Tuesday 10 September 2013

6th FICCI Global Skills Summit - Delhi 2013: Observations, Opinions and Comments - Part IV (concluding)

Day 2 of the 6th FICCI Global Skills Summit, saw a number of important session, but given the lack of a number of so called ‘important people’ the audiences had dwindled down of course. In the concluding part of this series we will look at some of the capacity issues and specific integral challenges in the area of TVET and Skills development. Part I, Part II and Part III of this series focused on the macro end and at industry perspectives, this concluding part focuses from the perspective of providers and audiences.

Capacity and Delivery challenges

The first session on Day 2 was on the strategy to tap the best human resource as assessors, trainers and content writers, those who enable the ecosystem for skills development to deliver. Paul Comyn, Senior Vocational Training and Skills Development Specialist, ILO was of the view that we are announcing schemes and mechanisms for skills development which rely on large scale human resource expertise already in place for implementation of the schemes, thereby undermining the schemes and their implementation. This clearly implies that we are not acknowledging the true environmental local conditions that are critical to factor for any hope for success, instead relying on models and rhetoric that is either inspired by those swaying to pseudo-intellectuals, foreign agendas and opportunism, International and local private sector profiteers, or political opportunists and those driven by and practicing populist politics. Jo (Jyotsna) Aggarwal, Senior Advisor Employability to Silatech an initiative in the middle-eastern countries spoke of how technology interventions are making it possible to reach learners and training providers on a large scale and across far reaches.  Silatech is providing them learning and teaching resources in self-access mode through the use of technology post the Arab-spring revolutions that made traditional models of reaching them through the government system non-viable. It did not convince me as to the power of technology as much as it made me even more convinced that we operate in an unstable and fast changing environment where people and communities need to find methods that allow for self-sustained and localised ways to keep the wheels of social and economic progress rolling.

Ninad Vengurlekar, Vice President IL&FS Ltd. made very pertinent comments on the challenges for practitioners on ground, as they have to face with not only the regional diversity but also with lack of basic key skills, values and attitudes. The examples of intended beneficiaries not interested in learning, undisciplined to the extent that they are rude, temperamental and not punctual, necessitating providers to focus on things such as anger management as a component of vocational education. For me this was one of the highlights of the Skills Summit, the realisation this should bring is that education, whether vocational, general or informal, has to first acknowledge the holistic dimensions of development. While a number of people pin their hopes on vocational education, raising minimum wages, primary education, teacher training and other developmental interventions, are the pivots on which the developmental progress hinges, the reality is that for any chance of success there has to be a recognition of the fact that unless we address human development from a perspective of wholeness we will only be going around in circles and falling hopelessly short of any meaningful achievement.

The session on 'Skills in Schools–Making skills development aspirational', highlighted the work extending into schools, especially the open school. The NIOS has taken up the agenda to vocationally train 5000 open school students as a pilot project. People have always questioned how do we develop practical skills that require practical training through the open school system? Well Dr. S.S. Jena, Chairman, National Institute of Open Schooling has decided to take that challenge. I keen await to see that model work, which I assume will use technology and industrial touch points for practical sessions. Ofcourse what was also highlighted again was the Industry- academia cooperation required to make it a success.

Beneficiary segments requiring special focus

The last session before the close of the two days of presentations was focused on audiences, especially those that required special focus. This comprised three back to back sessions on Women, Persons with Disability and those that represent workers of the Unorganised Sector. Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Mission for Empowerment of Women almost tripped herself as she rhetorically questioned and attempted to answer the question as to why the category of ‘women’ was clubbed with persons of disability and those in the unorganised sector. While she arrived at the common underlying of vulnerability especially in the prevailing context as the reason, Prakash Tewari, VP CSR & Education, Jindal Steel spoke of the various initiatives Jindal Group has taken to involve women in training and employment programmes.

Shane Anderson, Director TR7 Training Services, Perth, Australia elucidated upon the international opportunities available within the Global Skilled workers job market, especially nursing which traditionally has been dominated by women. The facts have been highlighted time and again, of the surplus manpower that India will have in the future (estimated to the tune of 56 mn workers) in the face of an aging developed world with deficient skilled manpower (estimated to the tune of 47 mn) – Figures from BCG study for PHD Chambers of Commerce. Shane spoke of a nursing project in India that will focus on training nurses who earn upto 400000 AUD and supplying them to Australia and other parts of the world.

While talking of skills, training and employment needs of those with disability there was a collective request going out to industry to make work places accommodating for those with special needs.  Ms. Shanti Raghavan, Founder Enable India placing the blame squarely at society not having enough expectations from those with special abilities, right from their homes, schools to their place of work. Having expectations allows us to provide opportunities for work and encourages them to deliver in line with those expectations. This helps them in finding ways that circumvent their limitations and as a result develops skills and confidence amongst them.

The final group was discussing models for skills development in the unorganised sector. While there was consensus on two things across the group, firstly the vast size of the sector and its contribution to the GDP and employment that made it really important to address the skills needs there in. Secondly, the real practical difficulties in delivering skills to this sector including engagement of targeted beneficiaries, aspiration levels and time off from daily wage based work. The three things that offered a way forward were, 

a) to address skills needs through up-skilling existing workforce in the sector 
b) to find innovative models of funding that allowed people to take time off work and afford training interventions and finally 
c) to ensure that training infrastructure is available locally and close to the their actual place of work or residence that overcomes the logistical challenges involved.


The final day of the Summit was reserved for one on one B2B meetings between New Zealand and Australian Vocational Training providers and interested Indian counterparts and other related institutions. There was quite a good response to the same which was encouraging for both sides.

As I reflect over the whole event and its content, I think while such opportunities aim at bringing interested parties together and serve as networking points, for someone who has seen such events for the last 10 years, each time reflecting on the content, endeavours, progress and milestones, I am quite disheartened by the lack of results in the face of expectations, given the focus and time spent on this critical agenda. I am even more disheartened by the lack of understanding, substance and insight that is as evident as the profusion of apathy and desperate need for earnest and well thought out interventions. 

We continue to grow in size and complexity, yet we are as far away from real solutions as we ever were. But the hope lies in the small but hardy endeavours of people who are earnest in the care for those who surround them, committing to create opportunities, pathways of learning and improved performance, instilling the values that will serve individuals and society to achieve progress. Unfortunately when you see the head table they seem the least visible and outnumbered by the large companies who often pay to get these positions and those in power. I, over the last decade, am still waiting to see those out there who truly care and are committed to finding the right solutions for the right reasons, with the willingness to learn and roll up their sleeves putting their shoulder to the wheel for an earnest try. 

Maybe I expect too much, but then didn't someone already say that lower expectations always leads to dis-empowering and sub-optimal results.

Part I, Part II, Part III

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