How can India become the skill capital of the world?

Published: March 14, 2016 12:05 AM

While the government is leaving no stone unturned, what we now need is specific initiatives from the private sector

Skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development for any country. It is no surprise that governments globally are focusing on the significant role vocational education and training plays in their countries’ futures. At a time when skills gap is a major concern globally, investing in skill development has never been so important.

In India, by 2025, an estimated 70% of the population will be in the working-age group. But there is always the lingering doubt concerning this group’s employability. The need of the hour is to recapture the demographic dividend that has been much extolled, by developing and implementing measures and initiatives swiftly and effectively.

According to the data furnished by the government, barely 5% of the country’s total workforce has undergone formal skills training. When compared to developed economies such as the US, Japan, Germany and South Korea, India has a long way to go before it can be considered on a par. The government has rightly recognised skilling as an area to act upon; however, efforts to expedite and scale up the progress are yet to see definite movement on the ground.

To become a centre of modern manufacturing, India will need a large pool of skilled talent: Statistics speak for our disproportionate skilling challenge—it is estimated that 104 million youth will be in need of skilling by 2022.

Another 298 million from the prevalent workforce will necessitate additional skills training over the same time-frame. Progressively, each industrial revolution has happened faster than the previous one. Hence, it is decisive for India to act upon these developments if it aims to be one of the focal centres of modern manufacturing.

The challenges are uncommon. On one hand, Make-in-India needs highly skilled technicians who can work effectively, and with ease, in world-class manufacturing facilities. On the other hand, more than 5 million youth drop out of the education system every year. This section of the population has unfortunately not learnt any vocational skill, neither are they equipped to meet the requirements of the labour market. Moreover, India was once a land reputed for its quality and intricate craftsmanship. Today, the country is struggling to find worthy artisans like carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

Government and private sector collaboration key to addressing the skilling challenge: Acknowledging the formidable scale of this challenge, the government has initiated several measures with the corporate sector. For instance, as pronounced in Union Budget FY17, the move to set up 1,500 multi-skill training institutes under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is commendable. This would go a long way in addressing grievances related to insufficient skilled labour pool that are often voiced by OEMs and auto component makers in the country.
Bosch has been manufacturing in India for close to 65 years. With that long an association, we strongly advocate for more collaboration between the government and the private sector. This is necessary from a short-, medium- and long-term perspective.

Providing a solution to India’s skilled workers’ requirements: Bosch offers three models of vocational training in India. First, a long-term, career-oriented model, which produces world-class, highly-skilled technicians. For 55 years, we have been offering this course from our state-of-the-art vocational centre in Bangalore. The imparted course is in line with the acclaimed German model of training, which is directed towards making the youth employable. Apprentices from this centre have been nationally recognised, with several of them winning gold medals. In fact, the training facility has been declared as the ‘best establishment’ by the President of India, 50 times, so far.

Second, a short-term, job-oriented vocational training model, called Bosch’s Response to India’s Development and Growth through Employability Enhancement (BRIDGE), which is a vocational training module that is exclusive to the underprivileged youth (18 to 25 year old), and who are Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET) category. Through this two-month course, Bosch has a vision of supporting students through training and job assistance, who are keen on reshaping their lives. The programme is offered nationally through various training partners—both in the government and educational institutes and partners in the private sector. During the training course, special focus is given to developing soft, industry-specific and job-specific skills. Students receive job placement offers from organisations and companies operating in organised and semi-organised sectors. During the year, we have enabled the lives and livelihoods of over 3,000 school and college drop-outs, and this was achieved across 65 training centres in India. Our training module has been adopted by the governments of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan at their respective industrial training institutes over the last one year.

For addressing the need for quality craftsmen in India, we have started an Artisan Training Center. The focus of the centre would be to develop world-class artisans in India. Spanning over nine months, the first six months of the course are dedicated to training—a module that has been developed with the support of an expert from Germany.

The last three months of the course are dedicated to on-the-job training. Apart from imparting technical knowledge and skills, trainees are also given lessons on professional skills. We started this programme with carpentry trade in Bangalore. Going ahead, there are definite plans on expanding the centres to other locations of the country, besides increasing the number of trades offered, like plumbing and electrical.

One of the biggest challenges in scaling up skilling programmes in India is the lack of quality trainers. To address this concern, we have developed a unique initiative called ‘Train the Trainer’, which aims at developing and increasing the number of quality trainers. By joining forces, India can address issues relating to adoption of skill development better and in a manner that is far much more effective than what is being done historically. With the government leaving no stone unturned, more initiatives such as the aforementioned from industries and corporates can aid the country in its journey of becoming the skills capital of the world.

By Soumitra Bhattacharya

The author is joint managing director, Bosch Ltd. Views are personal

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