• IPC 2017

Linking Learning to Employability

By GovernanceToday
In Interview
February 17, 2017

ketul-interview-mainketul-acharyaKetul Acharya is currently leading IL&FS Skills  Development Corporation Ltd (www.ilfsskills.com) as the Senior Vice President and Group Head. IL&FS Skills delivers intensive programmes to create gainful employment opportunities for youth and is a leading social infrastructure organization, which addresses the three grand challenges of Education, Employability and Employment through its pan India interventions. IL&FS Skills offers industry specific training across 23 sectors in manufacturing, service, engineering, and construction, healthcare and IT/ ITES through its network of 300+ institute of Skills on a hub and spoke model and have impacted 1.6 million people till date. The work done by IL&FS Skills is widely recognized as one of the global best practice by Mckinsey. Ketul Acharya in interaction with Manjushree Reddy…

What are IL&FS’s priorities in the light of the skill development needs and programs of the country?Give an overview of the IL&FS’ skill development programs and  initiatives?
Given the fact that a large number of India’s working population is unskilled, there is a real danger of this huge but untrained workforce becoming a demographic drag. While about  13 million youngsters join the workforce in India every year, some reports suggest that less than one out of four MBAs, one out of five engineers and one out of ten graduates are employable. The wide disconnect between industry and academia continues to spin out less than trained employees for jobs. It is evident that India faces a huge shortage of skilled workers at present with large number of people lacking adequate vocational skills.

However, amidst this thick cloud of daunting challenge there is a silver lining. India’s demographic dividend has been a global talking point for quite some time. Two-third of India’s population is under the national average age of 26 (versus 37 in China and 45 in the US and Western Europe). By 2025, we would be one of the most populous nations with a headcount of 1.4 billion, bulging across the 15-64 age bracket. As a  result, India’s potential workforce is on track to increase to 1 billion by 2020. With Ministry for Skill Development& Entrepreneurship, Government of India and the political leadership outlining skills as a key growth area, it is evident that skill development is a high focus area.

IL&FS Skills Development Corporation Ltd (IL&FS Skills) is a joint initiative of IL&FS Education & Technology Services Ltd & National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC). We believe that skill development is an imperative for developing individual capacity that contributes towards the economic growth of the individual and the country. We have taken a lead in meeting this challenge through well-structured skill development programmes in a wide array of sectors with our wide network of institutes across India. We offer multifaceted skill development programmes that are industry endorsed, technology driven, standardised and employment oriented keeping the learner at the centre of design and delivery.

We link unemployed youth from 18 to 35 years to employment through our placement linked training programmes in high growth sectors like manufacturing, engineering, services, healthcare IT/ITeS etc. We also train those already in jobs to upskill them

“We have trained more than 1.6 million youth (6 lakh under  placement linked skill development programme and  balance under skill upgradation/ other trainings) and placed 80% of 6 lakh youth in various industries. We offer training programmes in 23 sectors covering  85+ job roles blended with value  added modules  including soft skills,  English and IT. “

ketul-interviewfor career growth. We have also trained staff delivering citizen services like police officials, Government officials on Good Governance and children in schools and colleges with short term vocational skills programs under National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). Additionally, we offer training to trainers on domain, andragogy and life skills as part of our programme called Mastery.

We operate on a hub and spoke model with a network of 300+ institutes across the country under the brand IL& FS Institute of Skills. We have trained more than 1.6 million youth (6 lakh under placement linked skill development programme and balance under skill upgradation/ other trainings) and placed 80% of 6 lakh youth in various industries. We offer training programmes in 23 sectors covering 85+ job roles blended with value added modules including soft skills, English and IT. Our strengths in designing and delivering training programmes through multi-media content, linking learning to employability, vast geographical presence in Indian and international markets,  makes IL&FS Skills one of the largest skills training company.

What according to you are the top few things that India needs urgently to develop  entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship in India is  a less desirable career choice when comparedto BRIC and factor-driven economies (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2014). Recognising that entrepreneurship is vital to a competitive knowledge based economy should impel us to remove barriers to entry for new MSMEs. It will impel us to distil the elements of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem so that they become the cornerstones of policy, programmes, funding and human development.

