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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Seturaman Mahalingam or “Maha”, as he is better known, is Chairman of CII’s Council on Skill Development. He started his professional career with TCS in 1970. In his four decade long association with TCS, he has been involved in myriad aspects of the company’s operations and growth, before being appointed its Chief Financial Officer in February 2003 and Executive Director in August 2007.
Mahalingam’s experience during the formative years of the IT industry in the 1970s and 1980s, has given him a significant standing within the IT industry. He is a former chairman of the Southern Region of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India’s apex industry body as well as a fellow of the Computer Society of India. In 2006,  he was conferred the “CFO of the Year” award announced by International Market Assessment (IMA). He was also the winner of CNBC TV18’s Best Performing CFO Award in the Technology Sector for 2007. In an exclusive interview with India Education Review he shares his views about the Skill Development sector in India and the target set by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of skilling 500 million people by 2022. He also sheds light on the role of CII in achieving this target.
Q. How do you see CII helping in bridging the skill gap in India?
Mahalingam - The problem that you face as far as skill gap is concerned, if you leave out the government portion is all filled by the industry and therefore there is a need. CII is addressing a number of things like first, what are the gaps in skills across the nation in various areas because each of the state and each of the area through a study and therefore we understand the dimension of the problem that we are dealing with.
The second thing is getting people involved in the whole process of meeting those requirements through Public Private Partnership or getting specific institutions which are oriented towards that. Third, in terms of advocacy or policy matters because you have got many industries involved in it. Fourth is in terms of branding, creating awareness, improving the climate for people to go ahead and choose skill development programmes. We are also working on reviving the apprenticeship act, National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF), occupational standards and advocating for all those kind of things, Apprenticeship is very critical because if you don’t have all those kind of stream that gets coming in through vocational education, through apprenticeship, you will not be able to get people who are required directly by the industry. You are going to have a theoretical kind of a thing which is not going to be the needs of the industry, so that becomes very important.
Q. PMO is taking keen interest in vocational education and skill development, how do you see the growth of vocational education in accordance with the conventional system of education that we have?
Mahalingam - The process that we are going to adopt for India has to be relevant for the country through the approach that we have taken. In order to implement the skill development initiatives, we are looking at number of international models, strengthening the institutions providing vocational education and training like ITIs  these are the areas where we are involved in. We are also creating the skill hubs where multiple trades, training is being provided, and hopefully which are being turned into centres of excellence as well. They are promoting the sector skill councils because they are the ones who are essentially going to determine the types of skills required in that particular sector and then have a qualification process, accreditation process so that we can meet the gap what the industry wants and what we are able to supply.
Q. Please elaborate on CII’s role in forging alliances between the government bodies and industry to provide skilled human resource?
Mahalingam - CII acts as a bridge between government and the industry. So, when the government wants to amend the apprenticeship we need to essentially go and find out the response from the industry people and discuss that and put it forward to the government and tell these are the areas where you would have problem because you are expecting the industry to take up all the responsibility, these are the areas where you need to enhance because need to get much higher number. So those are the kind of interventions we do on behalf of the industries. Similarly in case of government if it says we need certain number of partners for PPP schemes to implement, CII become the agency which propagates those ideas.
Q. Which areas, in your opinion, will require maximum number of skilled workforce by 2020 in India?
Mahalingam - India has to train or retrain 500 million people by 2022 and there are number of sectors which will require maximum skilled manpower. The sectors are construction as it requires huge number, then there is health care which includes not just doctors or surgeons but also a phenomenal number of people who are involved in health care delivery system. There are multiple areas which are suffering because of skilled manpower shortage, the skill need in all these areas needs multi dimensional approach. The skill need has to be addressed right across different areas you cannot just leave that and scale of all the area is very high so there is no priority here, if I talk of IT the area from which I come is to create an ecosystem in India to generate the number. If we go 20 years back there were not many engineers neither there was the requirement but as the need grew many institutions came up providing engineering and all of us have been ensuring that the quality standards of these institutions go up so that the products that they going to produce are going to be suitable for the four months training that we are going to impart to them to make them suitable for our organisations.
Q. Do you think that India has an oversupply of engineers?
Mahalingam -  No, in India there is no over supply there could be demand and supply mismatch because of several reasons. If you look at the number of jobs that are to be created looking at the growth of our nation there is infact shortage therefore there is no such issue as far as India is concerned.
Q. What are your future plans related to CII Council on Skill Development?
Mahalingam - There is a huge number (500 million) which is to be trained in next ten years or so, there will always be new initiatives that will come in, but we are here to ensure that right kind of ecosystem is created for the industry to operate. Whether in terms of government like advocacy or in terms of strengthening the institutions this is where we talk in terms of Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), the PPPs. We have to create a branding of skill development courses as presently people generally attach no prestige to it. Our society sees vocational education as something for those who cannot afford higher education in the conventional system, we need to bring prestige for the people working in the vocational streams or blue collar jobs and that is going to take time. The schools are introducing vocational courses in their system and soon the parents and students would realise that there is a very bright career opportunity in these sectors as well. There is huge demand for skilled people and after they will receive certification they will start getting much more money.  


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