Using Tech To Scale Up India's Skilling Effort

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 30, 2017

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The rate of technological advancement has accelerated at an unprecedented pace. Accordingly, the development of skills through training is the strategic response to technological change, globalization and other forces affecting labor markets. The new generation of technology, such as digital technologies are altering the way offices function reduced the demand for unskilled labor and raised the value of advanced skills and competencies in the digital economies. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Sanjeev Duggal, CEO and MD, Centum Learning explains the importance of skills development in a digital economy and how technology is scaling up India’s skilled manpower. Excerpt.

What is the current scenario of skill based training in India?

There has been visible effort by the Government to meet their promises on skill development in the country for empowerment of its citizens. The Finance Minister has rightly recognized the most critical aspect, which is taking a step towards effective implementation of the Right to Education Act. Also, the allocation to National Skill Development Fund will aid in capacity building and developing skilled human resource to meet growing demand for India Inc. Another major highlight is the provision of fiscal incentives to the private sector for setting up vocational and skill development institutions. This has motivated a lot of private sector organizations to lay emphasis on the sector.

An increase in budgetary allocation for primary education is a long-awaited requirement that been met. National Skill Development Agency is encouraging innovation in skills development and promoting entrepreneurship in the country. The newly set up Skills Ministry is determined to encourage innovative ideas and modules in skill development landscape and at the same time assist the youth of the country in the skilling and entrepreneurial domain, to translate the vision of the Government into a concrete reality. With focus on self-employment as a key aspect to job creation, the Government has chalked out a plan to set up incubation centres at all districts across the country to train budding entrepreneurs. The Government has also decided to revamp the antiquated industrial training centres that will skill over 20 lakh youth annually and devise special courses based on industry needs. All these are positive signs to show that the government’s promise of skilling 500 million will be achieved in due course of time.

What are the latest trends in vocational training?

The new government has been able to recognize the disparities in the extent to which young people have been able to acquire formal skills. Subsequently, the Govt has made provisions for upgrading skills under multiple disciplines and allocated resources across the length & breadth of the country. The Centre is taking efforts to come up with a legislation to set up a Skill Development University. Further, a separate Ministry for Skills Development & Entrepreneurship has been tasked to coordinate and streamline multiple skill development initiatives undertaken by the government to build a skilled & employable India. The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with an outlay of Rs.12000 crore.

The need for vocational education is primarily to make the students employable for the jobs available in the market. This is further strengthened by the advantage of demand driven Competency Based Modular Vocational Courses, which not only aims at decreasing the pressure on academic higher education but also results in filling the gap between the educated and the employable.

As the foremost partner of NSDC, Centum Learning has developed industry recognized National Occupation Standards (NOS) for various job roles. With its presence in 383 districts in India, Centum Learning will be a key enabler in Government’s skilling mission setting out to change the picture of skill development in India. As a country, India has a strong surplus in working population (age 15-50), which help us maintain the momentum in the growth story. A significant portion of this demographic dividend lies in rural areas, which is our primary area of focus.  

How skills development can be supported through workplace learning?

We live in the VUCA world, past focused training programs do not serve our purpose anymore. While humans are built to adapt and change, the current technology disruptions and other associated changes are outpacing the capacity of individuals and organizations to evolve and adapt. This is causing deep cognitive and skill imbalances in the system. It is fast becoming apparent that not only will technology and automation render many jobs –especially the highly process-driven ones– irrelevant, but will also create many new jobs, some of which lie beyond our imagination today. However, the emergent skills required for this new world is sorely lacking and institutions of higher education are clueless about how to equip the current and coming generations for this evolving world.

Therefore, workplace learning is increasingly going to play a very critical role in the survival of organizations. The war for talent will continue with high-demand skills in areas like robotics, biotechnology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, design thinking, and such being in constant short supply. This conflict will force organizations to re-imagine their current workplace learning practices to focus on building skills in-house, to reskill and upskill their existing talent base to remain relevant, and to make continuous learning a fundamental part of the organization’s DNA.

How fresh graduates should be skilled to become more efficient and employable in India?

 Prime Minister’s vision of building a skilled & employable India is one such clarion call to the youth of the country to get skilled, become employable and take charge of their own lives and add to nation’s productivity. Reaching out to the youth and motivating them to get skilled in a sector of their choice is the only way to ensure that our demographic dividend does not turn into a demographic disaster. Answering the call to PM Modi’s vision, we set up Centum Work Skills India (CWSI) in order to bridge this gap through the supply of quality skilled manpower.

The core purpose of CWSI is to build an inclusive, empowered and a skilled society by vocationally training youth and providing gainful employment in identified core sectors of Retail, Telecom, Housekeeping, Hospitality, BPO, Healthcare and others. The project focuses on rural and urban poor, and men and women between 18- 35 years of age to enable sustainable means of livelihood for these groups. We have spread our presence acorss 383 districts in India. There we undertake skilling courses under different state and central government funded schemes such as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), Uttar Pradesh Skill Development Mission (UPSDM), Punjab Skill Development Mission (PSDM) to name a few.

We have also set up Multi-Skill Centres that offer courses for Sales Associates, Computer Operators, Beauticians, Hair Stylists, Medical Sales representatives, Mobile Repair Engineers, Helper-Plumber, Helper-Electricians, Sewing Machine Operators, Helper-Mason/Barbender, Painter-Decorator. Each centre has seven class rooms to conduct skilling courses in Retail, Construction, Electrical, Apparel and Medical Sales.

What is the impact of emerging [digital] technology in providing skillsets?

It is very important to leverage technology for skill development as numerous innovations in the education technology space are beginning to show potential in improving education and helping address skills gaps.  Technology is growing in every field of life hence, also in the skilling industry as well. Skill development is a complete cycle that begins with assessments, leading to training, and then on to certification, placement, and monitoring and tracking.

India has also evolved in digital learning which we use in building capacity and creating new opportunities. Digital learning is already engaged in helping India build its capacity in world class content, pedagogical intervention and creating more jobs by creating new solutions for skill building at the basic level.  In spite of the recent war going on about net neutrality, there is no doubt that technology has become an integral part of all curriculum including vocation education. Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about “Digital India” with equal emphasis as “Skilling India” and “Make in India”.