Skill Development for the Future

By Archana Jerath July 26, 2018
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Skill development is a crucial requirement for any economy to stay globally competitive and provide a good quality of life to its residents. However, despite the understanding that skill development is necessary for the sustenance and growth of any country, there is a considerable lack of quality training and resources in India to develop the skills of its workforce.

At the recently held SHRM HR Conference 2018, this issue was discussed by Jayesh Ranjan, IAS, Principal Secretary to Government of Telangana, Industries and Commerce (IC) Department and Information Technology, Electronics and Communications (ITE&C) Department.

Ranjan stressed the need for skill development and explained how the government of Telangana has been actively working toward addressing a substantial gap between the quality of education imparted by technical colleges and the technologies that hiring organizations are working on.  He argues that the professional education colleges are not agile enough to incorporate the requirements of industry in their curriculum, and that this scenario is especially true for the state governed technical colleges in comparison to the privately owned colleges where curriculum is more in sync with corporate needs.

According to recruiters at organizations that seek campus hires, the technical knowledge of the students they meet often is not relevant, and the companies need to extensively retrain them on tools and processes relevant to available jobs. This criticism reflects the need for a proactive skill development programme.

TASK - Telangana's Skill Development Programme

At the new Telangana Academy for Skills and Knowledge (TASK), the state is trying to fill this gap and bring agility to the current syllabus. However, the job of TASK is not limited to changes in the existing curriculum. It realises that changes to syllabus take a lot of time in ground execution. Hence, its Modus Operandi is quite unique.

The TASK team finds out from the various employers in the state what kind of skill sets  are being utilised in their organizations, and then find out the if they are being covered in colleges. In case of a gap, TASK contacts the developer of the technology and  asks the developers to create a module for teaching the same to the students. For example, TIZEN is an open source software platform developed by Samsung. The company runs a wide range of devices on it, including smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, in-vehicle infotainment  and more. Telangana is the only state in the country where 30 colleges teach TIZEN in a 40-hour module which covers all aspects of  the platform.

Such initiatives are a win-win for everyone. There are more than two hundred higher educational institutes affiliated to TASK.  With Samsung,  these colleges nominate a faculty member and the Samsung team trains them on the module. The enrolled students are taught the course in addition to regular courses, while Samsung's trainers, called Professors of Practice, oversee the quality of the program. At the conclusion, Samsung conducts a test and provides certification to qualified students. So far, close to 500 students have been certified. Samsung is not compelled to employ them, but  students get a good opportunity to acquire relevant skills for gainful employment when they graduate. The technical colleges also look forward to participating in the program to better prepare their students for campus recruitment.

The reputation of these colleges also improves  as more students are hired.  The entire process is funded by the government with no financial burden on organizations, colleges or students.

As Ranjan explained at the conference,  the success of any organization is directly related to the performance of its workforce. A well-trained employee is more productive than a poorly trained one. Apple's newly opened development centre in Hyderabad is one of its kind. It is the only centre that Apple has outside of North America and Ireland. With five thousand employees, its Hyderabad facility develops maps for Apple. The GIS trained employees needed for this centre are available in Hyderabad through the 31 Apple labs active in various colleges in Telangana.

Similarly, IBM's Bluemix is being taught in many colleges and talks are progressing to start courses on their AI platform IBM Watson. Such other industries as aerospace and defence, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and BFSI are also covered by TASK through various courses.

The success of this program is evident in the feedback. Akin to Samsung, Wipro is a large recruiter in Telangana. Their past feedback pointed towards the poor quality of students who needed more than six months of training to be productive. Training is a direct investment for which the employer seeks returns in the form of better employee productivity. However, after being trained, some of the employees move on to other organizations, which is a loss for Wipro. However, Wipro has found that its hires do not need any more training apart from a fortnight of organizational orientation. This is a huge gain for other organizations that do not have to invest time and money in making their employees productive.

TASK provides a quick fix solution which otherwise would take years. This is vastly different from the half-hearted skill development programmes of the past where a third-party vendor would be handed over the responsibility to provide training.

In order to provide better skill development opportunities to Telangana's youth, TASK has introduced many other initiatives aimed at various subsets of students and professionals in the state. These include:

  1. Better Employability Requires Good Soft Skills - While in technical institutes, students receive little instruction on developing soft skills, such as  interaction with peers, the ability to articulate thoughts with confidence, work in a team and prioritise jobs. The students from state colleges often lack good language skills and a sociable personality. Because of this gap, they are not able to perform well in interviews. Hence, TASK has selected specialised trainers who can teach the students' the necessary soft skills.
  2. Reaching Out to Students in Far Flung Locations - TASK also provides access to remote education by using tools like Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) to reach a higher number of students across the state.
  3. Providing Quality Training by Use of Technology - TASK has started an aerospace course for engine repair meant for polytechnic students. However, the challenge lies in access to a live engine for the students to tinker with. The issue has been solved by using AR-VR technology. With augmented and virtual reality tools, the students can get a feel of repairing engines without touching one.
  4. Training with Small and Medium Enterprises - TASK works with SMEs at its own cost. This has become a strong USP for the state of Telangana. They also have programmes lined up for various segments like unemployed resources or existing professionals.

Skills development is an exercise that should lead to an increase in meaningful employment and should be a fruitful exercise for every organization. TASK provides a scalable model of skill development for both government agencies and private organizations. Through this model, the government can generate more employability for its youth, while the organizations can get higher productivity from new recruits.

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