Private participation key to bridging the skills gap

Updated: November 23, 2015 1:13:41 AM

The government’s ambitious programme to skill the unemployed youth of the country should be supported by similar efforts from corporate entities. Some companies have already taken the lead

To commemorate the first-ever World Youth Skills Day on July 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an ambitious skilling programme that targets to train more than 400 million people across the country in different skills by 2022. These skilling initiatives will include those falling under the National Mission for Skill Development, the National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and the Skill Loan Scheme. For example, PMKVY seeks to skill 2.4 million youth without formal certification, such as workers in vast unorganised sectors.

There is no gainsaying that the above programmes will play a crucial role in improving the level of skills among India’s unskilled and semi-skilled youth. However, notwithstanding the ambitious government initiatives, it is important that private sector companies lend their might in improving skills among the unemployed youth, especially in rural regions, since there will always be pockets of the populace that may not be covered by official schemes.

Global HR capital

In this context, it is important that all stakeholders—public as well as private—understand the PM’s thoughts on the issue of skilling workers. As Modi put it, “If China is known as the world’s manufacturing factory, India can be the world’s human resource capital.” With 65% of the population below 35 years, the PM is keen that the world’s human resource requirements are met by India through proper planning.

Members of Indian industry have been quick to extend support, with NIIT announcing it will train 10 million Indian youth across 16 sectors over the next five years. Tata Housing, similarly, has stated it will provide vocational skill development training to 100,000 backward youth across India by 2024.

According to government estimates, across 24 sectors, by 2022, there will be an incremental requirement for 110 million additional skilled workers—with the demand being the highest in realty, transport, retail as well as the beauty and wellness sectors. The solitary sector that won’t benefit will be agriculture, which would register negative growth, since 24.8 million persons would move onto other jobs, given better opportunities available.

Speaking about the government’s plans, KPMG India said in a statement that with around 50% of India’s population below 27 years, 700 million youth could be skilled by 2020, going by the government’s projections. Skill India will, therefore, open immense opportunities to fruitfully tap the country’s vast human resources pool.

A number of other companies are launching initiatives to skill the youth, particularly those from lower strata of society, with the projects forming part of their CSR programmes in many cases. For example, engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has implemented a programme to help such youth pursue careers in construction and allied industries through its Construction Skills Training Institute. In the latest instance in September 2015, L&T joined hands with Leading Hotels Ltd in Goa to train the local youth in relevant skills such as formwork carpentry, steel fixing, masonry, plumbing, tiling, structural/pipe welding, bar bending, etc. While the course is being conducted at L&T’s training institute in Panvel near Mumbai, the entire cost (Rs 40,000) of the three-month residential training—which includes actual materials, accommodation and food—is being borne by Leading Hotels Ltd.

Public and private initiatives

Driven by a similar goal to skill unskilled youth, since 2008, the Schneider Electric India Foundation has been supporting various CSR initiatives that boost the skills of rural youth, while meeting societal goals too. These CSR efforts empower rural communities by enabling them to have access to electricity and thereafter using this in a sustainable manner. The foundation aims to help people transform their lives via access to energy, with the long-term mission being to empower local communities in acquiring long-standing competencies to maintain and develop access to energy solutions, while simultaneously helping society and the planet through its focus on sustainability.

Towards its goal to promote vocational training, jointly with the French Ministry of Education and the Department of Employment and Training, government of Karnataka, the company set up the Institute of Electricity and Energy Management in June 2014. The institute aims to create a Centre of Excellence in Vocational Training in the field of electricity with the primary focus on training technical teachers.

There are many other companies, both public and private, with CSR initiatives that are augmenting the Skill India mission. For example, Bharat Petroleum’s skill development programme comprises employment-linked skills training for the underprivileged, with an inclusive approach for women, unemployed youth and those with disabilities. Mahindra & Mahindra, similarly, runs Mahindra Pride Schools, providing livelihood training to the youth from socio-economically disadvantaged communities. These schools have trained more than 13,000 youth in the cities of Pune, Patna, Chennai, Chandigarh and Srinagar. Tata Motors implements skill development programmes with its focus on employability. These programmes aim at building the skills of the youth in the automotive sector and are being implemented across the country.

Then there are GAIL’s skill development and livelihood programmes, such as GAIL Utkarsh, via which more than 500 students from economically backward communities have been assisted in joining premier engineering institutes in India. Apart from residential coaching programmes, these students also receive monthly scholarships after securing entry into institutes such as IITs or NITs. The GAIL Institute of Skills is working towards narrowing the skills gap currently being faced by the oil and gas industry.

Without doubt, such and more efforts by these and various other corporate entities will add their might in boosting the Skill India mission and in ensuring that the government meets its agenda of generating jobs for millions of unemployed youth.

By Anil Chaudhry

The author is country president & managing director, Schneider Electric India

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