Tuesday 10 September 2013

6th FICCI Global Skills Summit - Delhi 2013: Observations, Opinions and Comments - Part III

The 6th FICCI Global Skills Summit, Delhi 2013 with the theme ‘Industry Leads’ aimed at showcasing the efforts and involvement of Indian Industry in changing the paradigms of Vocational Education and Skills Development in the Country. As national and international stakeholders pin the hopes of economic and social development on access to progressive economic livelihood and employment opportunities, VET and Skills development is seen as the critical enabler for the same. In my previous two posts in the series Part I and Part II, I have discussed the macro picture; in this installment I discuss the industry sectors’ views about VET in India.

Industry and Sector Perspectives 

The respective sector specific sessions were particularly interesting for various reasons. In the Tourism & Hospitality session, we heard representatives from Indian tourism sector who kept complaining about the lack of interest of job seekers in taking up jobs in their sector. It was interesting to hear the very same people acknowledge the very slow career progression that occurs within the industry. On one hand they kept complaining of training organisation never asking employers about what they seek in potential hires on the other hand they said that they saw potential business opportunities in training for their sector so they have set-up their own profit making training institutions. This obviously meant they were not interested in sharing the real industry needs with other competing training providers.

It was interesting though to see this new look sector seek people with language capabilities including French, German, Spanish etc. apart from English. In addition key skills sought were that of customer orientation, this is not the first time I have heard people refer to this as “something that people just have or don’t”, implying this is not something that can be learnt or developed or be seen as being possessed in varying degrees. This obviously shows how we visualise and scope our vocational education interventions to that of post school and limited to trade competences and not behavioural and cognitive competences. This is a view which has to expand to include these and to see the learning, skills and development platform to include formative formal and informal education.

The next sector on show was that of Food Processing, Mr. Siva Nagarajan, MD Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Pvt. Ltd. expounded on the vast size of this sector and the growing opportunities therein. He explained how most interventions were happening in post-production phase and there was almost virgin opportunities in improving productivity earlier in the food production and processing value chain. An example was the hopelessly inadequate numbers of Veterinary research institutes and services providers across the country, which according to him translates in about 3000 points of service available for farmers who face problems with farm animals.

The third sector represented was the IT and ITeS sector, where Dr. Sandhya Chintala, Executive Director – IT & ITeS Skills Council, who represents NASSCOM spoke about the effort they have put in to identify and develop standards for 67 entry level positions in the sector. What quickly followed was the admission that it was up to employers in the sector to use the standards and seemingly things are not going well on that front. There was also recognition of the fact that the technology is evolving so rapidly that it is difficult to capture a static view of it in the standards.

The final sector on the platform was the Capital Goods sector. There was recognition that in the recent past this sector has not been as much in favour as the IT and Electronics segment and therefore was finding less success in attracting talent. The other important points highlighted was the value of developing talent across the value chain in the industry, including the various sized organisations (Small, Medium and Large) supply chain partners and sub-contractors, etc. There was also recognition that the real challenge facing the industry was from the import market, which clearly highlights the need for higher quality at affordable prices in Indian Industry necessitating at engineering innovation and reliability.

Getting the priorities right

During one of the sector specific sessions I was particularly distressed by the way potential hires coming from the backward “B and C grade towns” were referred to by the speaker. It almost castigated the lot for their lack of skills and education. I could almost have no sympathy for members of industry who won’t have the basic respect for their workers. I would like to take time to discuss this here, as I see this as the most important underlying in the whole scheme of things.

It was amply evident on so many occasions, the difference in attitudes that prevailed between the visiting countries and perhaps our own. While the Kiwis were talking about caring for their students, their lives and well-being, including the Indian minister’s recollection of how during his recent visit to New Zealand each formal meeting began with thanking of the people of the land and their ancestors, what was the centre of attention for most of our speakers were the lack of education, skills and ability of our people, including students, teachers, etc. People were more concerned about business opportunities, profit and loss, throughput and everything else but about the poor non-visible intended beneficiaries. This came to highlight in another case when a member of the audience was stating the grievance about how the recently launched STAR scheme was the third vocationally oriented scheme over the past three years and this comes at a time when the intended beneficiaries of the previous two schemes are languishing without jobs and meaningless non-recognised certification. The way these grievances were brushed aside as unimportant in the big scheme of things, it was evident that no one was really concerned about the fate and circumstances of the beneficiaries but merely for facile recognition of their pseudo-intellectual discourses and their own pecuniary agendas.

I am a firm believer that once the people in this country begin to do two things, the very face of this country will change. The world will follow us then. The first of these two things is care for others. The day we begin to think for the well-being of others as individuals we will truly commence our journey on the road to progress. The second thing is learning, the day we recognise the extent of our ignorance and adopt the disposition of seeking learning, going deeper and wider in the search for it we will truly be marching further along that very road of progress.

During the Food processing session, while businessmen were expounding about business opportunities, jobs and interventions to increase productivity, Donovan Wearing, CEO Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, New Zealand made a succinct point emphatically, we need to be worried about quality in Food Processing for the simple reason that, “it’s the food we all eat”. 

Concluding part, Part IV to follow, Part II, Part I

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