Odisha has been at the forefront of many pathbreaking initiatives in skilling the youth to make them employable. Skill Development Institute (SDI) Bhubaneswar is a mega model skilling institution engaged in training programs for many industry sectors, besides hydrocarbon sector . As the institute is gearing up to expand and scale up when they move to the new campus, we spoke with Mr. N.N. Rao, CEO, SDI – Bhubaneswar to learn more about the current engagements and plans for the future to make Odisha skill capital of India. Let’s learn more about the institute in this Skill Story.
Q: Tell us about SDI Bhubaneswar. How did the oil PSUs come forward in setting up?
A: The Skill Development Institute (SDI) Bhubaneswar is a unique collaborative initiative from the oil PSUs as a part of CSR to provide skill training to unemployed, underprivileged youth and to assist in job placements. The institute was inaugurated in May 2016 by the Chief Minister of Orissa and the then Minister of State of Petroleum Shri Dharmendra Pradhan. Since inception, SDI has grown from strength to strength, adding a diverse range of courses including one exclusively for girls.
We started with just two courses in Electrical and Welding. Later, five more courses were added and currently seven courses are being offered to more than 200 students in our pilot campus. Our skill development programs are offered in partnership with renowned industries, corporates and individual skill development institutes. We partner with a number of highly ranked organizations. We also ensure our graduates receive a quality education that helps them in building their careers.
Now, we also have a Sector Skill Council (SSC) for the oil and gas industry. The Hydrocarbon Sector Skill Council (HCSSC) has been formed for developing the skilled manpower in the Oil and Gas industry; it is the culmination of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which started in 2015. At that time, the government felt the need to focus on developing skilled manpower across India to take the advantage of demographic dividend. Accordingly, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG) advised all oil companies to improve the skills of manpower engaged directly and indirectly.
A study was conducted to identify skill gaps and job roles and the decision to create SDIs for developing skilled manpower was made in 2015. More than 100 unique job roles were identified. In the same year, a decision was taken to set up six Skill Development Institutes (SDIs) for oil and gas industry. The study also brought out the need for more than a million people at different skill levels in the next 10 years in Oil and Gas industry.
Q: There are six SDIs operating from different states. How is SDI Bhubaneswar different from others?
A: SDIs were planned as mega model skill institutions with world-class standards. We not only cater to local requirement but also to neighbouring states. SDI Bhubaneswar has been mandated to cater to Odisha, eastern region, north-east region and parts of south India. For SDI Bhubaneswar, IOCL is the anchor investor with 30% of funding requirement and other funds come from other PSUs.
The SDI pilot campus has the capacity to run 6 to 7 courses for about 180 students which is just about half an acre. The government of Odisha has allotted a 60 acre land free of cost and finally 46.17 acres were handed over to us. We have plans to train fifty thousand candidates there in 20 regular courses for 3 months to one year duration not only in just Hydrocarbon sector courses but also skill courses for future skills, for local industry and exclusive courses for girls and soft skills etc. It will be a self-sufficient campus with facilities including classrooms, hostels, workshops, sports area, staff quarters for providing excellent skill education in India. The construction of the buildings is in progress and the courses are likely to commence in the next financial year
Technology is going to change learning experience, and SDI has plans to provide the best of campus and learning management solutions to provide holistic student development in our new campus. We have plans to provide futuristic smart modern class rooms with interactive learning experience to students.
Q: Are you also planning to cater to engineering students and what are your views about migration for placements?
A: We are also working with academic institutions to identify certain advanced skill courses in high end technology and niche areas for engineering students in the areas like Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing and courses related to entrepreneurship development. We feel most of those who complete engineering do not have job-ready skills, we hope to cater to their need so that they are able to get proper placements in the industry.
Based on our experience in the pilot campus, we observed that more than 90% of placements happen outside Odisha. Hence, we are proactively preparing students so that they are ready to migrate out of Odisha for getting a job. We are also interfacing with interested companies to come and interact with the students in order to familiarize them with the real work environment. Some of our students also get overseas placements. So far, we have placed 8 students in Middle East and few offers are in pipeline. The population of youth is very high in India. Everyone would not be able to find jobs in Odisha or even in India, so we have plans to run exclusive skill courses with overseas placement opportunities.
Q: What are the challenges in mobilising the students?
A: The issue of mobilization is affecting all the stakeholders in the skill ecosystem. Even the government agencies are finding it difficult to mobilise students; there are too many government schemes.
Our vision is to promote SDI as a brand and attract the right students. We are going to have an entrepreneurship and incubation centre with tie-ups with banks and financial institutions so that students get loans for entrepreneurship. We have so far assisted eleven students to start their entrepreneurship journey. Six of the students are doing exceptionally well.
Our mobilisation is done by creating awareness and buzz through advertisement in print media and social media and conduct an entrance exam across 20 Districts of Odisha for selection of the students for the courses offered by SDI. In our new campus we would like to run the courses across all segments, giving scope for vertical and horizontal mobility for the students. We get about 2000 applications for writing the tests, we shortlist them based on their scores, check their KYC, offer personal counselling, gauge their interest levels and only then we select the candidates. We are creating a demand (pull-power rather than push) so they find value in joining SDI Bhubaneswar.
Q: What are your views about connecting basic level skilling and upskilling with higher education?
A: Everyone is not in a position to complete his or her schooling and higher education due to various constraints. This could be due to various reasons such as family, financial situation or individual abilities. These people who have dropped or discontinued their studies should be given an opportunity to study further and get jobs. The skill development initiative of the Government of India (GOI) is a unique opportunity for these candidates to get employment with good remuneration based on their Industry-ready skill sets.
At present, all skill development activities are happening in bits and pieces, there is no aggregation or consolidation. As we go forward, state government or central government should facilitate skill development activities in a more structured manner. Perhaps we should form a consortium and avoid duplication of courses; everyone should run unique courses. I believe each and every candidate is unique and his or her selection of courses depends on interest and knowledge levels. Right candidates from various segments of population based on eligibility and interest levels should be identified. The recognition of skill courses in the industry is still a question mark, due to quality aspect. In the last two years, there has been lot of standardisation and improvement in this aspect.
In the current scenario, there is a lot of duplication, even ITI courses are run by skill development institutes in different formats and names and they are losing importance. Everyone should run exclusive courses. The recognition of skill development courses in the market is still an issue. The courses should target students of various segment based on their eligibility, interest, background profile etc. with unique curriculum. Technology is redefining the requirement of skilled manpower. In our main campus, we plan to run courses at all levels so that there is vertical and horizontal mobility. We will also run future skill courses in AI, 3D printing, Digital Imaging, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality etc. We have plans to run courses for degree students and post-graduate students who are not able to get jobs with their existing qualifications.
Q: How will apprenticeship help and ensure more industry participation?
A: All skill courses should be industry-oriented, meeting practical job requirements with the involvement of industry. When there is a great difference between the course curriculum and industry requirements, the employability index of the students goes down drastically. Hence, there is a steady push for industry involvement through National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), with incentives for companies to engage at least 2.5% of their employees as apprentices. Apprenticeship will also familiarise the students with unique aspects of every industry with work-integrated training. Ideally, the students should be absorbed by the same companies, to fill available job roles. We have also initiated discussions with companies for placing our students as apprentices.