August 2016 | Cynthia Rodrigues

'Gainfully employing youth is a responsibility we carry as citizens'

Skill development isn't just about training people for jobs. It requires a more contextual approach, connecting the aspirations of the youth to gainful employment or entrepreneurship, through an effective ecosystem of network partners and support organisations. S Ramadorai, chairman, National Skill Development Corporation and National Skill Development Agency, and chairman, advisory board, Tata Strive, talks to Cynthia Rodrigues about India’s looming skills crisis and how Tata Strive is uniquely poised to address this challenge, thanks to its heritage and the collective expertise of its diversified group companies.

Given its demographics and economic and social conditions, how is India uniquely suited to derive benefits from Tata Strive?
The mission of Tata Strive is to enable the youth of India to be skilled for employment, entrepreneurship and social sector impact.

India's demographic profile shows that 12 to 13 million youth come into the job market every year, which translates to nearly 1 million per month. Gainfully employing our youth is one of the responsibilities we carry as citizens. The Tata group, known for its philanthropy and nation building activities, also believes this. With the collective expertise of the group, we are in a unique position to address the national challenge of enhancing the skills of our youth.

What distinguishes Tata Strive from other programmes in this space?
The fact that our group companies are in diversified businesses enables us to address a variety of sectors. The distinctive capabilities of our people and their willingness to participate allow us to address both the quality and relevance of skill development. Other interventions, including technology, knowledge, train-the-trainer modules that include empowerment coaching, etc, help us equip the youth to perform in a manner in which they can make an impact. You have served on the Prime Minister’s advisory group on skill development.

How did that experience help when you were conceptualising Tata Strive?
One of the many things which gave me an insight into skilling was the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of this country. Seeing the diversity that exists at the village level, getting to know the NGOs that operate there and the problems that are specific to regions, helped me understand how we could uniquely position ourselves for each of these regions. Our objective is to create employment or entrepreneurship at the local level. We believe that migration should be aspirational, not forced. I also learned a lot from closely observing our Industrial Training Institutes and polytechnics, and observing the skills ecosystem.

S Ramadorai, chairman, advisory board, Tata Strive, talks about the Tata Strive skilling initiative

Currently, Tata Strive is focusing on building skills for employment. How will students be supported if they wish to set up their own enterprise?
Tata Strive seeks to build an ecosystem to connect individuals with our partners, and to offer them financial, legal and accounting literacy. We also aim to connect them to bank financing options. The handholding comes through the partnerships we have built and also through our technology-based platform. We are, therefore, growing our network and capabilities to expand the horizons of our youth.

How do you see the aspirations of India’s youth today?
Most of the youth in our country are not aware of the choices they have or how they can exercise those choices. Also, there are issues related to health that affect one’s appetite for learning. When children suffer from a protein deficiency, it affects their ability to learn. So you need to consider the issue in totality. But the fundamental premise is that everyone is capable of doing something positive. If you start on that optimistic note, verything can be addressed for great outcomes.

Over the next five years, what impact would you want Tata Strive to create?
I’d like to see large numbers of youth skilled and employed, and going in for re-skilling. I’d like to see the supply and demand for jobs matched as closely as possible. I believe that advocacy and visibility will help us to be more inclusive. There should be representation from every segment of our society, irrespective of caste, creed and gender. The aspirations of the youth of this country must be energised so that they are passionate about life-long learning and gainful employment. Entrepreneurial energy must also be unleashed.