November 2016

Skilling young India

Tata Strive aims to bridge the gap between an under-skilled youth segment and the talent vacuum in the Indian economy

Over the past quarter of a century, India has been undergoing an economic transformation like never before, and yet the country is home to millions of earnest and employment-hungry youngsters who are unable to get jobs.

This is the challenge being addressed by Tata Strive, a pan-India initiative aimed at arming the country’s young with the skills needed to improve prospects and secure jobs in the industries of today. Tata Strive’s mission is to train youngsters in both soft and work skills and make them readily employable — and hence, also addressing industrial India’s other concern, the shortage of skilled talent.

With two-thirds of its population under 35 years of age, India is one of the youngest countries in the world from a demographic perspective. Cashing in on this demographic dividend is critical to India and its ambitions.

Focused skill sets
Tata Strive is a manifestation of the Tata group’s belief that harnessing the collective expertise of its companies and combining their efforts to strengthen India’s skilling ecosystem can lead to perceptible difference in the community. Through Tata Strive, the Tata group has sought to equip people in the 18-35 age bracket with skills that are relevant to industry.

Tata Strive is aligned with the 25 ‘sectors of focus’ identified by the Indian government, and designed to address the skill gaps pointed out by the National Skill Development Corporation.

Currently, Tata Strive offers courses in the fields of retail, banking and financial services, automotive, business process outsourcing and hospitality. There are courses for electricians and other technicians as well. In addition, there are innovatively designed modules for facilitators and trainers on youth employability, life skills and empowerment coaching. Tata Strive also brings in appropriate certification to enable the measurement of outcomes in the creation of a skilled workforce.

Power of the collective
To power this effort, Tata Strive has forged a wide variety of partnerships — with Tata and non-Tata companies, the Tata Trusts and other charitable foundations, nonprofits, government agencies, industrial training institutes, banks, and training associates. Within the Tata ecosystem, a large number of companies have come on board. Among the non-Tata partners are companies such as Schneider, Siemens, Bosch and Cipla.

Recently, Tata Strive signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to map skilling opportunities in core sectors like steel, mining, power, coal and infrastructure, particularly in the east and northeast regions.

The delivery of the skilling happens at centres called Tata Strive Skill Development Centres (TSSDC). These are managed and staffed by people hired through the initiative. There are also TSSDC extension centres which are smaller but similarly run.

Volunteers from group companies also work with Tata Strive (through the ProEngage programme of the Tata Sustainability Group). In short, Tata Strive is driven by the spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

Another aspect of Tata Strive is the planning for sustainability. The use of technology makes operations replicable, scalable and measurable. Content is available through the platform and can be made available offline to any location. Facilitator guides and student handbooks are digitised and attendance and placement data are tracked real time via the platform. Benchmarks are also being put in place, with the training methodology being standardised and made replicable.

Uphill task
Tata Strive today has more than 20 centres. But the launch phase has not been easy. While the Tata brand gave it a head-start, it still had to contend with a plethora of challenges in a scenario where the skilling ecosystem was often minimal. The Tata Strive team had to ensure that the demand and supply of skills was well matched. Care had to be taken to ensure that any migration that happened was born of aspiration and not forced by the availability of trades.

Another challenge involved the logistics of taking quality training to the communities that really needed it. Communities traditionally deprived of opportunities are often based in remote areas, where setting up a centre and attracting faculty proved difficult.

Long-term view
Tata Strive is funded from CSR funds of various Tata companies as well as from the funds of non-Tata entities. It is also in the process of leveraging government schemes and charging fees for placement.

While Tata Strive’s offerings are capable of changing lives, beneficiaries will need to make the effort to take advantage of them. For this to happen, mindsets will need to change. There will need to be a greater participation of women in the programmes.

Tata Strive is actively working to encourage women to take up non-traditional courses by enabling a safe environment for them and providing career guidance to parents and students alike.

The success of its endeavours has brought in much learning for the Tata Strive team. Having settled in, the team is confident of being able to take the programme beyond India’s shores. Tata Strive has very quickly proved that it is an idea whose time has come. Its unique methodology, empowered coaching and teaching techniques that go beyond textbook learning have kept students motivated and got them ready to play a full part in the India of today and tomorrow.