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A Ring Side view of Vocational Training in India

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VET models and views on govt projects

VET models and views on govt projects

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  • 1. nileshjuvalekar
  • 2. www.thesmartmanager.comT h e S m a r t M a n a g e r Sep-Oct 10 s m a r t EN T ER P R I S E 29 skills are for ever by Sanjay Shivnani (In conversation with Tanmoy Goswami) Since the emergence of technocracies as power-brokers in the globalized economic order, perhaps no other word has gone through so many shifts in meaning and significance as ‘skill’. The concept of skill within the broader framework of knowledge tends to obsolesce itself faster than we can notice—simply think of the number of professions that have disappeared into nostalgia in the last decade. The need for a dynamic skills training environment that can help people upgrade their capabilities and convert skills into employment has never been more pressing. in India, this need is rendered more vital by a booming youth population that is seen as our big hope in the economic leadership race. But how realistic is our hope? We produce graduates in astronomical numbers, but far from reassuring us, this is fast turning into an Achilles’ heel in the absence of result-oriented vocational training programs. The government runs thousands of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Industrial Training Centres (ITCs), but the lack of job creation and a robust delivery platform tend to throw a spanner in the works. In brief – a large part of our educated youth is unemployable. This is where Career Launcher (CL) steps in – though strictly speaking, it need not. A household name in much of young India on the back of its reputation in the MBA test prep business, CL’s Skill School initiative now touches thousands of below poverty line, tribal, rural and urban youth, training them in trades as diverse as diesel engine maintenance, marketing and sales and computer- based accounting. It also provides personality development training to these youth, many of whom could not even dream of two square meals a day, based on its belief that a confident handshake often works better than a well-made weld. Apart from working with corporate partners to ensure job creation, CL is also working as a pace-setter in the nascent public- private partnership (PPP) segment in the country. They have adopted 21 ITIs across six states, and their campaigns have seen them work closely with village panchayats and block authorities. The result is a unique form of social entrepreneurship that cuts through cynicism by putting skills firmly back in the knowledge game.
  • 3. www.thesmartmanager.com30T h e S m a r t M a n a g e r Sep-Oct 10 S K I L L S ARE F O R E V ER by Sanjay Shivnani individual is able to achieve her aspirations and make her dreams come true. Within this larger goal, the field that CL plays in is education. CL has been the pioneer of the test prep industry in this country; we started this way back in 1995. As our brand started building itself and propagating its virtues, we realized that we could extend this franchise across other segments of the education pie. A few years ago, CL started its own school chain christened Indus World School; the first one being in Hyderabad on a sprawling campus with world- class facilities. So, CL had entered mainstream education, and that was stretched further to higher education with our first bschool called Indus World School of Business at Greater Noida in the National Capital Region. And thus, step by step, we started extending our footprint into the education sector. Finally, we realized that education allows core-sector companies like CL, which have a strong core purpose and a committed team, to pursue the larger goal of inclusiveness and contribute to nation building. We internalized the compelling argument that education must be democratized; that we must reach out to the masses and make a difference. That is India’s only escape to victory and global leadership. Simultaneously, the Government of India (GoI) was espousing the human capital opportunity that resides within India. A few years ago, India’s population was its biggest nightmare; today it is probably India’s only engine for global dominance. If the GoI executes as per plans, India will emerge as the skill capital by 2020 and we will be exporting skills and L’s core purpose is to ensure that each and everyc Sanjay Shivnani is President, Vocational Education & Training, atCL.BeforejoiningCL,Shivnani spent several years working at 3M India. An IIM Lucknow alumnus, he is responsible for CL’s geographic growth and for maintaining relationships with decision makers in the Asian academic community.
