09 Dec 2015 20:57 IST

‘We are working to make India the skill capital of the world’

Rahul Dasgupta

Skills development can make people more productive and help reap the demographic dividend

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi making milestone announcements on skills policy and the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) on World Youth Skills Day, skill development has finally got the importance it deserves, says Rahul Dasgupta, Managing Director of Globsyn Skills.

Rahul is also Joint Managing Director of the Globsyn group of institutions, founded by his father Bikram Dasgupta, and runs the Globsyn Business School in Kolkata, leading the marketing and business functions for all of the Group’s forays in education, skills and technology.

An alumnus of Durham Business School, UK, Rahul is the chief architect behind Globsyn Business School’s Management Apprenticeship Programme, an industry-academia initiative to change the way management education is delivered. In this interaction, he spoke to BusinessLine on Campus about growing the Group’s skills businesses. Excerpts from the interview:

With skills being the buzzword, what are the key areas that suffer from a current and emerging skills gap?

The skills gap in the country exists at three main levels: industry, pedagogy and delivery. At the industry level, there is a demand versus supply gap in terms of the requirements of various industries. Certain industry sectors, such as infrastructure, building and construction, are experiencing a skills gap.

As are informal employment segments such as domestic help, beauty and security. Yet people choose to migrate towards sectors such as like IT-ITES, tourism and hospitality, where the supply-demand gap is relatively smaller. This creates an imbalance, leaving a few sectors with larger skills gaps than others.

Government programmes like the ‘Make in India’ campaign may also fuel the skills gap. The campaign aims to build new manufacturing hubs, which will require hundreds of thousands of skilled workers in the coming years. In the absence of adequate skill development in associated industries, such ambitious projects could well end up a pipe dream.

At the pedagogy level, there is a gap in terms of exposure and experiential learning. The learning process in our country emphasises knowledge acquisition rather than application and behavioural skills. In the employment arena, on the other hand, such skills are extremely important for productivity and growth.

With the dynamic changing environment of global businesses, people who are considered ‘skilled’ or ‘semi-skilled’ often do not qualify for the requisite skills for a particular industry. They continuously need to up-skill or cross-skill themselves within or across their industry to remain employable.

Finally, at the delivery level, there is a lack of suitable infrastructure and qualified trainers to deliver the volume of training India has set out to achieve. Industry trends reflect that there will be a demand for 500 million skilled workers by 2022. The only way to tackle this huge requirement, beyond building capacity for qualified teachers and classrooms, is to look at using technology to build virtual infrastructure for learning and delivery to ensure quality training.

How can skill development help India exploit the ‘demographic dividend’?

We are a young nation. The average age in India is 25-26 years, and this will remain so for some years to come. With young people entering the workforce, a demographically young India will be the largest contributor to the global labour force in coming decades, adding about 110 million workers by 2020. These will be a mix of skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled.

If they are skilled, an organisation is greatly benefited and is poised for business growth. If they are semi-skilled, the organisation does not benefit and the workers will either be replaced or asked to work elsewhere. If they are unskilled, they will not be hired. A demographic dividend can turn into a demographic letdown for a country with no skill development.

Skills development through adequate training can help productively leverage the demographic dividend. It can also help the nation to move forward and realise its ‘Make in India’ dream, and free communities from reliance on government schemes which subsidise their livelihoods today.

How do you see the public-private partnership model helping bridge the skills gap in India?

For some time now, and particularly after the current Minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy assumed charge, the Government has strengthened the structural relationship at the core of the PPP model. With the formation of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSD&E) in late 2014, initiatives that were under disparate Ministries and Departments, including Railways, Steel, Coal, Power, Telecom and others, have been brought under the coordinating umbrella of the new Ministry.

Hopefully, this will address the gaps in the capacity and quality of training infrastructure as well as outputs, help focus on workforce aspirations and set common standards for certification. Most importantly, it will help bring focus on the unorganised sector, a benchmark for micro-entrepreneurship.

The private sector has a very important role to play in creating the support infrastructure and delivery system, while the Government’s role is in bringing uniformity and standards. The MSD&E initiative in bringing forward the NSQF or National Skills Qualification Framework institutionalises bodies such as the Sector Skills Councils (SSC) for accreditation and certification.

The issue of maintaining uniform standards across skilling areas is tackled by establishing Sector Skill Councils and streamlining learning objectives. The skill development ecosystem should adhere to these standards and strive to converge towards a uniform standard that aligns with industry expectations. This not only helps generate industry-ready talent but also encourages individual development. This, in turn, fuels aspiration among individuals and generates incentive to acquire training, thereby reducing need for government-funded projects in the country.

The final challenge in a skill development ecosystem is engaging stakeholders (government, corporate entities, training partners and communities) effectively. This is where NSDC, with the support of the MSD&E, can pay the role of an enabler of the ecosystem.

How do you see the growth of vocational education vis-à-vis conventional modes of education in the next five years?

Today, the conventional education system is perceived as the most aspirational and also as a social identity. Vocational education has not yet reached this level. And people whose services are most required — such as masons, plumbers or carpenters — are the ones who are in dire need of training. Yet they are not aspirational.

So the government is working on creating an ecosystem that promotes portability between academics and vocational trades by framing the NSQF. Guidelines for national standards across various occupation sectors will be developed by regulatory bodies like the AICTE and school boards like CBSE in conjunction with industry specifications to afford smooth transition between academia and vocational pathways.

Frameworks like NSQF will facilitate formal integration of vocational education with its conventional counterparts at different academic levels and provide incentive to students to explore available opportunities across different learning verticals.

The NSQF will provide multi-level entry and exit options to students allowing them to start working after class XII and still pursue their studies at any level. The framework provides 7 levels of certification, with levels 1-4 falling in the domain of school education, and 5-7 coming under higher education.

What is the role of Globsyn Skills in creating the kind of infrastructure that will complement the national skills drive?

Globsyn Skills, a joint venture company with NSDC, works with the Centre, State governments, educational institutions and private sector companies and has trained close to 60,000 youth across such sectors as banking, telecom, retail, security and FMCG. We look forward to working with the Skill Ministry to help make India the skill capital of the world. Globsyn Skills’ ‘Partner Eco-system Framework’ has built a robust services delivery chain comprising over 425 centres spread across 15 States, with a large ‘on-call’ pool of over 310 trainers and faculty members. We envision growing Globsyn Skills to become a 2,000-centre operation that will train 200,000 youth over the next three years.

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