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Envisioning a Skilled India

Published Date: 
Jun 02, 2011
Economic Times
There is a huge demand for skilled professionals across industries. The add-on challenge is the fact that the requisite skills are increasingly dynamic in nature. It is an economic reality that the growth and survival of a thriving enterprise will depend on employee growth and development. Aware of the fact, the corporate sector is resorting to creating proprietary skill development centres. With the future of India’s human capital economic growth at stake, the government too has steeped in to upgrade the quality of India’s with a focused approach to imparting relevant skills to its workforce and also making the vocational and skills certification acceptable industry wide. & The Economic Times organised Annual Skills Summit 2011 on May 27th at The Oberoi, New Delhi. It provided a platform for deliberations among the industry leaders from the IT, ITeS and infrastructure sectors across the country. The event saw thought leaders of the country sharing their knowledge and expertise and proposing the roadmap to India’s recovery from the skills crunch that it is currently facing.

The summit was inaugurated by Mr. Kapil Sibal, Honorable Union Minister for HRD,Government of India. He announced that Government is planning certification standards and is set to announce a national vocational qualification in the next one month. He mentioned that this program will be certification based and outcome-oriented. As per the program the skill development training will start from class IX and X and by classes XI and XII students will have a choice of taking up skill-oriented subject. He added that the ministry of HRD is working to skill 500 million people by 2020. He added that to achieve this number, integration of skill development in the education system is required. Skill are only marketable if it has certification, he said. He urged that that to boost the skill development program it needs to be decentralized. State education ministers need to work in tandem with the industry-ultimate users of those skills towards this goal. He maintained that the nature of skills is changing dramatically so the nature of the curriculum needs to evolve accordingly. India needs to set up a curriculum, keeping in view what skills will be needed 5 years down the line.

The key theme of the inaugural session was – ‘Strategies for accelerated skill development’. Panelists highlighted the fact that India has the entire spectrum of skills but the demand for these is growing. However, by not focusing on widespread English education the country is losing its advantage of English speaking human resources to countries such as China and Philippines, which have a greater momentum in this direction. 

Vineet Nayyar, Vice Chairman & CEO, HCL Technologies, a panelist at the session, said that despite being an extremely important area, skill development has received very little attention. He highlighted the importance of Human Capital by saying that it is the single defining factor for India’s success or failure and central to the country’s competitiveness. He emphasised that there is a need for identification and combination of hard and soft skills. He emphasized that investment in human capital is important and focussed public-private partnerships are needed to push these in the right direction.

Posing the vital question of how can India can make skills its source of global advantage and competency,Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission, said that the developed world is moving towards knowledge and service economy, which will be the engine of growth. He said the fuel of this engine is human capital and the biggest source of this fuel is India. Speaking on emerging and sustainable skills strategies for the ITeS segment, Pramod Bhasin, President & CEO, Genpact said that the organisation hires only 6% of the total people it interviews. A substantial amount of resources is spent on training the new employee. He proposed that industry should come together and create a pool of skilled people.

Rahul Singh, President-Business Services, HCL Technologies Ltd, recommended that companies should retrain people and put them in different areas of the organisation. He maintained that a key reason for high attrition rates is monotony at the work place. Hence, mapping skills and using them to reshuffle and relocate employees within the same organisation can help retain them. 

Raman Roy, Founder & CEO, Quatrro BPO, said that our current education system is creating educated unemployable people. For a skilled workforce we need to train not only the employees but also the trainers first.

Session II on `Powering Urban Explosion by Empowering Infrastructure Related Skills’ opened out the skills dialogue to the rapidly growing infrastructure and construction segment. With the sector expected to grow at 10-12% annually, the challenges relate to skills at every level. 

While speakers differed on the actual skill gap in the sector, Dr P R Swarup, Director General, CIDC, pegged the workforce shortage at 350 million and said that none of the Indian contracts except from the DMRC, demand workforce training. Dilip Chenoy, CEO, NSDCmaintained that the economy needs 33 million skilled people by 2011. V Suresh, Principal Executive Officer, HIRCO, held that with approximately Rs 3 lakh crore worth investments expected every year in the infrastructure and construction sector alone, the skilling challenges are very great.  HIRCO alone needs about 8000 people per year for its 4 projects i.e. 2000 people per project.

The panel highlighted the importance of training for sustaining the growth momentum of this sector. The main problem is that currently there’s no incentive for people to get skill certification. Also, at present the majority of workforce in this sector is either unskilled or semi skilled. Chenoy said that National Skills Policy puts the onus of changing skill paradigm on the industry itself. He advocated a Sector Skills Council for the industry which would determine and certify the skills required by the construction industry. Chander Verma, Chairman, Continental Constructions Projects Ltd, stressed that the work load is massive, so sparing people for training is not feasible. He insisted that it should be the onus of the client to push for skills development. As one of the prime clients in the industry, Karan Singh, Executive Director-HR, DMRC, said that despite a workforce of over 3000 working on DMRC projects currently, no one is allowed to work on Metro projects without basic training. 

The session on `Decoding the IT Skills Gap’ focussed on the reasons for the war for talent in the IT sector which has created 2.5 lakh new jobs in the year. They called for collaboration to fight the growing skills gap. 

Keynote speaker and Vice Chairman & CEO, Zensar Technologies, Dr Ganesh Natarajan maintained that skills and education need to be married. The IT industry is also increasingly focusing on the Source & Train model. 

Jayant Krishna, Principal Consultant, Tata Consultancy Services, highlighted the cross cultural gaps in Indian IT engineers. He also mentioned that candidates require 2-6 months after employment to become productive. Identifying the small available base for recruitment as the problem, he championed skills development awareness and advocacy. Speakers urged the removal of the social stigma associated with skills training by bringing acceptable skills certifications. 

Dr Chandrasekhar Sripada, VP and Head HR India/South Asia, IBM India, called for a greater interaction between students and industry and called for greater  knowledge in the area of specialisation. He also advocated functional clarity among the workforce. Sushma Rajagopalan, Head Global Strategy and Corporate Development, L&T Infotech, identified the greater expectation from the global markets as one of the key factors for the current crunch on skills. “Industry has to invest in its Human Capital as it is about survival,” she said.Ashutosh Chadha, Director, Corporate Affairs Group, Intel (I) called for changing the assessment process by not measuring technical skills on theoretical basis. 

The conference concluded with industry and academia coming together to suggest policy changes to fight the skills gap. Dr Anupa Siddhu, Member Academic Council, Delhi University and Director, Lady Irwin College, highlighted the importance of industry interaction and securing multiple skill sets to meet the challenge of the dynamic nature of skills. However, she called for a focus on research and international exposure to also maintain the quality at the top of the pyramid.

Economic Times
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