In what it terms as a “one-of-a-kind initiative,” Tata Motors, over the last four years, has trained about 100 people from various countries in Africa, ASEAN, SAARC and Latin America, at the Service Training Centre at its manufacturing plant in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.
This training of foreign workforce, called the SkillPro, was launched by Tata Motors’ International Business division to train youth in the 46 countries it has operations in. The company’s distributor partners in these countries help identify underprivileged youth who have the potential, and fly them to India. “The objective is to create skills amongst the youth of the countries we operate in by imparting technical training to them,” says Rudrarup Maitra, head, International Business, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors. “Until now, we have trained people from 20 countries.”
SkillPro is an intensive, nine-month course that involves both theory and practical knowledge on commercial vehicles, including the types of engines, gearbox, axle systems, repairing of trucks, and even live projects on vehicles. The schedule includes a 10-day visit to a dealer where the students attend to the problems of actual customers. In addition to technical knowledge, soft skills are provided, including English-speaking tutorials, and yoga and music classes. There is also a weekly visit to one of the CSR activities in and around Jamshedpur. Post this nine-month programme, the students have to attend a three-month on-the-job training in their home country with the distributors who initially shortlisted them.
The chief mentor of this training is Ajoy Lall, head of Manufacturing, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors.
The training, Maitra says, is hands-on. “The students start from absolute zero, and are handheld on the basics. They learn about the aggregates and components, and how they work; they also work on the assembly line, and get an opportunity to work on all the latest technologies, which even many of their seniors might not have been exposed to. In addition, they have an opportunity to work with our vendor partners in India. And our data shows that by the time they go back to their respective countries, they have a far greater understanding of the industry.”
Initially, the company’s distributor reaches out to candidates who it believes are eligible for training. These candidates, Maitra says, are usually from underprivileged sections of the society. The distributor pays for the return air ticket cost of the candidate, and a small stipend for nine months. Tata Motors takes care of boarding, lodging, training, and visit and excursion costs locally, as also extracurricular activities and medical costs.
After the nine-month training is over, the students work under probation for three months with the respective distributor who had sponsored them. At the same time, they are not bound to take up jobs with the distributors or within the Tata Motors ecosystem, and can search elsewhere. “However, in reality, that is not the case—more than 90% of the students we trained are working with our distributors. What also helps is that in most of these countries, Tata Motors is a well-known brand,” Maitra adds.
Kinds of jobs
These students initially join the distributors as mechanics. Depending on their performance at work, they progress. “And some progress quite fast,” says Maitra. “Two of our students of the first batch have become service advisors for their country and travel extensively in Nigeria for our distributor. And a student from the second batch has become the workshop-in-charge in Kenya.”
Until now, Tata Motors has been able to attract students from 20 countries, of the 46 it has operations in. “Some countries aren’t English-speaking, and in others we are still expanding our business,” adds Maitra. “A challenge, however, is that the female student participation is very low—of the 125-odd students we have trained, including in the current batch, there have been only six girls. We are encouraging more female students to join; trying to build a better male-female student ratio.”
SkillPro, Maitra says, is in its fifth batch right now, and is unique. “I don’t think there is any other company, at least in the commercial vehicle space, anywhere in the world that undertakes this kind of programme—of bringing unskilled workforce from the host country into the home country and then making them job-ready.”