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Founded in 1985, All India Society for Electronics & Computer Technology (AISECT), India's largest education and skill development services organisation manages three universities in different states. In public-private-partnership, vocational training and skill development have been core functions of the organisation since its inception. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, Director, AISECT speaks to Mohd Mustaquim on the impact of AISECT’s programmes in the rural and underprivileged areas...
What are the major objectives of AISECT?
AISECT is India’s leading social enterprise, working in the areas of skill development, vocational education, higher education, primary education, online education, e-governance, financial inclusion and other information and communications technology (ICT) and skills based services aimed at bringing about an inclusive change in India’s semi-urban and rural areas. Our objective is to bridge the livelihood and literacy gaps between urban and rural India as well as create local job opportunities for the rural youth. Our organisation has been untiringly reaching out to the remotest corners of the country since the last three decades to empower people, generate employment for the youth and unfold entrepreneurial initiatives.
How has been the impact of the AISECT’s initiatives and how have they brought changes in rural India?
Right from the organisation’s inception in 1985, skill development and employment linked literacy have been at the heart of our strategic intervention in rural and semi-urban areas. We have been primarily working in skill development sphere through partnerships in public and private sector schemes and also through independent initiatives.
Uplifting the rural and semi-urban masses has been the main inspiration behind all our initiatives and programmes. To achieve this, we have executed hundreds of Central and State government funded programmes across 29 States and three union territories and trained more than 20 lakh youth, generated over 15,000 rural entrepreneurs and empowered the lives of over 50 lakh people through innovative services so far. We are providing vocational education in 632 rural and semi urban areas, which has benefitted on an average 100,000 students annually. In this context, the beneficiary groups that we focus on are Rural BPL and unemployed youth, school drop-outs, panchayat functionaries, women self-help-groups (SHGs) and the minority community.
Meanwhile, with the changing trends and with the ability to reach more people, we have broaden the spectrum and incorporated skill oriented courses into areas of Health & Wellness; Gems & Jewellery; Retail; Banking, Financial Services & Insurance (BFSI); Apparel & Textile; Tourism & Hospitality among various others, etc.
For a pool of skilled workforce, there is a need of jobs, so does AISECT have such tie-ups with any employer organisations? If yes, kindly elaborate?
Yes, AISECT has tie-ups with many such employers such as Magnum Group, for skilled data entry operators; Eureka Forbes, for ondoor retail; Future Retail and Bazaar India for skilled retail sales executives; G4S Solutions and SIS Securities for skilled manpower in security sector; Vardhaman Textiles,Trident Group and Welspun for skilled manpower in textile industry and L&T Finance, ESAF Microfinance, Shriram Life Insurance and many other financial advisory companies for Skilled Manpower in BFSI.
How is skill development in rural India different from urban areas?
Skill development in rural India is fundamentally different from that in urban India. The skills demand in urban area is based around a variety of tech and high-end courses like animation, VFX among like these while the rural skills demand is based on their surroundings, thereby making programmes in areas such as agriculture, telecom, textile, teacher training,retail among others.
Language is another major area which varies hugely in urban and rural areas with respect to skill development programmes. While urban youth inclined towards acquiring relevant skills in English language due to their corresponding market requirements, the same is not the case with rural people. For greater penetration in rural areas, we have developed content in English, Hindi along with regional languages. These languages provide an opportunity for the less-educated to directly carry forward their skilling needs without having a knowledge of English.
How have various Government programmes on skill development helped your objectives?
We have a long history of being associated with various state-sponsored skill development and vocational education initiatives. These programmes have helped us immensely in fulfilling our skills objectives as a social enterprise. Government programmes on skill development have an edge over private-run skill development programmes on two key aspects – reach and credibility. Government programmes enjoy a massive reach at the grassroots level in some of the remotest corners of the country; thereby enhancing the number of beneficiaries of these programmes. There are various private-run skill development initiatives and activities undertaken under corporate social responsibility (CSR) of multi-billion organisations, which are actively trying to skill people at ground levels. Such initiatives, irrespective or their honest intent, don’t enjoy the same credibility in the eyes of the people as Government run schemes.
What major challenges do you face while attracting rural youth towards skilling programmes and how do you tackle them?