  • 4. www.thesmartmanager.com31T h e S m a r t M a n a g e r Sep-Oct 10 S K I L L S ARE F O R E V ER by Sanjay Shivnani human capital to the rest of the world. Just to share a statistic, by 2022 India will have about 50 million additional skilled hands, while the rest of the world will have a deficit of 47 million. India’s teeming millions and raw talent can be harnessed by vocational education and training which empowers these millions with employable skills. It raises their employability potential and gives them a far better chance at improving their livelihoods and partaking in the country’s economic growth and progress. CL wants to be at the forefront of this engine of inclusive growth; it’s a natural progression for us from regular mainstream education to vocational education and training. The contextual domain remains the same and this is CL’s raison d’être which is already articulated in our Core Purpose. Vocational education and training is also very outcome- and achievement-focused; training by itself means nothing unless it results in better salary and/or better employment and/ or new employment. I think organizations have to realize and internalize the fact that one way to do well in business is to do good, and the greatest good can happen if one works on a canvas of inclusiveness. on CL’s vocational education and training model and branding challenges CL Skill School works with a lot of poor people in really backward areas. We train them thoroughly on job-related skills and get them placed with corporates that recruit large, high-productivity workforces on the ground, for example, in sales. The bedrock of our business is the understanding that vocational training is a livelihood issue for our trainees. When you and I go for a training program, we only look to enhance our existing skills, but for these guys it is a question of survival. This makes them far more focused on the final outcome than we urbanites can ever be. They have neither the patience nor the need for ‘branding’ as we understand it. All our promotional activities have to be extremely localized, through leaflets, pamphlets and canvassing in the local language. We go door to door to acquire trainees after drawing up village- and block-level lists with the help of panchayats and other local bodies (community mobilization drives). Thereafter, all they really care about and judge us by is the end result – whether we are really able to get them jobs as promised. There is not much room for perceived brand value, etc. Our model can be summed up in one simple phrase—‘repair and prepare’. Most of the trainees are too poor to pay their own fees. This is where our corporate clients and partners come in. We work with many FMCG, telecom and BFSI companies which hire the trainees at the end of the respective programs, and they subsidize the cost of training. Our training centers are generally located at the fringes of big cities, areas with a high concentration of migrants and slumdwellers. Our trainers are ITI-certified, ITI-trained people. They may also come from rural schools and polytechnics. On a case to case basis, we co-create the content with our corporate clients. The government creates the content wherever it is involved. on whether India is in a position to sustainably manage its demographic advantage I think the opportunity that India is sitting on is very real. The real advantage that I have personally witnessed at the ground level is no matter what one’s living conditions, Indians have huge aspirations. That is real fire power alone; given some empowerment, this fire power can be harnessed to create an economic powerhouse that the world may not have seen till now. My work in vocational training takes me to remote rural locations, and when I spend time with the youth I notice that they all want to become Amitabh Bachchans someday, even India’s teeming millions and raw talent can be harnessed by vocational education and training
  • 5. www.thesmartmanager.com32T h e S m a r t M a n a g e r Sep-Oct 10 S K I L L S ARE F O R E V ER by Sanjay Shivnani PPP is a wonderful framework and also the need of the hour though they have no idea where their next meal is going to come from! Beside this, we already have, in sheer numbers, the world’s largest population below the age of 35, and this is an enabling factor. To ensure that we make all of these natural advantages work for us and in the right direction, we must ensure that all our strategies, plans and programs focus on three critical measurable parameters, or what one can also term non-negotiables: 01 inclusivity 02 execution 03 stakeholder participation ensuring integration of the outcomes For example, the Ministry of Labour, via the Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGET), has come up with world-class vocational training projects in PPP mode, and even corporate India is participating wholeheartedly to train millions of youth, especially in rural areas. However, the missing bit is job creation, which must be activated by other departments/ministries of the GoI. This effort is not visible; at least not just yet. Sustainability of vocational training will be directly a function of win-win partnerships between government and industry along with gainful local employment opportunities for the masses who receive vocational training. on the most immediate means to popularize the PPP model in India The government calls the shots here, and it is their idea in the first place. CL is involved in a number of PPPs with state governments and the central government. PPP is a wonderful framework and also the need of the hour. The problem identified is right and so is the solution construct. What really needs to improve is the government’s way of operating the PPPs. The approach must be win-win, with far less control. The government must learn to ‘let go’ after having ensured that it has selected the right partner. Once this is done well, there must be complete trust. Additionally, PPPs must be allowed to operate in a private fashion rather than with standard government processes and systems. Any government must play the role of a facilitator. I know some of this is wishful thinking given the fact that there are many political compulsions, but such steps as I have suggested could fire up the PPP juggernaut and encourage huge participation from private industry. Last but not the least, the government must give the private industry time and breathing space to perform; this is new for everyone. on the changes in CL’s corporate DNA necessitated by government partnerships We are working with the governments of Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Our projects span PPPs directly with the state governments or as tripartite partners with central government projects. For the last fifteen years that CL has been in existence, this is the first time that we have done a deep dive with the government. It is early days still, and we are learning. However, compared to the normal or prevailing view about how the government functions, we have been pleasantly surprised with the objectivity and purposefulness of the projects in the education and specifically in the vocational training space. Everyone in the government is on a fast- track mode and wants to get things done. I find this very encouraging and it empowers us to reach out and enhance our engagement with the government. Finally, I think one has always a choice to call a glass half empty or half full.
