Interview: Dr. Roopak Vasishtha

Q Education Post is pleased to compliment you for your sustained efforts to add value to both public and private Sectors. Please share story of your struggle and success with our esteemed readers.

 

I started my career with Escorts Ltd with their Yamaha Motorcycle Division as a Management Trainee. Thereafter, at Apparel Export Promotion Council, which works under Ministry of Textiles, Govt of India. At AEPC I had the privilege of starting and heading its education and skilling vertical Apparel Training and Design Centre and spreading the skilling infrastructure in 25 cities across the country. ATDC is considered a premier institution in Apparel sector skilling ecosystem today.

For about 8 years I also worked with the leading Diagnostic Chain of India Dr. Lal Path Labs and headed their HR and education vertical. In 2014, I joined Apparel, Made-Ups and Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council as CEO and DG and since then, I am engrossed in spreading the ‘Skill India mission’ of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji.

The Sector Skill Councils, under different sectors, are spearheading the ‘Skill India Mission’ under the able guidance of Hon’ble Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey Ji. Working in AMH SSC, I really could plan, execute and implement different schemes and projects, which, working in any other organization, I really couldn’t have done.

 Q Based on your experience, could you please talk about some of the challenges faced by you in upskilling the youth and budding professionals?

In our country, 90% of the workforce works in unorganized sector. Most of them and even those in the organized sector, have learnt skills through traditional means. They know the job but many lack the knowledge as to why they are performing those functions and the details of their job roles, thereof. As such, they need to be informed of the details of their respective job roles. In many cases there are many skill gaps which need to be plugged in.

The Govt of India has started a programme, known as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). Under this programme, the Sector Skill Councils approach the factories in their respective sectors and give 12 hours of Orientation to the workers. In this orientation all the details related to the concerned Job role, are made known to the workers, even in their native language, wherever necessary. Thereafter, these workers are assessed thru a third-party assessment mechanism. Those who succeed are certified as per the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF). They are not only paid a sum of Rs 500/- each by the Govt but are also given 3 years Accident Insurance cover. All these benefits come to the industry absolutely free of cost.

The biggest challenge in this up-skilling process remains absence of adequate knowledge of this scheme with the Manufacturers or workers. However, the Sector Skill Councils, through their affiliated Training Partners, took up this challenge and have upskilled lacs of workers across various sectors. In Apparel sector alone, we have certified more than 4 lac workers across India. This process is also repeated in unorganized sector, whereby, camps are organized and Tailor Masters of that area are invited to undergo the same process of Orientation and then certification. These Tailor Masters are also given the benefits, as mentioned above. Post-certification, they become eligible for different kind of loans, like Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) or loans being granted by different corporations, like National Backward Classes Financial Development Corporation (NBCFDC) or National Scheduled Classes Financial Development Corporation (NSCFDC). They can get the loan and expand their tailoring business.

Q In the wake of Covid-19, what are the challenges being faced by the Corporate? How do you see new work culture like the present-day norm – Work From Home (WFH)?

The entire world is affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Apparel sector cannot be different. The Apparel sector has got doubly affected, as on the one side the International Buyers have reduced intake and are even asking for heavy discounts on prices and on the other hand the migrant workers working in Apparel sector factories have left for their natives. This has brought in extreme hardship to the Apparel manufacturers. Domestic consumption has also shrunk as most of the people are working from home and that there has been a steady decline in the requirement of formal clothing in the domestic market, as well.

However, there is good news for the Apparel manufacturers who are in the export business. Many western countries, including the USA and Canada, have minimized imports of garments from China. While exports from India are to a tune of appx 20 Billion USD, China exports garments worth 177 Billion USD. Due to the above shift, many buyers have started sourcing garments from India and in coming days prospects of the Indian Garment Industry for exports are extremely bright.

In Apparel industry people worked from home till Lockdown period but slowly the attendance has started getting better. As such, unlike many other industries, like IT or Telecom, people in Apparel industry have to be personally present in factories and offices. Travel, however, has got minimized and Apparel manufacturers prefer meeting through virtual means.

Q Do you agree that there is a huge gap between the Industry needs and what Educational Institutions are delivering? Could you please suggest some practical solutions to bridge this yawning Gap?

