Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Narendra Modi government is gearing up to present the next Union Budget in just over a week’s time. India’s aim of becoming self-reliant and a $5 trillion economy will depend a lot on the education and the skill levels of its citizens.
“Currently, there is a mismatch in certain areas between the skills that the industry requires and those possessed by the youth in our country. Hence, the Indian automotive sector may face a huge void if the structured reforms and initiatives are not taken to bridge the demand supply mismatch for the skilled workforce,” said Nikunj Sanghi, Chairman, Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC).
In an exclusive interaction with ETHRWorld, Nikunj Sanghi also talked about how ASDC is doing a lot of training activities, along with the teams of various zones, including holding webinars and launching various courses. Recently, ASDC joined hands with Google India to train over 20,000 auto dealers to bridge the digital skill gap in the country’s auto dealerships and build their capacity in this critical growth driver. Edited excerpts:
Why do you think India’s aim of becoming self-reliant and a $5 trillion economy will depend a lot on skilling? How do you see the current situation of skills development in the country, especially in the space of professional learning and development (L&D)?
As companies embark on their 2021 journey with high hopes of adapting fully to the new normal, upskilling and relearning are catchwords. Although digital disruptions of the past decade had already made both terms buzzwords of the business world, the pandemic-induced headwinds have seen them emerge as one of the differentiators between the successful entities and the also-rans.
Meanwhile, be it services or manufacturing, every sector has realised the importance that advanced technologies play in organisations retaining their relevance and competitive edge. With global supply chains severely impacted by the pandemic-related restrictions, companies have turned to domestic suppliers and, in some cases, even begun the process of indigenous manufacturing. In all such efforts, technology has been the great driver, boosting productivity and maintaining cost efficiencies or even helping begin the steady march towards self-reliance or the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Needless to mention, the skills to drive digital technologies are vital.
At this juncture, the upcoming Union Budget is barely weeks away. As the Centre aims to achieve its objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat, while emerging as a $5 trillion economy, upskilling and reskilling of the workforce is essential, particularly for the youth. Whereas the Centre has introduced many skilling initiatives, collaborations between public and private sector companies can play a major role in skilling/reskilling programmes. Apart from this, the academic curricula must be rebooted to remain in sync with the current realities of the post-pandemic era. While India is renowned for its large talent pool, employers argue that most graduates are unemployable, given the mismatch of their skill sets with industry requirements.
Budget 2021 is the ideal opportunity for the Ministries of Education as well as Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to work in unison to revise the university curricula and skilling programmes as per industry needs. If India seeks to join the comity of nations renowned as knowledge economies, its talent pool must be trained in the relevant digital age skills.
What are some of the challenges in developing and upgrading automotive skills? What skill sets are necessary for 2021, beyond technological skill sets, that will play a key role in enabling job seekers to be a strategic fit for the key roles?
The automotive industry in India is undergoing a transformation because of its sustained growth and profitability. Indian automotive industry currently accounts for 7.1 per cent of the country’s GDP and 49 per cent of the manufacturing output, generating 32 million direct or indirect employment. Based on the Automotive Mission Plan 2019-2026, which is a collective vision of the Government of India and the Indian Automotive Industry, the sector is expected to employ 36 million people by 2026. The automotive industry is known to be highly dynamic with ceaseless innovations pouring in from all over the world, changing the face of the industry as we know it.
To cope with such a transformation, constant skilling, reskilling and upskilling of the existing and future workforce is extremely important. The new jobs, however, are likely to move away from traditional manufacturing and instead be added in the areas of IoT, mechatronics, robotics, 3D printing, AI, machine and deep learning, analytics, virtual collaboration, automotive design, and computational thinking.
Currently, there is a mismatch in certain areas between the skills that the industry requires and those possessed by the youth in our country. Hence, the Indian automotive sector may face a huge void if the structured reforms and initiatives are not taken to bridge the demand supply mismatch for the skilled workforce.
We at ASDC are doing a lot of training activities along with our teams of various zones, including holding webinars and launching various courses. Recently, we joined hands with Google India to train over 20,000 auto dealers to bridge the digital skill gap in the country’s auto dealerships and build their capacity in this critical growth driver.
How do you see the impact of the lockdown on the automotive industry in terms of employment generation? How much time will it take to bounce back to the pre-Covid level?
In the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the Indian automotive industry suffered Rs 2,300 crore loss per day and an estimated job loss in the sector was about 3.45 lakh, according to a parliamentary panel report.
The committee was informed by the auto industry associations that all the major original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have cut down their production by 18-20 per cent due to low demand and decline in sales of vehicles. As a result, the employment scenario in the automobile sector has been affected and the estimated job loss in the auto sector was at 3.45 lakh. Hiring of manpower has been stopped in the auto sector. Besides that various auto dealerships have been closed. Further, production cuts in the automobile sector have a percolating negative impact on the component industry adversely affecting the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) engaged in the automobile spare parts manufacturing, the report states.
Considering the crisis, it is predicted that the automobile industry is likely to go through at least two consecutive years of severe contraction, leading to low levels of capacity utilisation, lack of future CAPEX investment, high risk of bankruptcy and job losses across the entire automotive value chain.
Please share your insights regarding the possibility of huge voids in the automotive industry if the structured reforms and initiatives are not taken to bridge the demand-supply mismatch for the skilled workforce? How to address the mismatch between the skills that the industry requires and those possessed by the youth?
India has been sending representatives to the World Skill Competition which is akin to Olympics in sports. The last one was held in Kazan, Russia. I was there with the automotive team and the Competition was an eye opener. We realized that unless India aligns to the global skilling standards, not only will we be missing the skilling bus but that Atmanirbhar Bharat and global competitiveness will be diffi
In Kazan, the vocational training institutes had students as young as 12 years of age, and they know that they need not be academically qualified to be employed. And to promote this culture, they allow masses of students visit the Competition and give them a guided tour where they can feel the skilling ecosystem around them.
And that is where incubating talent towards skilling starts. This is the path that India needs to take. First, align our skilling standards to global standards, second, start incubating children from their school level into this skilling ecosystem. And finally, give skilling the same dignity which is given to academic degrees.
Change in perception is what is needed where becoming a graduate is thought to be imperative even if the student later on does not get a job. Rather the thought process should be that learning skills to get employed, and become financially independent by making a career out of what has been learnt feels respectable. An entire cultural change is needed. Once this culture sets in, there is no way India can be stopped in becoming a hub for manufacturing, and supplier of skilled talent.
How many people do you plan to place in the industry? What are some of the initiatives in place for the same?
Various skill universities are now coming up which would definitely meet global standards. ASDC is reaching out to various academic institutions and colleges and working with them on additional credits, which can be added to an existing course to get the student trained vocationally in areas like R&D, manufacturing, sales and after sales, which will make the student more acceptable to the industry.
And since these courses will be designed by the ASDC, they will fit the industry requirements. In total we have trained almost 67,814 candidates out of which 60,689 candidates have already passed out.
ASDC has started work on new job roles in the areas of Industry 4.0 for manufacturing and maintenance areas and the entire domain of electric vehicles. We are modifying some of the existing job roles to update the new technological changes and disruptions that have taken place in this industry. We are also starting the second phase of Grow with Google this month to train various automobile dealers in bridging the digital skills gap in the country.