By training more than 5000 people across the country on welding simulators, with more than 25 successful installations at a wide range of customers, Skillveri has already made a significant positive impact on Make in India project. In this Skill Story, we catch up with Sabarinath C Nair, co-founder Skillveri , to capture their journey so far in using innovative touchscreen technology to create trained workforce in welding skills. The simulators are fully indigenously developed and tested at IIT Madras by Sabarinath and co-founder Kannan Lakshminarayan.
Welding as a skill
Our expertise is more in understanding practical skills and delivering it through simulators. Welding cannot be taught using a video. It is a hand skill involving dexterity. Learners use different sense organs to take the input and use their hands to get the output. Simulators work best because it involves simultaneous application of audio, visual and haptic feedback corresponding to the senses of hearing, seeing and touching.
Welding and wages
Welding is a hard skill and it is high in demand. It is relatively simpler training to get employed in manufacturing sector. So, normally what we find is that people would get Rs.4000 to Rs. 5000 on an average without training and skill development, but if you give them 2 to 4 weeks of training, they become eligible to earn at least Rs. 10000 per month.
Installation costs, maintenance and long term investment
We have a culture of cutting costs for training. Of course, there is a cost component here, so it’s definitely seen as a burden, our equipment costs between 8 lakhs to 16 lakhs, as a onetime investment, upfront. There’s no maintenance cost. The other fact remains that if you have a training need then you would spend 12 – 15 lakhs on steel every year and related and other materials in conducting traditional classroom sessions.
Most of the training centers have started using our equipment very well. We are also trying to complement the training center’s ability with our own trainers and our own equipment.
How are simulators making a difference?
The advantage with simulators is that you save on the cost of training. Many other manufacturing skills are costly to practice. Many industrial equipments are not meant for training purposes, they are meant to be used for production. It doesn’t give corrective feedback, if they are doing something wrong, unless the training institute has invested in very sophisticated equipment, you won’t know what went wrong. If you don’t have a good instructor you’ll not even know where you’ve gone wrong. Simulators can measure these things, something which you can’t see and tell you also how to do it right to get the desired quality and consistency.
Jobs, placement and manufacturing industry
The demand is very high for skilled welders in manufacturing industry. At the same time, the immediate need to prepare someone to start earning. Even though there are government programs with one-year timeframe, the opportunity cost is very high for a long course. So, to attract people to join our program we tell them you will lose, at the most, two weeks of productive time or earning. Since the demand is high we can quickly convert someone from unemployable to employable.
- Path breaking technology based training interventions in a highly sensory skill like welding
- A positive impact on making welding aspirational -hard skill that is high in demand in the manufacturing industry; 90% of welding workforce remaining informally trained or learned on the job
- Customers include training providers, training academies and noted manufacturing companies like Ashok Leyland, Digboi, Daimler and Titan
Issues with welding training at ITIs
Even if you go to a government ITI, we find that the allotment for practical component is very less. Typical allotment for an ITI is Rs.120 per month per student when it comes to welding they may not get even two pairs of plates per student – whereas in a month they ought to have practiced on 30.
Technology adoption in training
Initially, our idea was to focus solely on technology and leave it to the proper training folks to deliver. In some cases, they require additional help, so in our vested interest and also general good for society, we end up doing a lot more. For example, we were tying up with training providers who were implementing government schemes; they genuinely required help to execute their training plans.
- Social status wise, welding is not be that great or lucrative to pursue. Nobody wants to be a welder. Everybody wants to work in an AC environment using a PC. Standing for long hours in a smoky environment, fear of loss of eyesight – such concerns for health and safety can be addressed with proper safety gear.
- Training centers don’t find people coming in. There are some wrong notions regarding what they earn. If they do well they can earn as much as an engineer.
- In skills like welding you find very few trainers, because if you are a skilled welder you’d make far more money doing a job than being a trainer. So we found that companies willing to invest in training are very few, but whoever wanted to train, they were finding genuine challenges to execute, so we decided to help them with training and simulators by packaging both.
The road ahead
In the manufacturing sector in India, training has been neglected for long, particularly by SMEs and MSMEs. Now there’s talk about Make in India. If you look at NSDC training partners, 90% of them are in the services sector. We found a genuine large need in the hard skills training. We are looking at other skills – industrial spray painting is a skill in high demand, similarly jewelry making also involves soldering of gold, these are good candidates to develop simulators. We also find it useful for training in entry level paramedic skills like taking a blood sample, or inserting a catheter. In these skills, practice cost is actually very high and often training happens on real patients!