Our post-school education system and culture remains largely preoccupied with producing graduates who will seek jobs. To become more entrepreneurial, universities must include curriculum to encourage entrepreneurship as a career option.

For budding entrepreneurs, overcoming the uncertainty attached to the success of an enterprise and challenges in market linkages, etc. requiresholistic training. The impact of such interventions can only be measured in the long term once the enterprise becomes sustainable. Therefore,skills for self-employment/entrepreneurship requires a different approach, which can have measurable outputs.

Another enabler to sustain entrepreneurship is easy availability of credit support for smaller business activities. In absence of such credit support, potential  entrepreneurs have to resort to utilize their personal savings  and several of the thriving nonbanking financial institutions, including chit funds, money lenders, etc.

While some initiatives have started to develop entrepreneurship skills in the country,there is furthera need to develop an ecosystem for enabling and sustaining entrepreneurship concentrating on various elements involved such as training, access to finance, forward and backward linkages (region/ sector specific) and hand holding of operations.

How well do you think is the industry geared up for the skill development mission of the country considering that they  too will benefit out of it?
With formation of 36+ Sector Skills Councils (SSC) under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India, the industry is gearing up to support the skill development mission of the country. The SSCs are represented by respective sectors industry players,who defines the need for skilled manpower in their respective sectors and also define the skills required for the identified job role/s. The curriculum for the training is prepared as per this requirement by SSCs and the assessment of the trainee post training is also conducted by SSCs mapped to the requirement of the industry. Thus work in direction of bridging the gap between industry requirement and availability of skilled manpower has already begun. This needs to be however taken to next level, whereby industry starts recruiting only a skilled and certified candidate and/or pays premium to a skilled candidate.

Why is it so that vocational and skills training interests only a  few Indian companies? What are the industry concerns in this regard? Is industry adequately incentivised to boost skill development?
The movement for offering short term skill development programmes has just begun. While number of companies are supporting such programmes as part of their CSR, not many companies have entered into skilling as potential business offering primarily due to evolving eco-system and absence of any proven model.

With the evolution of skills ecosystem, lot of questions are being slowly answered and concerns related to viability/feasibility of running skills operations are being addressed. The new initiative of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India for setting up of skill development institutes across all the districts in the form of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs) is likely to provide the requisite boost and encourage many new players in the skills eco-system.  While the Government of India is making various efforts to promote the skill development model through various schemes like PMKVY, DDUGKY, Learn & Earn, ISDS etc, lot of efforts are required to make skilling aspirational and encourage youth to take benefit of such schemes.

Tell us about the IL&FS focus on skilling the unorganized sector. How can entrepreneurship be  encouraged is such sectors?

In addition to our focus on placement linked skill development programmes, we have been working onlivelihood initiatives with rural entrepreneurs (largely women) to organize them for livelihood generation in sectors such as textiles, handloom and handicrafts, bamboo etc.

The livelihood initiatives focus is not only on skilling the individual/ group, but also to handhold in the process of establishing technology, credit & market linkages. We have also developed a programme called I-CARE (IL&FS Certification for Advancement in  Rural Entrepreneurship), which has been jointly developed with Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) for entrepreneurs

The programme focusses on skills in fund management, social entrepreneurship, networking and business communications. The training is structured in a way to equip the entrepreneurs for need identification, project preparation, technical knowhow and presentation skills Entrepreneurship can be encouraged in identified sectors with a focused and holistic approach.  Case in point; Tripura Bamboo Mission is an initiative of Government of Tripura for integrated development of bamboo based industries in the state. The Mission’s objectives of scaling up turnover of bamboo sector and simultaneously increasing livelihood opportunities for artisans are sought to be achieved through cluster and skill development approach. We as implementing partner of Tripura Bamboo Mission took upvarious initiatives related to skill development, new technology interventions, designing new products, setting up of common facility centres, establishing credit & market linkages and creating an institutional structure by building community owned organisations for artisans. This has resulted in five times increase in the turnover of the bamboo sector in Tripura and over 45,000 artisans and farmers have been trained and supported to take up various valueadded enterprises in the bamboo sector.

