Swiss skills have made a big difference to productivity

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Skillsonics has been at the forefront of powering the Indian industry. With quality at its core, the training offered by Skillsonics based on the Swiss model and standards has made a huge difference. In this Skill Talk, Prasenjit Kundu, CEO, Skillsonics India Pvt Ltd, shares his vision for impacting India with Swiss skills and apprenticeship programs. Let’s learn more…

Q: How do you rate the potential of Swiss Skills in India and the World?

A: Swiss skills are the recognized global Gold standard. The focus on skills has helped a small country like Switzerland to achieve the first rank in the Global Competitiveness Index. For India, it may create an avalanche of change. The opportunities of a rightful deployment of Swiss Dual Track Vocational education is tremendous. So far SkillSonics India has trained 5,000 people and we are in the process of adding further touchpoints rapidly.

India produces millions of youngsters with university degrees, however they do not have the real-life experience of the skills they might need in the workplace. The academically well performing students try to get jobs with corporates or in the government; but many of them fail due to the lack of necessary skills and cannot get past the interview.

Indian Government has launched multi-facetted skill development programs, such as the Skill India Mission. It was inaugurated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. However, despite all initiatives, experts maintain that young Indian workers still do not have the kinds of skills required to enable them to perform high-value manufacturing jobs that would help to increase their incomes.

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Q: You are implementing Swiss Skills in India. What is the reputation of the dual Swiss apprenticeship system in India? Do companies and people in general know it?

A: Everybody knows Switzerland for its chocolates and scenic beauty. However, not enough concerted marketing efforts have been done in India to propagate high relevance of Swiss vocational training.

Over the last few years, SkillSonics along with Swissmem, the leading association for companies in Switzerland’s mechanical and electrical engineering industries (MEM industries), and SFIVET (Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) have actively worked with a certain section of Industry. However, the visibility of Swiss Skill is still limited beyond these corporates.

Majority of Indian parents view vocational education as cul-de-sac with limited further career enhancement for their offsprings. They are not aware of the fact, that the dual Swiss VET system is permeable. It is an entry point to the world of lifelong learning and accelerated careers. Many of the globally successful Swiss companies have CEOs who started their careers with an apprenticeship. The Indian Government has now recognized the significance of such permeability as well.The forward-looking companies seeking to reach global competitiveness have embraced global standards and processes. Many of them are aware of Swiss Skills, though with somewhat limited depth.

Most of the Indian organizations, though, do not make significant investment in training the blue-collar workers. This is what is holding them back from making ‘Make in India’ a reality.

Q: What are the opportunities you see for Swiss Skills in India and what are the challenges that you are currently facing?

A: The opportunities for Swiss Skills in India are phenomenal. SkillSonics collaborated with companies and built high competency manufacturing personnel for capital goods, automotive and machine tool building industries. This multi-skilled, readily deployable and highly trained workforce has accounted for manifold returns. SkillSonics is now expanding these training programs across various sectors, such as infrastructure, mechatronics and controls, food processing, aviation and defence. Additionally, we are working with the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) and medium scale industries whose need for such skills is critical to their survival.

SkillSonics has also tied up with Academic Institutes for Higher Education to bring forth manufacturing 4.0 skill sets to their Diploma and Engineering Graduate students.

Another opportunity that we are pursuing aggressively is the niche high quality programs – directly delivering ‘aspirational skill sets’ under specific governmental programs, corporate social responsibility initiatives and collaborative COEs with Industry Bodies.

The systemic and cultural bias in the ecosystem creates a challenge: The Government, industry and youth seek quick returns through short duration training programs, and the Government is driven by quantity (scale). However, short duration trainings only equip youth for entry-level jobs and are not suitable for jobs in industry 4.0.  

Q: The Swiss VET system requires a collaboration of companies, schools and the state. How is this working in India today?

A: There is a broader consensus developing towards having ‘skin in the game’ for each stakeholder. SkillSonics has actively collaborated with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and various Sector Skill Councils. Additionally, the national trade associations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) are our close partners. The national apprenticeship program from the Skill Ministry is a big leap forward. The educational institutes are proactively reaching out to us in order to incorporate deep practical oriented courseware. The enabling framework and recognition of such courses (e.g. Bachelor in Vocational Education) are also in the process of being institutionalised.

These collaborations among the stakeholders, however, require much more effort in order to scale up and make a significant impact.

Q: Are you collaborating with Indian institutions when implementing your skilling projects? Do you get support from the Indian Government and Institutions?

A: SkillSonics and our collaboration with various stakeholders are multi-dimensional. We have sought to introduce customisation and appropriate service offerings to facilitate the high quality programs and courseware to different target groups. The Ministry and the NSDC have demonstrated exemplary flexibility and this is a tremendous boost for the future of Swiss skills in India.

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