Upskilling Blue-Collar Workers: A Leeway to Upscale the Indian Economy

0
25

Ahaan Aggarwal

India is a country where the unemployment rate touched 6.1 per cent in FY18, a 45-year high percentage, according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) – 2017-18. Experts say the issue is not the availability of jobs but with skill matching. There is a massive mismatch in job availability and skill requirement. This scenario is prominent among blue-collar workers. It is time to realise that blue-collar employees are the main driving force of production and quality.

Realisation of Upskilling Blue-Collar Workers 

Performance and skill mapping are prevalent for white-collar workers, but what about the blue-collars? A structured performance management system along with a skill-mapping process for blue-collar workers enhance their working capability and plays a positive role in their growth as well as that of the organisation.

Earlier, very few companies realised the need for upskilling blue-collar workers as they never recognise their importance or role in the progress and growth of the company. But the gap or scarcity created and felt during the pandemic changed the mindsets of many. Companies are now more conscious of the need to upskill the backbone of their organisations. Thus, skill development for blue-collar workers is gaining much popularity.

In 2020, the economic and employment scenario of India took a backflip as COVID-19 hit the ground. Millions of workers lost their jobs, and as most of them were migrating workers, returned to their hometowns. This situation gives rise to issues that nobody ever even thought of. Companies lost their backbone as blue-collar workers left in droves. These workers were unable to find suitable jobs within their proximity. There was a major shift in the requirement as everyone wanted skilled blue-collar employees. 

Earlier, very few companies realised the need for upskilling blue-collar workers as they never recognise their importance or role in the progress and growth of the company. But the gap or scarcity created and felt during the pandemic changed the mindsets of many. Companies are now more conscious of the need to upskill the backbone of their organisations. Thus, skill development for blue-collar workers is gaining much popularity.

Blue-Collar Workers: Growth Infuser for a Developing India

Blue-collar workers are the ground level warriors for any industry or company as they are the ones who have to perform a huge amount of manual labour. Maintaining the quality of work, attending to urgent situations, adhering to deadlines, or managing any crisis will never be possible if ground-level workers are not skilled enough. If the backbone of the company is upgraded and proficient, the top management remains confident. In a broader picture, blue-collar workers play a vital role in building the nation. Sufficient skill development will help them to render their jobs prominently and at the same time will ease the passage at the micro and macro level from a developing nation to a developed one. 

There has been a tremendous shift in the thought process of the very structure of the industry. With proper skill development, a blue-collar worker can be easily absorbed into the core fundamentals of the company or industry. 

Companies are finding various innovative models to engage blue-collar workers more professionally and imparting more responsibilities to them because the Indian economy is sharply changing from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. Thus, the demand for blue-collar workers is increasing steadily.

At present, there are over 450 million blue-collar workers in India. This number is expected to rise by 10 -12 per cent. The expected statistics and facts for blue-collar workers in India are quite impressive:

  • The new sector that has given a sudden surge to blue-collar workers’ employment are online service providers. Companies like product-retailing platforms, food delivery services, and professional service providing platforms always need blue-collar workers of all categories. 
  • The second-most demanding sector is startups. There is an overwhelmingly increase of startups in India, from 29,000 in 2014 to 55,000 in 2020. The more number of companies, the more blue-collar workers are going to get placed.
  • The third are MNCs. They cater to sectors like automobile, heavy engineering, oil and natural gas, FMCGs and manufacturing. Every other day new MNCs are entering the country creating a tremendous demand for blue-collar workers.
  • Last but not least are MSMEs which are growing at a faster and higher rate than many MSMEs in Europe. At present, MSMEs are employing more than 110 million people, including blue-collar workers. 

Blue-collar workers are an inherent part of a company, but it is necessary to make them worthy of it. This is only possible with the help of skill development. With proper upskilling training and experience, they can be given more responsibilities – like be part of the broader management team, project management team, and even key positions in the department if they have an interest in these kinds of high-ranking positions.

Why is there a sudden requirement of putting more responsibilities and skills on blue-collar workers in India? Companies are finding various innovative models to engage blue-collar workers more professionally and imparting more responsibilities to them because the Indian economy is sharply changing from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. Thus, the demand for blue-collar workers is increasing steadily.

