ColegauCymru was invited by the UK Government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to participate in a roundtable discussion in India on 20 April 2012. The roundtable was jointly organised by the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) and the Indian Government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, with the support of the British Council.
Simon Pirotte, Principal of Coleg Powys, represented the FE sector in Wales, alongside Martin Doel, CEO AoC who was the FE representative from England. The blog below outlines Simon Pirotte’s initial thoughts on the event and some ideas for potential Wales-India collaboration in the future.
India: opportunity on a grand scale
by Simon Pirotte
After flight delays, I finally arrived in Delhi at 4 am. I am here to represent ColegauCymru and Wales’ FE sector at a series of meetings and workshops with government, business and education officials from the UK and India. The journey from the airport takes me through the city where dogs roam and seem in control of the streets at this time of night. I am struck by the level of security outside the row of embassies and even on arrival at the hotel, mirrors check underneath my car and bags are scanned. Straight to bed and up for a meeting at 9 am.
The Indian Government wants to upskill 500 million people by India’s 75th birthday in 2022. A tall order.
India will have a population of 1.5 billion people by 2025 and the average age, depending on which report you read, will be around 24. India is a young nation, especially when compared to China (37) and Western Europe (45). At each of the meetings I attend over the next two days, speakers talk of the scale of the operation and where India wants to position itself. In terms of economic growth, India is doing very well. During the recent global challenges, India’s economic growth dropped from 10% to 7%-a picture that would be very welcome to politicians in the UK as we enter our “double dip” recession! But India is ambitious and is not only looking to fill its own skills gap but is also looking to fill the global skills gap as other nations see their demographics shrink in the future. UKIERI projects (UK-India Education and Research Initiative) has developed many projects that share some of the best practice from the UK and India igniting joint research between a range of organisations. These projects have already nurtured a growing relationship between the UK and India.
A key organisation is the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), set up by the Ministry of Finance as a private/public sector partnership. The NSDC is charged with upskilling 30% of the required 500 million through fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programmes and providing funding. NSDC has so far signed agreements with 46 training partners-38 companies and 8 sector skills councils (SSCs). The partners have a target of training 60 million people by 2022. However, there is still a huge deficit in training required. The NSDC aims to achieve much of their task through setting up SSCs which will also become awarding bodies. There will be many more SSCs in India than the model in the UK.
The First Minister of Wales visited India in April. The future growth of the Welsh economy partly depends on the strengthening links between the two nations. Indian businesses, such as Tata steel, already invest in Wales creating a significant number of jobs. During his visit, the First Minister promoted the top class education facilities in Wales and our highly skilled workforce. There is a real opportunity to work together for mutual benefit and to create jobs. However, there are many countries who want the attention of India and many organisations have already opened offices in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai.
The final event I attend before I leave for the airport is the Skills Round Table discussion and the Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, Mr Mallikarjun Kharge, expresses the immediacy of India’s issue. “We cannot wait for bricks and mortar” he says. Upskilling needs to happen now and India is looking for creative solutions.
The challenge for Wales is to join up our thinking across sectors, address the issue of scale and make the most of the opportunity.
And this is an opportunity on a grand scale.