Moving in the Right Direction: Godrej & Boyce Disha Skilling Initiatives  

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Ashwini Deodeshmukh

Skill development is a crucial topic of discussion regarding its significance in enhancing the employability of the workforce. Youths constitute a majority of India’s vast population, thereby highlighting the need for us to consider their importance as a significant skilled workforce yet untapped by our country. As per a report by World Bank, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) reduced from 46 per cent in 2020 to 40 per cent in 2022. While the drop could be attributed to the pandemic and the lockdown, the numbers, to begin with, were still low. The India Skills Report 2022 finds that only one in ten graduates are employable. Thus, to move toward a skill-based education system, we have to make the youths career-ready from an early stage and prepare them with a combination of skills that makes them a good fit for jobs or encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Empowering the Workforce

While the need for vocational training was apparent even in the 1990s, the 12th Five Year Plan (2012 – 2017) initiated the necessary framework to ensure that skill development programmes align with the demands of the markets. The Government of India recognised the importance of skill development in 2015-16 when they launched the Skill India Mission to provide industry-relevant skill training to millions of Indian youths. During its pilot phase, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) benefited 1.07 crore youths between 2016 and 2020. School dropouts and unemployed youth were provided with skills through short-term courses, skill certification, and various other industry approaches.

The Skill India Mission also galvanised the setting up of Industrial Training Institutes across the country, creating a massive infrastructure of hands-on training for the youth in different parts of the country. The ready infrastructure has also provided a unique opportunity for corporations and NGOs to collaborate to launch skill development courses. 

Most In-Demand Skills in India

Skill development today is driven by emerging technology across sectors. One needs to have basic skills in software applications, even for jobs where core competencies are different. Soft skills and basic knowledge of software applications like word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, etc., are now needed in almost every sphere. According to the India Skills Report 2022, communication skills, social media, data analytics & interpretation, and critical thinking are some of the skills in high demand. 

Thirteen million youths in India join the workforce every year. The demographic dividend can be leveraged if these youths are skilled enough to be employed. Unemployment issues can be resolved by building employable skills and creating more jobs. 

Currently active in 18 States, our Disha Skill Development Initiative is involved in areas such as services trades, interior trades, construction, and manufacturing and includes skills like refrigeration and air conditioning, retail sales services, carpentry, solar technician trades, locks technician, masonry, false ceiling, plumbing, and many more. 
Abdul Rajack, a RAC trainee from Bhubaneswar, Odisha, already had a refrigerator and AC repair business before enrolling for the advanced course of RAC at Gram Tarang in 2018. He wanted to gain theoretical knowledge and enhance his understanding of his trade. After completing the course, Abdul established himself as a competent RAC professional in his area and set up his store and workshop, which gained a steady flow of regular clients. He says that it was because of the training and knowledge gained during the course that he could go forward with this venture and build something of his own.


Disha
Skill Development

As a manufacturing company, multiple trades align with the products we create and the processes we use. Our Disha Skill Development Initiative launched in 2011, provides solutions by enhancing employability and promoting self-employment. We adopted it as our flagship initiative to provide employable skills to the workforce utilising the core expertise of our organisation. We were mindful that we should be able to provide expertise from our core competencies to skill the youth.

We began with training the youth in trades related to our businesses. The skills included are construction, manufacturing, sales, service, rural entrepreneurship, and technical training. 

Currently active in 18 States, our Disha Skill Development Initiative is involved in areas such as services trades, interior trades, construction, and manufacturing and includes skills like refrigeration and air conditioning, retail sales services, carpentry, solar technician trades, locks technician, masonry, false ceiling, plumbing, and many more. 

The duration of the different courses ranges from two to twenty-four months. Minimum qualification for manufacturing-related trades is Class X. We, however, enrol candidates who have cleared Standard VIII for some of the trades.

