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Learning & Development: Critical Challenges & Best practices in India Inc.

Across almost all industries in India there exists a wide gap between supply and demand of skilled workforce, mainly because of an obvious shortage of skills. The shrinking pool of workforce necessitates availability of highly effective and efficient manpower, which in turn demands highly comprehensive, end-to-end, sustainable training solutions. To remain effective and contemporary, today’s organizations want employees to be good at team building, fluent in conversations, understand present-day issues like social networking, forge collaborations and keep up with competitive trends. In short, they need skills that impact the bottom-line, namely sales and customer service skills, product/process knowledge etc. Employees engaged in such critical functions must be effectively trained in the shortest possible time.

Implementation of training solutions, therefore, is an obvious requirement for launch of new products in a highly competitive market to achieve sales targets. Basic skill sets are no longer adequate these days to deliver desired results and organizations cannot afford a slow learning curve for employees any more. Therefore, induction training, product and process training across the company, right down to the last mile, are non-negotiable. Today, all Learning & Development professionals face a wide range of issues and some of the most prominent challenges are around the practice of training itself. The reason why very often trainings are ineffectual is due to inappropriate content, ineffective delivery, lack of standardization and ad hoc training practices. These inadequacies are especially more glaring in times of globalization where standardization of practices is must and, yet at the same time, one needs to recognize the nuances of culture and its sensitivities.

Currently, the entire gambit of L&D universe faces variety of challenges. Making Learning & Development content more relevant is as old as chicken and egg problem. While standardizing this up-to-date and relevant content to achieve scalability follows this premise. Using appropriate technology to enhance efficacy of training and choosing the right kind of collaborative and experiential approaches, to follow up on training and monitoring application at work place has become need of hour. Additionally, making training flexible and not limit to class room style of teaching and creating content very crisp and concise for the rapidly changing environment remains bone of contention for many.

With over thirty years of experience in Skills Upgradation business, I have concluded that Learning & Development can dramatically impact ROI (return on investment) of training. In a fast-changing dynamic world, we feel Learning and Development plays a strategic role only if it provides relevant insights; not just basic skill courses. Hence, the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time.

At, Centum Learning, we have realized that the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time. Towards the end, we have adopted off-beat training modules which can be as simple and varied as storytelling or Team building using theatre workshops to solve this problem. Depending on the clients, Centum Learning, which believes in the mantra of “Business of positive transformation”, has devised training modules which can enhance business results and develop skills as per industry requirements. Working closely with our partners, we develop appropriate content and requisite expertise to offer end-to-end training solutions in a standardized manner. This is being done across levels of hierarchy in diverse locations across continents. All our courses are industry specific and are prepared in consultation with the Industry Experts to impart training which would actually enable the candidates to work more effectively in their jobs in terms of Domain Knowledge, Technical Skills and Soft Skills.

For the delivery part, we have developed a pool of qualified and competent trainers who are certified by Centum Learning. These Trainers undergo Train the Trainer programs wherein training is imparted on Platform Skills, Expectations Management and Counseling & Mentoring Skills.

Our unique approach to Learning and Development has made us most trusted ‘Go-To’ partner for corporate in need of skills development and vocational training initiatives. With domain expertise in 21 industry verticals and over 1,358 Learning and Development specialists, we have partnered over 350 corporates to address the dreaded ‘skills-demand’ gap. We have taken our skilling engagement even further to establish Corporate Universities with clients such as Airtel, Mahindra First Choice, Skoda, Matrix Cellular and many more. Our Enterprise Training Solutions has become very popular with corporates including Titan Industries, Punjab National Bank, Delhi International Airport, Punj Lloyd, American Express, Ashok Leyland Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Lafarge Cements, Global Trust Bank, Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), etc. We have unlocked global factories of talent in these entities.

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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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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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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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Winning through mobilization


Winning through mobilization

When I learn about the remarkable transformation of candidates skilled by Centum Skill Development Centers, I am often overwhelmed by the magnitude of value addition in individuals’ lives. This impact cannot be truly captured through a power point presentation or a corporate film or any other marketing material.

Such individuals themselves are the protagonists of their respective stories and are ambassadors of change who have experienced success. They are role models of change for millions of others who are somewhat skeptical about the skill development programmes and therefore are not yet ready to get skilled.

And these disillusioned skeptics form our key audience for all mobilization initiatives! Mobilization is the first crucial step in reaching out to millions of rural youth sensitizing them, convincing them, answering their queries and successfully enrolling them into the training programmes. And yes, it is a herculean task.

In India, it’s easy to sell cricket or Bollywood but try talking to people about skills – you would know you are taking on an uphill task! People here do not want to move out of the comforts of their homes since that would entail not biting into the specific grain of rice that they have grown up with, for lunch or dinner. We know of instances where people have been skilled and hired by companies located a little away from the place of their residence and they left salaried jobs because the food did not suit their palate.

India stands at a crucial stage today… its strong economic growth potential coupled with its youthful population offers a galaxy of opportunities. Mobilizing these trillions of young talent will transform India into a developed country from its status of a developing economy, a tag which has stayed on for nearly seven decades.

By 2020, out of 60 per cent of the total population in the working age group, only 25 per cent would be capable of being hired by the job market. Research shows that economy of small towns is beginning to grow rapidly which in turn requires skilled manpower. However, unlike corporate in towns and cities, organizations in Tier III cities or rural India are often not big enough to hire domain experts like staffing firms, advertising agencies, etc., and do not have deep pockets to hire such services either. Hence, most of these organizations remain understaffed or staffed with not-the-right-skilled people. At times the requirement of manpower may not exist in the main industry but in the ancillary industries but neighbourhood’s youth population are mostly either not aware of it or are ill-equipped to derive benefit from such opportunities.

To meet the rising demand for skilled manpower spanning across sectors, India’s current skills landscape requires a dramatic facelift. We should create a nationwide mobilization movement closely tailored to suit the requirement of the local job market. We need to create job opportunities in places where people live in order to stop unsustainable migrations to the big cities.

Mobilization is a big word. Do we know the kind of effort and mindshare it requires? Despite mobilization being a challenging, arduous and even a life threatening task at times, our teams on the ground work round the clock in difficult conditions to connect with people at the grass roots level. They garner support and organize counseling sessions for the benefit of unemployed youth in the region. The candidates are then screened, batches are formed and training is conducted.

However, mobilization effort doesn’t end with training. Post training, our mobilization teams also work with candidates during placement to assist in relocation and hand hold them during the settling-in period so that candidates are able to settle down comfortably in their new jobs!

However, there is no denying a lot remains to be done in an era of economic growth and technological innovations, when India still lags far behind in terms of skilled workforce vis-à-vis the employment opportunities available.

Having said that, I still feel we have started taking steps in the right direction. Kudos to our mobilization warriors who are the frontrunners of this much needed army of dedicated warriors.

There are a lot of expectations from the new Government. While companies like us will continue to mobilize rural youth from different corners of the country, source and create employment opportunities and skill them, we will look up to the Government to provide the right economic environment for our initiatives to yield dividend.

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