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MINDING THE GAP

Manufacturing skills gap is an issue that is being jointly addressed by the industry and the education system with a view to create a more skilled workforce
 Manufacturing skills gap is an issue that the industry takes seriously and chooses to address. Skilled labour is still defined by educational curriculum and needs of the industry, though the priority of the industry is to stay relevant in a globally competitive business environment
Manufacturing in IndiaThe manufacturing sector is growing at a phenomenal rate in India and expected to grow at three times at its current rate by 2022. The manufacturing industry, which spans several sectors, is rapidly shaping our country. The sector has some great and promising things in store. The manufacturing sector can grow with various government initiatives as well as an economy that complements its growth. Manufacturing sector is about to boom with foreign investors seeing interest in emerging economies like India.
Technologies are growing at a fast rate along with high adoption rate. India is using several technologies developed in the west. Many Indian companies are adopting these technologies created in developed nations. There are also a certain shortcomings in terms of what these technologies have to offer our country and our economy.
Challenges of obtaining skilled labourThe Indian education system is known for producing talented engineers. However, globalisation has made the education system to catch up with the developed world as they offer courses that are tailor made for the industry. However, this is a new trend. India produces lakhs of engineering graduates, and according to the industry they lack necessary skills that make them competitive globally. Though a section of Indian engineering graduates are driving innovation globally, a problem of skill gap in manufacturing needs to be addressed.
Contribution to the economySadananda Koppalkar, Manager, Makino India, has interesting points to share on the state of manufacturing in the country, “Our country stands today as a strong one among the emerging economies of the world. A stable political environment and improvement in India’s macro economics – such as a sharp reduction in the Current Account Deficit (CAD) in fiscal 2014, a sharp decline in inflation in fiscal year 2015, and expectations of a return to over 6 per cent growth in fiscal year 2016 – have morphed into a significant ‘pull factor’ for capital flows.”
Mr Koppalkar says, “India’s manufacturing share [in GDP] is 13 per cent compared to China’s 32 per cent, Thailand’s 33 per cent and looking at developed countries, Germany is 22 per cent, Singapore is 20 per cent, Japan is 18 per cent.”  He adds “To achieve over 20 per cent contribution to GDP, manufacturing segment has to undergo a process change with regard to technology and support to customers. India stands a good chance in the global market, especially in high-end manufacturing. However, we cannot compete with China as a mass production hub due to the sheer scale of investments that have been made in China.”
Communicating ideas effectively Ameer Ahamed Munaff, MD, FEIN Power Tools India, shares some interesting and compelling points on the manufacturing skills gap. He tells, “Manufacturing touches every aspect of our lives. Manufacturers must use creative solutions to improve the way they attract the new generation skilled workers. The severe shortage of highly skilled manufacturing work force is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. A lot of experienced people who have worked in the manufacturing sector for many years are either of retirement age or moving to other avenues. The younger generation is moving towards white collared jobs.”
Focus on high-skilled workers for high returnsSpeaking of manufacturing in the Indian scenario, Koppalkar says, “The workers can be classified into four categories: low skilled, semi skilled, skilled and high skilled. To necessitate ‘high end’ manufacturing, we need to have well trained and highly knowledgeable manpower. Currently, we have low-skilled and semi-skilled category in 80 per cent. For India to be a high-end manufacturing hub, we should look at 20 per cent of workmen who can yield 80 per cent in returns, very similar to IT industry.”
Limiting his suggestions to the CNC machine tools industry, Mr Koppalkar says, “Across the industrial segment, the potential of the human resource versus its utilisation is only 30 to 40 per cent. This gap exists due to huge knowledge gap between the expert and operator. The industries have to come forward to establishing state-of-the-art technical centres for training manpower.”
Training programmes towards changing the scenarioMr Koppalkar speaks of Makino’s efforts in training unskilled labour. He speaks of the Makino Technical Training Centre in Bangalore. Mr Koppalkar says, “The training centre is an investment by Makino towards creating technical talent pool. This model has worked well for more than 8 years and we have trained and skilled people who are now placed at manufacturing industries in India and aboard.” The candidates of the training centre undergo on the job training at Makino facilities in India following critical parameters, including specific skill set to move up the value chain and learning curve. Each industry requires a specific skill set, and the curriculum should be tailored to suit the needs of the industry. Once we achieve where we have to be, we need to look into how to scale up this model. To this he adds “This way more industries will be benefited and bring the high-value manufacturing standards to global level.”
Speaking of skill development programmes, Munaff says, “Manufacturing companies must identify existing employees or recruit new people who could be trained to fill existing gaps. They must invest in training their employees. Capable employees lead to better production. A talented workforce is necessary for a business to remain competitive.”
Government initiative towards skill developmentThe National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC) is a PPP model to promote skill development through funding initiatives for creation of large, quality oriented, profit-based vocational institutions. Its goal is also to enable support systems such as quality assurance, information systems and train the trainer academies either directly or through partnerships. NSDC helps in providing funding to enterprises, companies and organisations that provide skill training. It will also develop appropriate models to enhance, support and coordinate private sector initiatives. The goal of the NSDC is to create a large talent pool through creation of training institutes. These training institutes will create a talent pool in our country that will help in attracting private investment.
The goal of the NSDC is create a talent pool that matches to global standards by involving the industry and develop a solid framework for standards, curriculum and compliance. The NSDC programme has already partnered with several private institutes involved in training to promote development of skills that contribute to our economy. The NSDC has 31 sector skill councils (SSCs) with over 136 training partners spread across 2009 training centres. The NSDC has a training capacity of 15 million candidates in a year.
Calling for a change of perception Mr. Munaff says, “Manufacturers must be more proactive in communicating that this industry can be a desirable and rewarding career path. Manufacturers can point out that by using skills, employees get to use the latest innovations and cutting-edge technology to create tangible and meaningful products. Globally, there are countless number of workers who lack new skills and motivation to match up to global standards and they are not  entirely responsible for it.”
On a more concluding note, it would be good to say that the manufacturing skills gap, which is a serious problem, is being addressed at all levels. Manufacturing skills gap is being addressed by the industry through training programmes. Also, another thing is that changes in the curriculum are required to address this problem.

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