Due to lack of education and awareness, initially people in rural India were reluctant to enroll for skill-based programmes. However, they are now beginning to acknowledge the benefits of skills-based education. Another challenge is that job opportunities in rural India are quite less compared to urban and developed areas. Options apart from agriculture are dreary. Women and youth, who are reluctant to migrate to cities, face challenges in getting a desirable job in rural areas.
Rural sentiments, with respect to education, have for a long time been focused entirely towards two things – attaining formal education degrees and learning through experience while earning simultaneously. Kaushal Vikas Yatra is a rural skills awareness drive by AISECT that aims at educating people about the advantages of joining jobs market post acquiring some skills. This literacy and awareness drive has yielded hugely positive results for us.
How do you see the scenario of unemployment, job creation and skilled workforce in India?
At present, there are enough job opportunities but not enough skilled and employable candidates. Skills have become the backbone of job markets. Despite a huge demand in the industry for skilled workforce, we don’t have sufficient numbers to fill in these vacancies. Moreover, with our current education system heavily tilted towards formal degrees, we face an acute shortage of workforce possessing skills for the challenges in their field of employment. Thus, there is a gap in employment sector with respect to vacancies that exist and the people that are there to fill in these jobs. We must urgently create an appropriate balance between formal education and vocational education; so that more and more people are attracted towards skill development.
Besides government schemes, do you also get CSR funds from corporate sector for running your programmes? If yes, kindly describe.
We are consistently collaborating with various organisations for their CSR projects. So far, we have successfully worked with Powergrid, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company Limited (CIFCL), Mineral Exploration and Corporation Limited (MECL), Schneider Electronics, Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO), CREDAI and many more organisations to orchestrate their CSR initiatives.
AISECT is running three universities in which skill development has been made a major component of the curriculum, how have these varsities helped grow rural youth, becoming employable and making positive change in rural India?
AISECT Society established the Dr. CV Raman University (CVRU) in the tribal area of Kota-Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) in 2005, the AISECT University (AU) at Bhopal in 2010 and AU Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) in 2016 as the first set of skills-based universities in India. We ensure that skills are deeply embedded in our course curriculum, with students having to learn two new skills each year; so that by the time they graduate they have acquired at least 5-6 skills.
Through an innovative research-based pedagogy, world-class infrastructure, experienced faculty and innovative methodology of imparting education; we ensure that students at all our higher education institutions get the right balance of skill enhancement, research-based learning and technical knowledge at affordable prices. There are over 70 labs and workshops at CVRU, including 5 computer labs and an English language lab, to aid students of technical courses to have a better grip on practical aspects of their curriculum.
We also offer short-term skill development courses to students in addition to the regular courses through our CVRU-NSDC Academy for Skill Development. The Academy is currently affiliated to the Electronic Sector Skills Council and plans to apply for affiliation of various other Sector Skills Councils including Telecom, Retail and Construction. The Academy has designed many short-term skill development courses as per National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) for DDU Kaushal Kendra. It has collaborated with various industries for market demand based course development and vocational training.
In both AU and CVRU, we have created Centres of Research and Development in areas like biotechnology, biochemistry, food processing, life sciences and basic sciences.
Entrepreneurship is a major area proving livelihoods to the people, how have your programmes been effective so far?
At AISECT, we have always encouraged people to open up their own enterprises. In order to promote entrepreneurship, we conduct various orientation sessions and programmes like Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) at regular intervals and create awareness about these initiatives by means of media and advertisements. Finally, after over three decades of continuous efforts, we have succeeded in generating over 15,000 entrepreneurs so far in rural areas. Moreover, collaborating with Government initiatives like Common Service Centre (CSC) Project, Financial Inclusion and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has greatly helped us in our endeavours in producing entrepreneurs who are now successfully running their own Education Centres and Banking Kiosks. AISECT acts as an incubator and is always at the doorstep of these entrepreneurs, assisting them in every way possible in running their centres effectively.
What are your future plans?
Our future plans and all our endeavours are directed towards further penetration into rural India by bridging the language and connectivity barriers and creating various technology-based platforms. Further, to promote skills-based learning in the higher education framework, we will continue to establish universities in semi-urban and rural India.
A major project in the pipeline is promoting the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). RPL is the process of certifying candidates from rural and underdeveloped areas of the country. This process is aimed at polishing the skills of the rural and underdeveloped workforce.