In an interview with businessfortnight.com, IL&FS Education and Technology Services Limited managing director and CEO, RCM Reddy discussed education, employability and employment scenario in India and how institutions like IL&FS are trying to bring about a big change.
Question 1 : Right from kids to youths, and academics to skills, IL&FS has initiated various programmes to achieve better education and employability. Tell us about these initiatives, and how their contribution.
We work in the key areas of Education, Skill Development, Healthcare and Cluster Development for long term and sustainable impact. In fact, our 3E model (Education, Employability and Employment) has been recognized by McKinsey and Company as one of the top two global initiatives aimed at faster and inclusive growth. As far as education is concerned, our vision is to improve the quality of school education by leveraging Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) as a tool. We work with government and private schools in creating digitally equipped schools through computer labs, K-Yan, K-Class, multimedia content and web based applications. School LEAP (Learning Enrichment and Advancement Programme) is a customised school improvement programme incorporating technology and activity based learning to improve learning outcomes (enrolment, attendance, pass percentages, class averages). Besides this, teacher training and supplementary training programmes for students in courses like Life & Health Skills, road safety, financial literacy etc. are also conducted. IL&FS Skills launched Skills Programmes for Inclusive Growth (SPRING), a bouquet of services which address the manpower demand–supply gap. These focus on those Not in Education, Training or Employment (NEET) by addressing the dual challenge of access to quality institutions and affordability by Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) groups. SPRING is delivered through the current network of 44 IIS and 175 ISS in 27 states of India taking skills programmes to the remotest corners of the country. It comprises of the following 6 focus areas: Skills for Jobs, Skills Upgradation Skills for Good Governance, Skills for Schools and Colleges, Skills for Trainers and Skills for Entrepreneurship.
Question 2 : One of your recent tie up with a US based online college admissions guidance provider indicates that we still look for quality education to countries like US, UK, Germany, France and Australia. How long will it take to India outbound flow of students?
The concerned tie up does not bear any direct indication to the quality of the education system in any country. The objective of the partnership is targeted towards another plane altogether, which is to facilitate college admission procedures that can become complex, especially since parents usually do not have the expertise or / and the time to effectively address and complete elaborate admission procedures with their children, in addition to other factors like a drop in the student-counsellor ratio and, thereby, a possible decrease in quality time a counsellor may spend with a prospective candidate. Though the partnership is in its initial phase, the response has been good, as families feel comfortable interacting with a vetted CollegeVine consultant, who has been well trained and is part of the US education system.
Question 3 : You are a former IAS officer and have closely worked with government projects. There is a clear gap between public and private sector mind sets. How is it affecting education and employability in India?
I believe that it is paramount that synergies between both sectors, public and private, are amalgamated to serve an objective, which is of common importance to both, and for the benefit of the country. The Public Private Partnership or PPP model gives us the ‘best of both worlds’. With an aim to recognize skill development as a national priority, and the need to involve the private sector in the up-gradation of skills training institutes, the government has embraced the idea of Public Private Partnership in developing skills of the youth of India. It is envisaged that the private sector will work as an active partner in every stage of developing, designing and implementing skills training programmes. The National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) was launched at the behest of the industry in 2009, with an aim to skill 150 million people in 20 high-growth sectors by 2022, through a three pronged approach, revolving around creating, funding and enabling sustainable skills training initiatives in the private sector. Numerous corporates, education institutes and social entrepreneurs have shown keen interest to align with NSDC for setting up skilling projects or hiring skilled workers at all levels.
Question 4 : Under employment too is a big issue; do you have any plan to address it?
An important aspect is to understand the cause of under employment. Here is a food-for-thought: while about 13 million youngsters join the workforce in India every year, the labour ministry reports that less than one out of four MBAs, one out of five engineers and one out of ten graduates are employable. This goes to prove an important point: the fact that there exists a gap between education, employability and employment. India’s vast unorganized sector continues to employ unskilled labour, which costs industries heavily. What is the solution? In simple words, bridging the gap between the three important pillars: education, employability and employment. Coming to the latter two components: our skills interventions are based on some key principles that ensure scalability and replicability, making it a global best practice. Our network of 1000 plus placement partners across sectors and locations links each trainee to a job. These are secured before the commencement of the programme. Our content is designed in consultation with industry partners, and is mapped to the National Skills Qualification Framework in order to make trainees industry ready. In addition, technology intervention, holistic development and on the job training ensure an all-round development. Besides this, certification by the Sector Skill Councils, international awarding bodies and globally recognized assessment agencies raises the employability of students. All these factors have ensured a 75% placement record since inception, with the remaining not taking up jobs due to personal reasons or embarking on an entrepreneurship mode. Most importantly, our role does not end with placement, but post placement tracking and career counselling are an integral part of our skills value chain.
Question 5 : Last September, IL&FS and cable television service provider Hathway had launched TVTeacher, an educational service channel catering to children, youth and home makers. What has been the reach and response so far?
TVTeacher is an educational service channel in partnership with Hathway. The channel features a combination of curriculum aligned school content, vocational education and spoken English modules, bringing schooling and education, round the clock, to every home. The channel was launched in September last year and has been able to attract many subscribers within a short span of time.
Question 6 : The World Bank is allocating $250 million to help the Indian government in its Skill India programme; your take on it, please?
It has been given to understand that the objective of the project is to enhance institutional mechanisms for skill development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for the work force, in addition to providing market relevant training to the youth, thereby enhancing their employability potential. Keeping this in mind, I feel that this step will help in giving further impetus to the Skill India mission and its various programmes.