The Central Electricity Authority anticipates the need for 8 lakh people to keep the sector’s growth engine running over the next decade. Do you see a demand-supply mismatch with respect to talent in your industry?
I think the demand/supply shortage in India is not in terms of quantity; the main problem is the ability to channelize this talent to the right sector for their skills and competencies and to build the capabilities that will make them apt for the job. The problem is to develop the functional competency required to deliver a job. I do not think that education can provide that level of functional competency. The role of education is to build the fundamentals, encourage the ability to learn new concepts and the exposure to practical orientation. In the technical field, there is a gap between engineering and job aptitude or readiness. This gap needs to be filled outside the colleges either internally by creating internal training and on the job training programs or it can also be institutionalized in the form of special courses to obtain those functional competencies.
From the 3 main competencies required for your business, Construction Management, Project Management and Operation and Maintenance, which are the ones that have been getting more scarce over ?
The real challenge comes in building skills that as an industry we are weak on in India. The absorption and training of new requirements or technologies is the challenge. Firstly, there are new skills required by international standards. For example safety standards in the power industry in India are below the international standards as there is no talent available in India trained at those standards. Secondly, as we move forward, more and more plants will be based on super critical technologies, based on a highly complex technology. These plants function differently and today to develop those skills, we need to send our people to the equipment manufacturers in Germany, Japan etc. This is an expensive proposition.
What could companies/industry consortiums do to address any issues related to talent shortage?
Every company should invest in training people. This is, of course, an additional cost of investment. The regulatory system should recognize the efforts of training people and enhancing capabilities for the industry instead of companies poaching people, as investing in training people increases the overall talent pool for the industry and creates sustainable growth. The regulatory body should address this to incentivize companies to invest, through the tax system where investments in building capabilities or skills is exempt from taxes.
In terms of the education system, for science and engineering streams, colleges should only focus on building the fundamentals. The education system cannot change their platform every 5 years to cater to new technologies. What they should improve is the quality of fundamentals. The way to achieve that is to improve the quality of teachers and faculty by increasing their pay rates to be on par with industry standards The regulatory body should also look at creating incentives for universities to do that to increase the base of education. This should be complemented with other models like fewer students per class ratios and greater investment in building practical capabilities.