Path Leading from Unskilled to Skilled Workers

In a developing country like India, the demand for blue-collar workers will not dwindle. Though there has been a surge in hiring blue-collar employees since September-end 2020, our country is demanding more skilled workers above unskilled ones. This can be a challenging situation for the masses as they will not be able to afford any paid training nor have the patience for long training sessions. 

The need of the hour is to have a simple, instructional-based, free online vocational training which also hosts a job search platform. Junoon is doing just that. Junoon is a platform for blue-collar and grey-collar workers helping unskilled and semi-skilled workers acquire career-specific skills to become competent in their required fields. One can be an Auto Mechanic, Auto Driver, Painter, Plumber, Electrician, Warehouse Keeper, Security Guard, Carpenter, Mason, Construction Worker, Cleaner, Laundry Attendant, Gardener, Server, Runner, Cooking Assistant, Nanny, Pick, Pack, or Delivery Man. They will find the most suitable training programme with us. We want to provide the necessary opportunities to enable widespread economic independence to all workers.

We will launch the skill assessment test based on gender, age, knowledge, language proficiency and we will be transparent about the likelihood of finding a job in any category keeping location and wages in consideration. Over half a million people will be getting jobs through Junoon in 2021.

Our rich training programmes are available in text and video formats, in English and Hindi, to be accessible to everyone. We aim to standardise modest jobs in the country and provide a substantial living for all. We offer an end-to-end workforce management system by producing quality, skilled manpower, thereby contributing to the Indian economy.

Future of Blue-Collar Workers with Junoon 

One thing is certain: the future of blue-collar workers is now secure. Junoon is a simple yet impactful platform for blue-collar workers and employers. A worker can access the content and apply for jobs for free. However, an employer can post job openings also for free with no cap on the number of job postings. Only when an employer downloads a candidate’s application with contact data will they be charged a certain amount. This is a low-cost, scalable and performance-based business model.

We will launch the skill assessment test based on gender, age, knowledge, language proficiency and we will be transparent about the likelihood of finding a job in any category keeping location and wages in consideration. Over half a million people will be getting jobs through Junoon in 2021.

It is arduous to research blue-collar workers, but, we felt it necessary to understand their needs and the hurdles involved in managing their career. The value of a blue-collar worker’s life and career should not be discounted. We established Junoon to focus on vocational training content, a job portal, registration and profile for employers and workers and real-time matching.

Provoking Thoughts and Roadmap 

An unfortunate scenario developed due to the nationwide lockdown, the mass reverse migration of millions of Indians within weeks, and the shifting market supply. Unemployment spiked to an all-time high of 27.1 per cent in April 2020, according to Mumbai-based think-tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The worst-hit section was blue-collar workers, where roughly 60 per cent were left jobless. Our research found out that the biggest gap lies with the lack of professional training and skills of the workers, so we came up with a module where workers will be delivered the right set of skill development training, thereby, help them in their employment. This was the major provoking-thought behind the formation of Junoon for more than 450 million blue-collar workers.

The best thing about India is that there are plenty of jobs and the demand is only going to rise. The fact is that blue-collar workers form the backbone of the nation and is an essential cog for every sector. Their contribution towards nation-building should not be ignored and neglected anymore. 

The vision was always to transform the unskilled or semi-skilled workers in India to skilled workers by offering them professional training, making them economically independent, and help them have the flexibility to seek jobs.

The mission to build the nation by stabilising the nation’s economy will continue with its positive approach to launch a skill assessment test for self-evaluation and help more and more people get jobs through Junoon.

In course of time, we will partner with many NGOs to launch the community college programme in 10,000 villages which we have identified during our market research, verify KYC, check the background and references of blue-collar workers for our employer-partners.

In a nutshell, we must dream bigger and better for India’s blue-collar workers. Blue-collar workers in developed nations get better employment options and better life than their Indian counterparts. Why is it so? Can we not change the scenario? The answer is, YES, we can because the best thing about India is that there are plenty of jobs and the demand is only going to rise. The fact is that blue-collar workers form the backbone of the nation and is an essential cog for every sector. Their contribution towards nation-building should not be ignored and neglected anymore.

Ahaan Aggarwal is Founder & CEO of Junoon.