Friday, 27 April 2012

Bridging the skills gap in today’s economy

-by Vishwajit Singh

In this era of high-paced growth and dynamic investment in India, the demand for skilled labour across many industries has definitely increased. The shortage of appropriately skilled labour has emerged as a significant and complex challenge to India’s growth and future. 

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the PACE center in Chembur, a suburban neighborhood in eastern Mumbai, which is preparing youth from low income backgrounds in skills which are in high demand in the Indian labour market.

PACE is an initiative of Pratham Institute for Literacy, Education and Vocational Training which views education as an effective tool for bringing social change through community development.
The PACE center in Chembur currently offers courses in English, Marathi, personality development, basic mathematics, banking and taxation, tally, hardware and networking, mobile repairing and has a beauty centre offering beautician courses. It caters to youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who have not had access to formal education or have studied only up to grade 8. The courses, which usually last for 2-4 months and are conducted from morning to evening in different batches, provide them with greater access to the job market and enable them to meet the growing demands of the Indian labour market. The centre has 15 qualified trainers who provide not only theoretical knowledge but also practical training and help students raise their aspirations for the future. According to the centre in charge Ajit - we need more such centers for youth from low income backgrounds to improve their income generation opportunities and to bridge the skills gap .The centre so far has been able to secure jobs for more than 75% of its students in related industries. Many students also pursue higher education after completion of these foundation courses.

Jaya Sheikh, a resident of Mysore, Karnataka who shifted to Mumbai to look for employment opportunities in the unorganized sector said “I found out about the centre from a friend and joined the foundation course. I had always dreamt of speaking in English and learning computer skills and now my dream has come true.”  She seemed quite confident in her ability to secure a good job, having now learnt basic conversational English and computer skills.

Having spent some time talking to students and trainers and seeing their commitment and motivation levels, I am confident that the center will continue to grow in the future and achieve its mission of training youth from low income backgrounds in different vocations and help bridge the skills gap in today’s economy. I look forward to seeing students of this centre improve lives of people in their community and become role models for others like them.

Till my next visit!

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