Private partnerships key to skilling human resources

Since time immemorial, India has been known for its affordable labour. And while there’s no shortage of labour in the country, scarcity of skilled labour is visible as companies are unable to meet their own demand for well-trained human resources.

Despite being blessed with one of the youngest populations across the globe, it’s painfully obvious that India lacks the basic infrastructure to empower the youth with essential skills to excel in an increasingly demanding global economy. There’s reason to believe that this is set to change with the Indian government’s progressive initiative ‘Skill India’ to tackle the skill gap. By developing specialised training programmes and initiatives, the government aims to elevate the country’s manpower productivity.

Our incumbent education framework does little to equip youth with relevant skills to help them excel on a global scale. And with an increasingly globalised Indian economy, it’s evident that new job opportunities will rely heavily on specialised skills to improve production quality.

The shortage of skilled manpower creates a huge void in our current structure – needing long-term correction if India has to emerge as a growing superpower in a skill-essential world. The need to equip employable youth with appropriate vocation education and training has never been more urgent than today.

The government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives form an immaculate union, because one cannot exist without the other. ‘Make in India’ is set to equip the country with best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure to attract all types of companies from around the world. ‘Skill India’ aims to train over 500 million youth by 2020 with more than 5,000 skill development centres and 1,500 ITIs.

By equipping the workforce with the right training and opportunities, a new skilled workforce will emerge, placing India firmly on the path to becoming a global manufacturing hub. But this colossal task is not without its challenges which require strong collaboration between diverse groups of stakeholders that will assist the government in their mammoth endeavour.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley brought up an interesting point: the rise in wage rate in China has made manufacturing there costlier and that it presented India with an opportunity to create world-class manufacturing infrastructure right here. Equipping India’s workforce with requisite skills is perhaps the best chance to elevate it as a force to reckon with in the global manufacturing industry.

The current share of manufacturing in our GDP is certainly not enough, especially when compared to the more developed nations. So we know there is huge scope to steam forward. However, we have a significant advantage over comparable developing economies. We are already equipped with good human resources and a large number of English-speaking youth, so the cost of training an entire workforce to produce a global manufacturing hub is not unreasonable.

A Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey, carried out in the latter half of 2014, captures this manufacturing dream nicely, querying over 100 top honchos regarding their estimation of India’s manufacturing scenario. A whopping 85 per cent believed that manufacturing is expected to grow between 5 and 10 per cent in the next five years, compared to 3.4 per cent in the last five years.

Mammoth task

The mammoth task of skilling employable workforce is far too challenging for the government to undertake on its own. Training the second largest population in the world is simply impossible to be undertaken by a single government body – opening the gateway for private participation. Private partnerships may be just the answer the government is looking for when it comes to reaching all sections of its complex geography.

A mutual goal is the key to putting India on the fast track to manufacturing success. Private organisations can create robust curriculum structures, provide better infrastructure, deliver improved funding and implement government policies effectively. They can also develop strict standards of manufacturing excellence and production quality to create a new set of highly skilled workmen that India has desperately needed, but never had before.

Efforts are already underway by private enterprises to make a strong impact on creating a skilled workforce. For instance, Viztar International is involved in the business of consulting and transformational training and has leveraged its NGO-division Global Success Foundation to provide skilled training to over 2,00,000 people in different cities in Gujarat in an effort to bridge India’s employability gap.

It has collaborated with a multitude of education and training institutes like the National Skill Development Corporation and Retailer's Association Skill Council of India to deliver vocational training across semi-urban and rural regions. The organisation has already successfully coached and found employment for over 200 village youth in Dholka in Ahmedabad.

The manufacturing vision has opened up a whole new magical world for the country. The goal to transform India into an upbeat and low-cost manufacturing hub has redefined the way we do business. By improving quality, efficiency and productivity, there is a prodigious opportunity that beckons; an opportunity to create mass jobs and effectively eliminate poverty in the country – something we have failed to do for decades, even centuries.

Private organisations must find a way to meet the objectives of the government to bring the vision of Skill India to life. Strong initiatives are integral to creating the right infrastructure ecosystem for building a young and skilled workforce. Only when we manage to fully tap the unexploited manpower potential that India has to offer can we call ourselves a global leader in low-cost innovation and compare ourselves to both Germany and China in quality and cost. That can put us at the forefront of the global manufacturing story.

(The writer is Founder & Chief Mentor, Global Success Foundation)

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