Skill India Mission launched to find solutions for making 40 crore citizens employable by 2022 has so far been largely driven through classroom-based training for imparting skills based on sector specific requirements. The constraints of the availability of trainers, training facility and the familiarity and interest towards known career options have so far limited the potential for skill development and employability readiness in a number of areas. As a result of this, we find an imbalance in the skills demand and supply equation in certain sectors and lack of motivation and commitment to pursue careers with certain sections of the society.
The problem is compounded in urban locations where in addition to the sizeable number of youth from lower income groups residing in the cities, there is a continuous influx of migrant population from the interiors of the states due to lack of opportunities, drought conditions and aspirations to enhance their living standards—most of whom are able bodied young people but lack skills that could enable them find attractive livelihood options. There is an ongoing dilemma of employers’ unwillingness to pay more than the minimum wages prescribed for entry level jobs and the youth aspiring for more, with the employers citing lack of appropriate skills and job orientation as the primary reasons for justifying lower wages.
The solution lies in broadening the exposure to available career options, helping the youth to acquire cutting edge skills and demonstrate their superior capabilities and launch themselves into aspirational careers. Whether cities or rural areas, making this happen has been a challenge on account of suboptimal training resources and the limitations of training construct. However, there is a beacon of hope now with smart cities where the strength of digital access could address these challenges and find a smart solution which could be replicated in the hinterland as well in due course.
The example set by Pune smart city is a case in point. The Light house project being set up under Pune Smart City initiative is an excellent example of how the cutting edge technologies are being deployed for the purpose of skill development and thus herald a breakthrough approach to opening up new avenues for the youth. Its a unique model of application of digital technology for addressing the socio economic and psychological issues that play a key role in the choice and methodology of imparting skills. Typically, it has been observed that the youth from the lower income groups are not motivated adequately to come forward to participate in the training sessions even when they are free and supported by the government schemes such as PMKVY. They lack self esteem or at times belief that they have the ability to transform their lives and hence the 20 Lighthouses being set up in Pune try to address this problem as the starting point by creating a lively, hi-tech environment.
The Lighthouses have attractive video walls displaying multiple career options to choose from giving a subtle but strong message that technology could be a great leveller and could provide them with the access to the world of opportunities that they were denied so far. Next, the focus shifts to recognising the aspirations of the youth by helping them know their own strengths and potential to learn through easy to use technology based assessments. Instead of being forced to acquire skills for jobs they may not be interested, the Lighthouse enables them to learn about the opportunities in various careers.
While traditional training centres have counsellors who could explain these opportunities and the youth decide to sign up for the programme, they may not be fully convinced about their readiness for the suggested careers hence this is one of the main reasons for their dropping off from the course mid way through the training process. Pune Lighthouse tries to address this challenge by helping the youth understand the nuances of work performed with the skills acquired through smart applications of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality(VR).
Using AR and VR for the first time in India in the context of skills training for communities, the Lighthouse enables the candidate to visualise the airconditioner maintenance job or nursing assistant job with the help of the deep dive into the product to learn about the correct methods of repairs and through walk throughs in the corridors of a hospital to appreciate the importance of the role of the nursing assistant. The training programme is built around the combination of face to face learning interspersed with technology led and self paced training.
The progress learners make is possible to be tracked through technology and they would be supported by mentors to help them sustain their training commitment and remain motivated. The incredible exposure to career avenues that has been possible to create with the help of smart deployment of digital technology and the innovation in training pedagogy being deployed for skills training at the Lighthouse could be game changers in not only scaling the skills initiative rapidly but also in enabling corporates realise better returns for their investments in the training initiative.
Smart cities could therefore become the cradle of innovation where the best minds and cutting edge technologies could come together and create solution that other places in India could emulate.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company