As a country endowed with labour, India’s situation is at best ironic. The rapid economic growth in the past two decades has created huge employment demand and job opportunities, but a shortage of skills is making more people unemployable. India lacks sufficient skilled workers as its existing vocational training system does not target the casual or informal workforce that constitutes over 90 per cent of India’s working population. By 2025, it is estimated that 70 per cent of Indians will be of working age. This ‘demographic dividend’ could give India an edge over the developed countries where a larger segment of the population would by then be past retirement. However, this demographic dividend can easily turn into a demographic disaster if a majority of the working age population remains unemployable due to a lack of skills.
Skills N Careers and it’s Objective
Skills N Careers is co-promoted by Industries Commissionarate, Government of Gujarat and is headquartered in Vadodara. It offers industry oriented short-term training courses (45-90 days), which are designed to fill the skill gap faced by the local industry in their respective areas of operations. Its objective is to meet the demand for skilled industrial workers and thereby create social impact. Simultaneously, it also offers livelihood opportunities to youth from underprivileged sections of society making them part of the inclusive growth of India. The enterprise provides end to end services right from identifying and understanding skill gaps, mobilizing the candidates from the local urban and rural areas, empowering them with industry driven skills and finally providing them employment by partnering with companies. It has engaged experts with 10-30 years of experience in their respective industries to impart training on various topics.
Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL) is an Indian company with global operations in the field of chemicals, crop nutrition and consumer products, headquartered in Mumbai. It is a market leader in providing iodised salt and crop nutrients such as urea and phosphate fertilizers. It undertakes substantial Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives through its social arm Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD). TCSRD involves itself in sustainable community development to ensure a better quality of life for current and future generations. Skills N Career partnered with TCSRD to design and implement an exhaustive skill training program.
Back in 2011, TCSRD identified the problem of lack of livelihoods and skill gaps in their local community, and initiated a new project “sustainable livelihood for rural underprivileged & under educated youth, through vocational training”, as one of their CSR initiatives. With the recommendation of the Government of Gujarat they chose Skills N Careers to be their project implementation partner. Skills N Careers had collaborated with the Gujarat Government in the past to execute some vocational training projects and hence had good reputation among relevant government departments.
As part of this partnership, Skills N Careers first undertook a visit to the villages around Mithapur to conduct a local skill needs assessment of the community. Thereafter, TCRSD mobilized the aspiring and deserving candidates amongst the local community youth for training. The selected candidates went through a short training program on soft skills at TCSRD campus after which they were sent to Skills N Careers residential training program in Vadodara. Here they were divided into groups and sent to different centres based on the courses they wished to pursue such as being a welder/fitter and an electrician. At the time of enrolment, the candidates were also given an option to take up a job through Skills N Careers institute or going back and getting placed through TCSRD. TCSRD reimbursed the entire cost of training along with lodging and boarding facilities (approximately Rs. 11,000 per candidate) and Skills N Careers took care of the health and well being of the candidates during the training period.
Benefits to the Social Enterprise
Upscale and Expansion
As the training and lodging expenses were borne by the company, the partnership provided an opportunity to expand their existing infrastructure and build more capacity in terms of training as well as lodging facilities. As the number of candidates sent by TCSRD was much larger than the normal intake of Skills N Careers, they were able to leverage this opportunity to scale up services. Their capacity intake and maintenance was strengthened by the support from TCSRD.
Promptness in Payments
Tata Chemicals, being a private sector company, was able to nullify the effects of procrastination and administrative delays which is otherwise widespread in a public sector companies. The payments to Skills N Careers were realized much earlier than the payment realization from other government projects where Skills N Careers had partnered with municipal corporations.
In addition to the above benefits, the partnership with such a reputed company, provided Skills N Careers with great amount of visibility throughout India, and hence an increase in the number of clients approaching the institute. It developed as a classic case study for “CSR through skill development for sustainable non-farm & off-farm livelihood opportunity for rural Indians” and increased the confidence of Skills N Careers to approach other conglomerates for similar partnerships. The partnership was also reported in the ‘Annual Sustainability Report of Tata Chemicals’.
There was a time when I used to toil day and night and earn a meagre Rs. 3000 against the Rs. 5500 I earn now. I am really thankful to TSCRD for making me a skilled worker and thus improving my standard of living.
Benefits to the Corporate Partner
The objective of spending CSR funds on a meaningful project that had a sustainable social impact was achieved. Providing the youth with relevant skills training and employment helped address the problem of unemployment in the communities where the company operates. Moreover, providing livelihood opportunity to a youth translated into supporting the entire family that is dependent on their salaries.
Tata Chemicals major value take away from this partnership was an effective and efficient CSR program which provided livelihood to unemployed youth from the local community around the company’s plant. Being a very successful program, the company’s reputation in the local community was also strengthened which in turn helped the business move towards a more sustainable future.
- From October 2011 till December 2012, more than 250 students were trained in various trades and were given employment within Tata Chemicals or with other companies.
- 250 families received financial support as one member of their family was now employed.
- Provided livelihood to retired people from different trades like welding etc., who worked as trainers for training the youth.
The social enterprise was required to diversify and expand its training modules according to the varying demands of the corporate partner. The corporate partnership helped Skills N Careers to identify the demand of specific skills that were initially not part of their services. For instance, a number of youths identified by Tata Chemicals aspired to be mobile repairers, salesmen/women, etc. Also the corporate partner wanted some courses for aspiring young ladies. The social enterprise had nothing specific to cater such needs earlier. The need for such tailor-made training modules was brought to light as a result of the partnership.
Proper Allocation of Resources
TCSRD sent batches of 15 students for training which required large hostel capacities. But once the training period ended, the lodging facilities remained unutilized. The social enterprise needs to create programs that are long-term and sustainable. The training centres should look to partnering with more companies and creating programs that run perennially. A large amount of infrastructure had been created to accommodate youth mobilized by TATA Chemicals but the challenge is to make optimum use of these facilities to create maximum impact.
Corporate partnerships for vocational training adopt a give and take approach. As part of their CSR initiatives, corporates can identify the employment needs of their local community and mobilize youth for skill development. At the end of the training programme provided by the social enterprise, the skills of the trained workers are pumped back into the system to contribute to the working of the company or cater to other industry needs in general. Hence, such a partnership is a win-win for all the stakeholders.