ASDC’s Nikunj Sanghi: 'Real skilling will happen in India when the National Apprenticeship Programme picks up pace.'

by Mayank Dhingra 30 Dec 2019

As India Auto Inc gears up to tackle the growing challenge of up-skilling a large portion of its current manpower that is deemed unfit to adapt to the futuristic systems and tools of the modern-day shopfloor, the roles of skilling institutions, industry and government initiatives are of utmost importance in developing a stronger workforce ready to take on tomorrow. 

Armed with essential know-how and technical skills to master the art of manufacturing, repair as well as managing different operations across the automotive value chain, these re-skilled workers will then power industry and the nation through a global transition that is engulfing all walks of life, given the accelerated advancements in technology. 

With automation in the industry is on the upswing from full-scale robotics to collaborative robots and more, there are fears of blue-collared jobs being under the threat of technology. According to Nikunj Sanghi, Chairman, Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC), “It is definitely going to be a concern area. In fact, the draft E&Y report commissioned by ASDC has it that there will be some amount of job losses coming in because of automation. However, certain new things like AI and robotics will create new perspectives of employment as well.”

Sanghi also talks about a lot of up-skilling required to keep people relevant and says that industry should not look at retrenchments but try up-skilling people to keep them employable and a part of the ecosystem. Sanghi has made quite a difference after taking charge at ASDC in September 2017. “The ASDC is engaging with industry a lot better now compared to what it was doing some two years ago. There’s a day-and-night difference,” claims Sanghi.

“With Hyundai, Tata Motors, Mahindra, Hero MotoCorp, Honda Cars, Toyota, Bosch, Sandhar and now Minda, across the board, we have done a lot of industry tie-ups over the past year. We have also created ‘Expert Groups’ within ASDC,” he adds.

The two most crucial expert groups in ASDC — sales and aftersales — see representation from OEMs of all vehicle segments. “The members of these groups are presently doing an exercise on national occupational standards (NOS) and quality packages (QPs), and are reviewing current job profiles, as well as amalgamating and updating different job roles to streamline dealership operations. We plan to finish this exercise before end-FY2020. The updated standards will be sent to the government for validation and approvals, and after that validated by a team of minimum 60 dealerships across India. Only then will a concrete change be brought about,” he explains.

ASDC also has expert groups with industry representation on manufacturing and R&D as well, which is more towards catering to the needs of OEMs and ancillaries. “The most critical aspect of ASDC is to oversee that the industry is working collectively on this exercise,” says Sanghi.

Leveraging tech in curriculum and assessment
The skilling council is actively leveraging technology in terms of curriculum and assessment of students. “We are leveraging technology in a huge way and putting it in every sphere in which ASDC is working. After much deliberation, we have been able to sign a MoU with TCS Ion, which is into providing assessment and training services, and has developed a digital platform to assess both trainers and students, without any human intervention. This is one very big step that we have taken and it took 18 months to on-board TCS Ion, with no money being put into the project from either ASDC or the government. Close to 10,000 pilot assessments have been done so far in the system,” reveals Sanghi.

TCS is also creating a digital learning hub wherein a lot of the content is being uploaded, part of which will be free to download and part made available at a very nominal cost. The third technological intervention that ASDC is making is creating a listing platform where all employers can upload their future requirements in every geographical location, along with a number of vacancies. All this information will be available to the training partners who are today giving random training.

“Thus, they will in future be able to better judge which course would fetch better demand from industry and make the platform act as an exchange between students and employers,” explains Sanghi. “The platform should be complete by end-January 2020, but the challenge would be to build trust with industry regarding supply of well-trained manpower,” he adds.

Government does a rethink on short-term skilling
According to Sanghi, “The government is slowly realising that skilling cannot be done through short-term courses. These are not good enough for the industry. Instead, the future of skilling is through apprenticeships. Under the National Apprenticeship Programme, the government is encouraging industry to on-board skilled workmen as apprentices for a minimum period of 12-18 months to impart the requisite training. The government is taking care of these students by offering Rs 1,500 per month as stipend. This is being rolled out through NSDC and each of the sector skill councils. This is when actual skilling will start happening in India,” he concludes.

Also read: ACMA's Deepak Jain: 2019 a year of resilience, Indian suppliers' competence powers OEMs in Mission BS VI 

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