Govind Rajbhar and his parents are from a little village in Uttar Pradesh. He studied till Class X but had to abandon his studies as his parents, who are manual labourers, could not afford his school fees. He left school in 2011 and came to Mumbai searching for work. He started working as a helper in a company at Vikhroli, where he earned Rs.150/- per day, enabling him to take care of his most basic needs. A friend of Govind’s working in Godrej as a grinder told him about the Godrej Disha Skilling programme. This prompted Govind to enroll in the Disha programme in 2013. He completed 45 days of training in welding. He was then transferred to Plant 15 at Godrej & Boyce for advanced training in welding where he passed the radiography test. In 2014, he was inducted into Plant 15 as a welder. He soon learned all the technical skills in welding from 2G to 6G and gas cutting. Today, he is an expert welder employed in Plant 15.
Our Digital Skilling Initiative features a range of courses like robotics and automation, business analytics and dashboarding, digital marketing, and eCommerce. While the former two programmes targeted engineering students, digital marketing and eCommerce will be open to all young graduates. We also have a component designed to train the trainers – i.e., trainers and instructors at various Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in the country, thereby enhancing their capacities. We are working on short-term programmes of four to eight weeks for digital skills.

Disha Digital Skilling

The 4.0 industry revolution has put emerging technologies at the core of manufacturing. They are not only used for manufacturing products but also to streamline industrial processes. The future workspace will primarily utilise automation and artificial intelligence for better productivity and efficiency. Further, in other spheres of life, technology has disrupted how human activities are conducted – from communicating with one another to administering activities like shopping or booking tickets; everything has a considerable digital component. This brings to the fore the requirement for people conversant with these technologies and those who can analyse complex information and break it down to facilitate decision-making in businesses. 

In the manufacturing industry, in-demand skills include understanding automation, robotics, and IoT (Internet of Things). In February 2022, we launched the Digital Skilling Initiative as a part of Disha. This initiative aims to create a future-ready workforce keeping in mind the upcoming skills required across industries. We offer digital skills to young graduates who have completed engineering and other technical degrees from colleges in Tier 2 and 3 cities. It is necessary to provide young graduates with skills and exposure to real-life applications. It is of utmost importance that corporations collaborate with public institutions to bring in the expertise of skill development and a diverse pool of resources to their initiatives and set a better path for trainees.

Our Digital Skilling Initiative features a range of courses like robotics and automation, business analytics and dashboarding, digital marketing, and eCommerce. While the former two programmes targeted engineering students, digital marketing and eCommerce will be open to all young graduates. We also have a component designed to train the trainers – i.e., trainers and instructors at various Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in the country, thereby enhancing their capacities. We are working on short-term programmes of four to eight weeks for digital skills. These programmes target engineering students, ITI students, and graduates. 

Impact

According to a survey we conducted amongst Disha trainees from Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Odisha, 76 per cent of respondents have secured full-time jobs and are working in their specialised trades. The percentage of trainees securing full-time jobs varied across States. We observed that placement numbers were 67 per cent in Maharashtra, 61 per cent in Gujarat, 78 per cent in Delhi, 90 per cent in Odisha, and 96 per cent in Karnataka. In addition, 10 per cent of trainees managed to get part-time jobs. Gainful employment has helped improve their family’s financial stability, spurring them to work towards development indicators like better education, healthcare, and housing facilities.

Since its inception, our Disha Skilling Initiative has trained around 1.59 lakh youths in manufacturing-related trades. We have, to date, achieved six plus times return on investment through it. Our Digital Skilling programme is operational in Mumbai, Pune, and Aurangabad in Maharashtra, and in Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Since the course was initiated a few months back, we are still in the process of scaling it up to include various Tier 2 and 3 cities. 

Our Roadmap

We anticipate training 50,000 more youths in manufacturing-centric trades by 2025. We intend to explore further manufacturing-centric digital courses and increase our reach to include more Tier 2 and 3 cities across the country. Looking at the current boom in eCommerce and the need to increase last-mile delivery efficiency, we are actively looking at starting courses for warehousing and logistic sectors. 

Ashwini Deodeshmukh is the Head of CSR & Sustainability Reporting at Godrej & Boyce.