Article: Develop the ecosystem: S. Mahalingam


Develop the ecosystem: S. Mahalingam

S. Mahalingam, Chairman, CII Council on Skill Development and CFO & Executive Director, Tata Consultancy Services

We would like to believe that India is adopting the right approach to skills development as this is an extremely critical and important area to enable India achieve the 8% GDP growth rate. The first advantage that we have is the demographic dividend that India has as 64.8 percent of the Indian population by 2026 will fall in the working class bracket and we are already a 1.2 billion population. Therefore, India needs to have the capability to ensure that we develop the right kind of skills in people, so that they can contribute to industrial productivity. Therefore, essentially we need to go in for proper vocational education programs and the current approach we follow needs to undergo massive changes. Currently, there is very little promotion of vocational education and we need to create a positive environment for making people opt for the vocational stream as they think that the only form of education is the formal higher education format. There is a need to promote vocational education as a form of education, which is very critical to create employability and there are regulation changes that need to take place to make this happen.

Therefore, the critical things that we are working on are, promoting vocational education, branding vocational streams and engaging in interventions on course curriculum and training, along with creating an appropriate mechanism for assessments, as well as improving the quality of existing institutions. Industry must take responsibility to enable a sustainable skill development program. Creating employable skills will be the focus and the outcome has to be employment. Further, we need to create master craftsmen who can compete with the best in the world and these icons will become our brand ambassadors.

CII has been working on the PPP model with ITIs in order to achieve the government’s objective to upgrade these. About 1396 ITIs have been identified for the PPP model and CII is partnering with the Central and State Government to upgrade 370 of them. We are focusing on making this PPP approach succeed. There are challenges in terms of how much control the new Institute Management Committees have over curriculum, faculty or the infrastructure of the institute, as the employees report to the State Government departments. We are working on changing this environment.

A critical problem we identified was that the trainers and assessors in most cases were the same people and this would not have led to uniform standards. We advocated the need to create a separate pool of trainers and assessors. CII is today a National Assessing Body for the Modular Employability Scheme (MES). The other aspect that CII is involved is in including policy advocacy to ensure India can leverage on the huge capabilities. We have been working closely with MOLE, MHRD, ILO, NSDC, etc. and have also given our recommendations to the 12th year plan. Our focus is also to enable global benchmarking through participations in global competitions like the World Skills. I led a delegation to World Skills competition held in London last year and witnessed firsthand the process of creating global icons. Such initiatives will automatically enhance the importance of skills in various trades, leading to more focus on training for these skills.

Reflecting on how the software industry came into being, it is a perfect example of creating an industry through the skilling process. When TCS and other players entered this field, India was not a natural destination for IT because in India, at that time, we were using outdated computers. We wanted to give services in computer systems development and maintenance to some of the best companies in the world, and the only thing we had was the raw material, which is people, with good engineering skills and the capability to learn continuously. So, the industry took on the responsibility of molding them to create the required pool of talent for the business. And because we did that, we could tap the opportunities outside of India. At a personal level, I have seen how an industry driven skilling program has been able to create an industry, which arguably has been a mainstay for India in terms of generating employment, improving the economic conditions and so on, in the recent years.

For India when we are looking at the 8% growth rate, there are a lot of skills that are required across sectors whether it is in construction, manufacturing, service related industry including hospitality, healthcare, etc. The very scale of growth will demand an estimate of 500 billion people to be trained and retrained by 2022, as assessed by the government. And while we have institutions, we are focusing on rejuvenating them to create the employable pool. We are focusing on getting the industry to take the responsibility to make a difference. There is an urgent need to develop the whole ecosystem for which the industry, as well as the government, will have to take ownership. And we also need to create the ecosystem to provide for the needs of the different sectors, because unless we generate employable skills, we cannot really meet the demands of growth. Training of people will happen where the needs are as well as where the people are. In India, the economic advancement has not been uniform across the country. We need to train people in these places of under development, so that they can migrate to places where they can get jobs.

Thus, to solve the economic problem, to ensure that the industry has the right kind of trained people to meet its need, and as a person who has witnessed the power of training create an industry, I believe this focus on skills development in India at present is critical and timely.

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Topics: Skilling, C-Suite

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