IL&FS has been contributing immensely in making skill education inclusive. What are the initiatives available for women talents in order to bring in equity?

ketul-interview2Our strong commitment towards taking skills and livelihood opportunities to every corner of India has helped us set up touch points in some of the most difficult geographies, Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, remote areas and backward regions. We are one of the first private sector institutions to launch skills programmes in these geographies and are operating in 88 districts of the LWE affected states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. We also operate in 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and have impacted more than 30000 youth in J&K through our skill development initiatives 49% of our successful trainees are women, largely from the backward regions of the country.  Many of them are first time entrants into the formal work set up and have evolved from being unskilled helpers to operators and supervisors.  The successful inclusion of women into the world of work through the decent jobs and safe working conditions has also benefitted the families and helped improve their overall attitude towards skills. We are also working on setting up Women Specific Skill Development Institutes in identified locations.

India also has some other unique talent pools in other notso-tapped areas like educated disabled. What should be done in such areas to increase employability by India Inc?

Government of India through its various initiativesunder the Skill India mission has played an instrumental role in supporting youth especially from Bottom of Pyramid groups, school drop outs, 8th or 10th pass by sponsoring their training programmes. Many of them are also first time entrants into formal education and work. The initiatives under the Skill India mission has contributed towards the empowerment of these trainees from being unskilled workers to operators and supervisors of future. Corporates have also contributed through inclusive employment and CSR initiatives by playing a remarkable role in linking young people from distinct backgrounds into the world of work. Lot more however needs to be done. A large percentage of differently abled personsoften remain excluded from mainstream employment due to limited training, challenges in mobility and employer perception. In order to create an inclusive Skill India Mission, it is crucial for such a youth to be provided access to certificate as well as job, which leads to a life with dignity.

With youth engagement and improving competitiveness of industry at the core, skill programmes for different learner groups including differently abled personshave to be designed and implemented. These programmes should address the primary challenge of skilling i.e. inclusion in mainstream education or vocational training due to lack  of infrastructure and facilities, absence of dedicated trainers to train people, course material which may be difficult to access for persons with such needs and most importantly negligible employment opportunities in mainstream employment.

There are several shining examples of employers who have encouraged the recruitment of the differently abled in frontline/ shop floor. However, given the number of people who need skills for employment, efforts need be further enhanced. The initiatives under the Skill India Mission and formation of Sector Skills Councils focusing fordifferently abled persons are likely to provide the requisite boost in this directly.

What kind of initiatives/ collaborations with different stakeholders do you think can further enhance the way forward?

The community being the largest and the most influential stakeholder in the skill development eco-system should realize the benefits that the society would reap in the long run if skill development is accepted both conceptually and practically by the youth of India. The only way that we can avoid the demographic dividend from becoming a demographic drag is if we can provide our youth gainful employment either within the country or outside the country leading to empowerment of the economy. Influencers in the community from Pradhan in a Panchayat to the Principal of a school need to encourage vocational skills. This message should percolate down to the grass-root level for it to become a success.

Youth, being an important pillar of the nation building exercise of skill development, should be willing to enroll into a vocational training as a career option. Also, they should educate their peers and spread the message to contribute to the movement.

It is imperative for schools and universities to integrate vocational courses with their curriculum to familiarize students with the practical aspects of various skill development courses enabling them to make an informed career choice.

There is a need for skill development training providers to reach out to unemployed youth across geographies. Also, realizing the need to reinforce quality in each step of the skills value chain from entry gate assessments to a training, content to placements and post-placement tracking The industry plays a pivotal role in boosting the skill development mission as an employer, a knowledge partner, a sponsor. In addition to this the industry can also play an active role in encouraging vocational training by providing opportunities for on-jobtraining, guest lectures, industry visits, projects and assignments etc.

What are your plans ahead?

Our goal is to impact 4 million youth by 2022 across the country. While the current focus is largely on skilling school dropouts with employment opportunities in India, we are working on Skills for overseas placement to contribute in the mission of making India the skill capital of the world. We also believe that entrepreneurship is key to India’s growth and hence have formed a focused group within the organization to work on identifying the opportunities in this space. In addition, we truly believe that growth of the country can also be contributed by enhancement of productivity / efficiency of the existing workers and hence would be working on large scale programmes on Recognition of Prior Learning. We are also focusing on creating programmes leading to employment / entrepreneurship opportunities for graduate/post graduate by creating specialised academies offering advanced courses across sectors that integrate knowledge and skills.

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