Lack of quality trainers impending India’s skill mission

India needs to upgrade education curricula, revamp vocational training programmes and improve digital skills, says World Economic Forum

New Delhi: The World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Manufacturing Index puts India on the 30th position, listing human capital and sustainable resources as the two key challenges for the country.
 
India needs to raise the capabilities of its relatively young and fast-growing labour force, noted WEF. For this, it said, the country needs to upgrade education curricula, revamp vocational training programmes and improve digital skills.
 
The central government has already begun the process of training 10 million potential jobseekers by 2020 under its Skill India Mission, but the dearth of quality trainers, inadequacies in training programmes and high dropout rates remain hurdles to skill development.
 
Skill development has found favour with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, but companies point to the shortage of experienced skilled trainers. “The number of trainers that exist in the area of skill development is inappropriate,” says Venkat Garimella, CSR head at Schneider Electric India, which runs over 267 skill training centres across the country as part of its CSR activities.
 
According to Soumitro Chakraborty, chief executive of Delhi-based consulting firm Fiinovation (Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd), India does not have enough skilling institutions, and the existing ones have poor quality of programmes. “Multiplicity and time consumption of certification processes, non-existence of localized certification modules, lack of support both from private and public sector as far as infrastructure of these skill development institutions are concerned are some of the many other areas of intervention,” he says.
 
Agrees Ranjit Singh, general manager (CSR and sustainability) at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. Despite the support of government and other partners, availability of skilled trainers remains a challenge for the auto maker, he said. “Upskilling 10 million individuals in diverse fields is not an easy task; it needs constant deliberation and improvements at each step,” he added.
 
Given the shortage of trainers, companies are adopting innovative approaches to skill development, training the trainers, utilizing the entity’s own manpower and pooling resources.
 
For instance, Schneider Electric runs its CSR activities in skill training programmes in collaboration with 33 firms. At the GMR Varalakshmi Centre for Empowerment and Livelihoods in Delhi, it partners with companies such as GMR Group and Voltas Ltd, for market-oriented courses such as electrician training to students from weaker sections or having limited educational qualifications. Schneider Electric employs retired staffers as trainers.
 
Maruti Suzuki is partnering 143 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) to improve governance, upgrade infrastructure and equipment, and impart soft skills to students and teachers. The company has set up automobile skill enhancement centres at 63 ITIs in tie-ups. It spent about Rs17 crore in FY17 on skill development initiatives.
 
ICICI Bank Ltd’s philanthropic arm ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth is running 24 urban and 12 rural centres, where it imparts training in technical and non-technical skills like office administration, retail sales, pump and motor repair. Unlike others, the lender feels there is no “insurmountable challenge” in the country’s skill development space, and that there are enough trainers. “In fact, the skill training initiatives provide job opportunity to trainers,” says N.S. Kannan, executive director at ICICI Bank. The lender has spent about Rs75 crore on skill programmes in FY17.
 
While companies say it is tough to find the right non-profits with adequate infrastructure, non-profits that are granted skill training projects, on the other hand, face challenges when it comes to implementation.
 
Neelam Gupta, founder and chief executive at non-profit AROH Foundation, which works on community and women empowerment, says funding to NGOs is often delayed or stopped abruptly, quality trainers are hard to retain, and selection of the right beneficiary remains a challenging task. She notes that the dropout rates among youths who have undergone skill training is quite high as beneficiaries from remote areas find it hard to live in cities, often because of cultural problems. “Lack of research on appropriate skill-sets is required by the industry, while demand projection studies and forecasts are not available,” says Gupta.
 
There is also a belief that some of the targets of skill development initiatives are “misplaced”. “It is only going to people who can afford it anyway. We are pushing a numbers game and that’s where we are getting the wrong people in the programmes,” explains Meenakshi Nayar, founder of NGO ETASHA Society that provides vocational skill training to youth from disadvantaged communities.
 
Although companies and NGOs are faced with a multi-faceted challenge in their skill training programmes, there is a strong belief that a greater synergy between the corporate sector, non-profits and government may resolve these impending issues of the country’ skill mission. “Moreover, there’s a strategic contribution to capacity building and community development through partnering with training partners, NGOs and other organizations,” says S.V. Nathan, partner and chief talent officer at Deloitte India. Businesses, he adds, play a crucial role in accomplishing the national agenda for skilling India but calls for increased investment for this purpose.

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