  • 6. www.thesmartmanager.com33T h e S m a r t M a n a g e r Sep-Oct 10 S K I L L S ARE F O R E V ER by Sanjay Shivnani the industry has to participate in curriculum development/ enhancement, and even delivery if required on the curricular structure of education in India I think this subject is like cricket; everyone in this country will have a view on it. There is no rocket science here; curriculum must be ever-changing and must reflect the needs of the industry. When we say ‘system’, then we must define the system. In my definition, system includes employers and the industry as well. Much too many of them are still sitting on the sidelines and passing comments on the poor state of graduates and their lack of employability. The system has to perform, and this includes the industry as well. The industry cannot point fingers; it has to participate in curriculum development/ enhancement, and even delivery if required. On the other side of this equation is whether the other system player allows for this suggested holy matrimony to thrive. I am implying the holy cow boards, regulators, councils, etc. Education is over-regulated and needs to be unshackled. Like I said before, the government needs to let go. See what industrial reforms did to this country. It’s now time for educational reforms. a fond story of transformation There are many; among them is the story of a young man of about 25 from a small village in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. His father was a construction laborer, and he had had to drop out of school after the eighth standard. After a while, he decided that he was becoming a burden on his family and came to Chandigarh to make a living. In Chandigarh, he sold vegetables at a sabzi mandi (vegetable market) and earned the measly sum of R850–R1,000 a month. Out of this, he sent R400 back home to his parents. I asked him how he managed to make both ends meet. He said he only had one meal a day and slept in the local municipal park. When he approached our Chandigarh center, we put him through a two-week training program to teach him how to sell water purifiers. After attending the training, he got a job that paid him R4,500. His life changed…in just two weeks! n on mindsets and the oft-blamed specter of policy-level inertia as the key reason for the failure of socially-conscious entrepreneurship Frankly, at least in this space I don’t see any policy level inertia or at least it is not so obvious. In fact, I think it is the other way around; I think there is inertia in the private industry. It is not jumping in as it should. I think this is largely because such activities are seen as ‘social’, which has come to mean ‘not for profit’. This is a mindset that needs to change. The government must ensure that PPP projects provide an opportunity for private industry to create economic value as well as social value. This is a core sustainability issue. This is critical, and in that sense government mindsets need to change. Of course there is always a difference between profiting and profiteering. From a very different angle, there is a strong mindset within the current government initiatives in vocational training toward aligning all projects with the manufacturing sector. This is flawed in some sense, given that the service sector’s contribution to economic growth is outpacing the manufacturing sector’s growth by several multiples. I am not calling for abandoning the manufacturing sector but for a small phase shift in thinking and approach. For example, speaking English or not can alone make the difference between being employed and unemployed. A strong handshake with good doses of self-confidence can be far more empowering than making a better weld!

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