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Mission Skills Heads North East

Article first published in Yojana across all editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skilling Challenges in the North East

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

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

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

Another big challenge facing the implementation and execution of any skills development-related scheme is reaching out, educating and motivating youth in the rural and remote parts of the country. With over thirty years of experience in Learning & Development, we have realized that the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time.

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

Building Bridges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Building capacities and competencies in critical sectors in the region

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

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

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

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

– Using IT as a tool to upgrade skills

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School Education – Changing Times, Changing Needs

The Indian education system was a gift of the British legacy, which is prevalent across all Commonwealth Nations. Back then in the 1940’s – 50’s, the job market did not present many options with Government Services or Defense Forces being the most prominent choices. There was dearth of private enterprises and more than half of the industries which operate right now didn’t even exist at that time back. The entire context of education was different in terms of pre‑partition and post-partition era as independence, seeking knowledge and self-development were the primary motivating factors during those years.

While the country attained independence more than six decades back, the mindset of educationists that lead education institutions still holds the same old school of thought. A student studies history, geography or a language like English, French that builds his cognitive ability, makes him think and makes him broad minded. But these subjects and knowledge does not give him any hard marketable job skills leading to the rise of very high-educated unemployed in the country. The generation passing out of schools and colleges, despite being educated and intelligent, is not fully aware of the current industrial trends. This lack of know-how makes them deprived of the right job skills, clueless about a number of industrial requirements and leading to the growing tribe of educated unemployed.

And that’s not the complete picture. While the quality of education leaves much to be desired, the 21st century children have different aspirations from the education system than the preceding generations. This present generation is constantly seeking, thinking, formulating, exploring and challenging their own views and opinions. A few years down the line, these children will be in positions of power in diverse sectors, dictating the direction of our country and economy. And to nurture their evolving minds, we need a system that puts the child at the center of education and facilitates the shift from rote learning to student understanding. This requires us to constantly re-examine education in terms of institutions, pedagogy and methodology. A paradigm shift is needed and it’s pertinent that we break from our conventions and rethink the kind of teachers, the curriculum and the kind of school leadership is needed. In other words, a sincere rethinking of the school space is the need of the hour. These changes are not possible without structural changes at a policy level that will both facilitate and reinforce them.

Mature governments around the world have recognized these underlying issues and taken corrective measures. The Indian Government too recognizes that India’s youth is her biggest asset, holding the potential to make her possibly the youngest nation in the world by 2030. But the burning question is whether enough steps are being taken to train and skill these youth to make India make the most of this demographic advantage? Historical data suggests that cognitive education by itself does not educate people to pickup jobs and work in today’s world. While the student is going through his cognitive education, it’s necessary that we provide them with a few options to help him pick up a trade or a skill without giving much thought to the future perusal of that skill.

There also exists a socioeconomic hierarchy when you come to vocational skills. Let’s say there is a course on hospitality, which focuses more on service. We don’t think we can sell it to the Delhi Public School or Modern School in Vasant Vihar because the kids who are coming there don’t hold the ambition to join a hotel and become a waiter. On the other hand if you go to a government school in the rural areas where the child comes from a poor family, for him that hospitality course will be more relevant. He may want to just go to a closest restaurant or hotel and pick up a job immediately to support his family’s needs right after completing his class 10th or 12th. This is why the vocational skill structure has to be layered, offering different skill sets for the different segments of the society.

A big leap in this direction was setting up The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) – a competency-based framework that organizes all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. The task is to build upon the NSQF in schools by setting a target of five million students with a vocational qualification every year. The overarching ambition of the Government is to get a salience between formal degree and vocational education to widen the skill gamut.

Efforts are already underway with the Central Board of Secondary Education already offering over 40 vocational courses in different sectors at the senior secondary level under NSQF framework. It makes sense to make CBSE the fulcrum to catch them young and train them early in the skill sets that are essential drivers for the nation’s economy. While providing vocational education in schools is the most important aspect of the entire gamut of skills development, what is even more important is the quality of education that is provided.

Introducing students to vocational training of high quality at an early age is the most effective way to ensure that vocation training earns its rightful place in society. Considering the growing importance to offer skill based training programmes right at the school level and with the introduction of National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) from class IX, the demand for vocational education programmes is going to soar across all levels. This training will enable students to acquire desired competency levels with upgraded skills, which will help them in entering the job market proficiently. These small measures taken at the right time will make India become the skill leaders and take the maximum advantage of its demographic dividend.

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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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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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