This may be true for some educational institutions, as due to mushrooming ‘Pop and Mom shops’ in the name of MBA or Engineering colleges, the level of education has suffered. However, as far as skilling is concerned, this was true till the start of ‘Skill India’ mission of the Govt of India. Ever since the ‘Skill India’ mission has started and National Skill Qualification Framework (NCQF) has been introduced in the country, the gap between expectation of industry and what is taught in institutions, has considerably reduced. Sector Skill Councils, which represent industry, have developed standards for each Job role in the most scientific way and as per the expectation of the industry in today’s scenario. The trainings are imparted to the trainees on the most modern machinery and environment, using all modern gadgets. Gone are the days when the skill trainees, after getting certified by the concerned institutions, were not considered ready for jobs. Today, the trainees, coming out of the institutions with NSQF certification just need brief induction in any factory, across the various sectors and can start production quite early.

There is, however, a need to align the recruitment policies of various Public sector undertakings (PSUs) and other Govt and private entities with the NSQF certification. Post such alignment the youth in the country would get attracted towards the courses being run by the Govt of India and State governments under ‘Skill India’ mission and while unemployed youth would get employed, the industry would get enough skilled manpower.

Q As adolescent children are found to be getting involved in many heinous crimes these days, could you suggest some measures to bring such delinquent teenagers back into the mainstream of society.

Thousands of children from 10-17 years commit petty/serious crimes. As per the law related to Juveniles, they cannot be tried in the Court of law and their proceedings are carried on in Juvenile Courts. When convicted, they are also sent to Juvenile Justice Homes for different periods, subject to a maximum of two years.

As experienced, these kids, especially those in the age group of 14-17 years, are quite vulnerable to getting spoiled or distracted towards entering into the criminal world. As a part of ‘Skill India’ mission, most of the Sector Skill Councils have started initiative of providing short-term skills to these kids so that they learn some skills for their livelihood, post their release from Juvenile Homes. Special care is followed by conducting the trainings at Juvenile Homes itself, rather than bringing them to a Training Centre. In the record their names are also not disclosed to maintain secrecy. They are also treated with extra compassion and care. This step is being repeated in various Juvenile Justice Homes and we believe that in coming days more and more juveniles are skilled to earn livelihood and are saved from entering criminal world.

Incidentally, for the job role of ‘Self Employed Tailor’, the minimum age to enter is 14 years and, as such, most of the adolescent Juveniles get covered and are, accordingly, skilled and certified.

Q Today, not many companies are serious about their social responsibilities under CSR. Why are corporate values dwindling and how to restore them?

Earlier, it used to be a sweet wish of individual companies to do some charitable activities under their own CSR schemes. Ever since the new Indian Companies Act 2013 came into being, CSR spent has become compulsory for certain companies with some conditions. However, these conditions are such that most of the companies come under its ambit.

The National Skills Policy 2015 also gives a special mention to the proposed CSR spent by Corporates. As per one of its clauses, Companies are encouraged to spend at least 25% of the stipulated 2% of their profit, on Skilling activities, either thru National Skill Development Fund (NSDF), being maintained by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Govt of India or thru respective Sector Skill Councils.

Sector Skill Councils, along with NSDC regularly conduct skill trainings in various sectors from the CSR funds of the Corporates and Public Sector Undertakings. The liability of Corporates or PSUs for CSR spent finishes if they make contribution to the Sector Skill Councils. In fact, I would say that spending CSR money thru SSCs would be the most trusted and transparent way and this way the spenders would also be doing a true noble work, as skilling and providing livelihood to unemployed persons seems to be most satisfying.

Q What would be your advice to the youth aspiring to be future Corporate Leaders.

All of us want to reach the top but very few of us make it to those leadership positions. The first and foremost prerequisite of a true leader is to have adequate knowledge of the subject and that too should be up to date. People with little or no knowledge or without latest updates cannot be great leaders. The next trait for being a good leader is being humble and must have a big heart. Short-tempered and narrow-minded seniors cannot be good leaders. The biggest trait in a good leader is the honesty. One cannot be a leader, if his heart is not clean. Those with transparent working attitude often reach the top.

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