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Skill Development, Corporate Training Solutions and Vocational Education

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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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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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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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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Technology Can Fight Education Disparity

Article first published in Education Technology across all editions

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

1. Tell us something about Centum Learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article first published in Business Today across all editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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