Swiss vocational training has set global benchmarks in TVET and is regarded as one of the best in the world. India can gain a lot by adapting the Swiss model to meet its unique requirements in skill development. In this Skill Story, G P Chandra Kumar, Founder and CEO, SkillSonics India, engages us in various interesting aspects of this model by sharing his experience in collaborating with Key TVET Swiss organizations Swissmem and SFIVET in implementing various skill development initiatives in India.
Highlights of the Swiss model of TVET
Swiss model is a very successful public-private partnership (PPP) model. Almost 70% of school students opt for vocational education and training after their 9th class. They choose a vocational course, based on their passion for 3 to 4 years, joining as apprentices in companies/organizations across all sectors in Switzerland.
They don’t pay for training during these 4 years, earn a stipend and the industry takes invests in them. Executed in a dual track model, around 15% of time is spent on theory classes in vocational schools run by the state governments, about 50% of time goes into competency based skills training at the company and balance 35% is on production based training. This ensures they are exposed to real life production competencies during the 3-4 years of training. It is quite pragmatic because the practical instructors are usually drawn from the production staff, who know exactly what and how work is to be done and which competency has to be honed, while theory comes from the vocational school run by the government.
Financially, the PPP Model has been designed to ensure that the industry is not burdened. 50% of funding is done by the government and 50% by the industry or companies for the training. However, the production gain from the apprentices during the course ensures that the investment made by the companies is recovered. It is like a win-win situation for both.
The industry sectors define both the content and curriculum of the course which means it is very close to what the industry wants, it is demand based and the assessment is driven by the sector to ensure the right quality. This reduces the mismatch between the industry and the outcome of the course.
Making vocational education aspirational
How can vocational jobs become aspirational without decent livable salaries? In Switzerland the difference between academic and vocational route is very low. It is equally attractive for anyone to specialize in a particular vocation. India is different, our costs, history and work culture is very different. With the abundance of people we think we can get away with low salaries which happen purely because of demand-supply principles which should not apply to people. We should start moving towards paying not based on our high population but based on the competencies and contributions of the workers if we have to compete globally and also raise the standard of living for our working population.
Switzerland is a small country with a fairly low population and it is necessary that every skill needed is encouraged and every person is trained at the highest skill level for that job role. They are trained to compete globally from a young age.
Modernization of ITIs
Initially, we worked closely with the ITIs in Karnataka and Maharashtra, but our intervention was more at the trainer level; we have trained and certified trainers with Swiss TOT courses. They were well suited as theory teachers. Many steps need to be taken to bring ITIs to international standards. It starts with the trainers, they need to be exposed to the current methods and processes from the industry and the training should be holistic. Equipment required for training is not up to the mark, the raw materials is not enough and the machine to student ratio in ITI is very low. While the curriculum and content is broad and good, the implementation, the exams are weak and that is what makes the outcome weak.
Our model of training enablement and implementation
We collaborate with training organizations to help them take the training to a global level. We are positioned as knowledge partners to institutes, companies, CSR initiatives who want to execute and deliver training at a high quality level. Our Services include training of trainers, training of examiners, skills consulting, and licensing our courseware ( 100+ courses) required to deliver training. We also handhold the training institutes to ensure they are implementing the program in our recommended methodology and quality. Our assessments team develops and implements assessments on a Swiss approach based on very high standards.
We also have courses driven by NSDC/Sector Skill Council definitions of the courses for Indian conditions. We offer those courses with recognized national certifications. We have also have short Skill Upgrade courses out of the same Swiss model for upgrading the skills for existing technicians in the industry. We have invested a lot of money and time into courseware development.
SkillSonics’ success stories
For example, in Gujarat, a multinational company was facing a situation where in the next 5 years a lot of old workers were going to retire and they decided to invest in an internal apprenticeship based training center with our knowhow and courses. Now every year they are taking 10 to 20 people and running a 2 year program and inducting them in manufacturing. A well trained youngster is able to replace a senior worker with higher and broader skills needed for the future. This has been a very successful skill initiative based on their internal needs. Another company had 100 employees and 200 contractors for fabrication and welding. They decided to improve the productivity and quality of their employees by investing in a training program. Today, these training youngsters are replacing expensive contractors successfully.
We did an interesting project with ACC Cement. They have around 18 plants across India. One of their groups of critical workers were – maintenance technicians. We jointly developed a series of short program on work skills and technical skills in mechanical, electrical and instrumentation areas. We trained more than 3000 existing staff across the country and they have seen a big improvement in attitude and productivity since then..
We’ve been in the Indian skills arena since 2008. We started with a pilot project to adapt and adopt the Swiss model in India. This gave us clarity on the way we can expand in India. We are now in a unique position where we are able to bring international level quality at fairly competitive Indian prices. That’s our strength. Having an exclusive partnership with Switzerland and with equity and loan arrangement with NSDC In India, we offer both international and Indian certifications to the market. We will be expanding to reach more organizations with our courseware through a licensing model in least 100 locations in the country in the near future.