Interested candidates ca then give a missed call on the number. Once a missed call is received, an SMS was sent out in regional languages, informing candidates that he or she would be receiving a call shortly. An IVR asked for Location, Employment Status, Age and Gender was pushed to the candidate to enable profiling. Incomplete profiles would be re-targeted after 24 hours.

The data captured and reports shared in a pre-defined format for further targeting by training partners of NSDC, so that each interested candidate can be mapped to a specific training centre. Following this, an invitation message with date, time and address of the nearest centre was shared with candidates, followed by a reminder call and text message, asking them to enroll in the programme. All through, those candidates who have not been enrolled will be re-targeted through the SMS and IVR campaigns.

Finally, interested candidates were mapped to their nearest enrolment centres. Of these, three centers were built in Aarah, Ekma and Chappra to accommodate large scale skilling under various trades. Post the mass outreach, the youth of Bihar were asked to reach the nearest multi skill center. These Multi-Skill Centres offered courses for Sales Associates, Computer Operators, Beauticians, Hair Stylists, Medical Sales representatives, Mobile Repair Engineers, Helper-Plumber, Helper-Electricians, Sewing Machine Operators, Helper-Mason/Barbender, Painter-Decorator.

I am happy to share that 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. Here I would like to reiterate 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.

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Skilling in Digital India

The youth living in over 6,40,000 villages of India today, is grappling with paucity of skills and low self-esteem, to the extent that a big Deewar appears to exist between their aspirations and their current realities. Even if these many jobs get created, will we have enough skilled hands to take those jobs? Is the youth in our country willing to get skilled to take advantage of the opportunity that is waiting to unfold? How do we create awareness for skill development programmes in every nook and corner of the country so that the impact is multifold?

Prime Minister’s vision of building a skilled & employable India is one such clarion call to the youth of the country to get skilled, become employable and take charge of their own lives and add to nation’s productivity. Reaching out to the youth and motivating them to get skilled in a sector of their choice is the only way to ensure that our demographic dividend does not turn into a demographic disaster.

We are mustering all resources to become a prime catalyst in delivery & scale-up of Govt’s skilling mission. To achieve this ambitious target millions of people would need to be mobilized. However, It is very important to leverage technology for skill development as numerous innovations in the education technology space are beginning to show potential in improving education and helping address skills gaps.  Technology is growing in every field of life hence, also in the skilling industry as well. Skill development is a complete cycle that begins with assessments, leading to training, and then on to certification, placement, and monitoring and tracking.

Now with PM’s much hyped ‘Digital India’ initiative, digital learning is the only way forward to build a skilled India and achieve demographic dividend which we have envisioned for ourselves. Like foreign countries, 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.  Inspite of the recent war going on about net neutrality, there is no doubt that technology has become an integral part of all curriculum including vocation education. Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi talks about “Digital India” with equal emphasis as “Skilling India” and “Make in India”.  I will give you a live example of how technology is being used in skill development.

In Hisar, Haryana 170 Km from the corridors of power where policies are made, we are running a center where technology & 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:

1. Biometric attendance – which students undertake twice every day is improving attendance, preventing spillage and therefore improving learning outcomes

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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.

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