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Education Interview 2016-10-03

How India’s first skill university is addressing the need for skilled education

Ashok Reddy, Managing Director of Team Lease Skills University, tells us how amalgamation of education with skill development education is the need of the hour.

How India’s first skill university is addressing the need for skilled education

Skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development for any country. Countries with higher and better levels of skills adjust more effectively to the challenges and opportunities of the world of work. As India moves progressively towards becoming a ‘knowledge economy’ it becomes increasingly important that the country should focus on advancement of skills and these skills have to be relevant to the emerging economic environment.

Skill development and utilisation of skilled workforce is a major area of concern in India. As per the Labour Bureau Report 2014, the present skilled workforce in India is only 2 per cent, which is much lower when compared to the developing nations. Add to that, the number persons aged 15 years who have received or are receiving skills is merely 6.8 per cent.

Addressing this issue, Team Lease Skills University, Gujarat, offers not just education but education which leads to a job. Their curriculum is designed to suit the employer. The 4th semester is designed to be on-the-job training to give a detailed practical exposure of the subject rather than just a cursory knowledge of it. In an interview with EducationBiz, Ashok Reddy, Managing Director of Team Lease Skills University, tells us how amalgamation of education with skill development education is the need of the hour. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about Team Lease Skills University. What is the USP of Team Lease Skills University?

As India’s first Skills University, we pray to the one god; Jobs. Simply put, we teach what the employers want their future employees need to know. Our DNA is different from other universities. Putting India to work is our vision. We are a PPP initiative with the government of Gujarat and the only University which is co-located within an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) campus.

What led to the inception of Team Lease Skills University? How has Team Lease Skills University grown from the day of its inception?

It was the realisation that more than 90 per cent of people who approach Team Lease Services for a job are rejected because they do not have the requisite skills needed by the employer. ‘Repair’ can be done for a period of time by creating ‘finishing schools’ but in the long run, and this is where the concept of the University was created, required ‘prepare’ which means we have to have 3-4 years to get the students job ready. We introduced an Apprenticeship program, National Employability, through Apprenticeship Program NETAP, which has more than 25000 trainees enrolled for learning on the job and they are all enrolled into the University for a diploma program. Apart from that we have now commenced full time programs in Mechatronics, Hospitality and Tourism, IT-IMS, Commerce and Management and short term programs in Medical lab Technology, Radiotherapy, Clinical research (in collaboration with a knowledge partner which is a cancer hospital) and other short term programs like PG Diploma in Journalism and a few more in pipeline.

Highlight the challenges faced by the university. How did Team Lease Skills University tackle them?

People tend to confuse a university building with the concept of building a university. Infrastructure, fancy buildings and large campuses are taken as a proxy for intent. Hardware demonstrates money power but may not lead to jobs, which is what the student is joining the course for. This is a challenge for us as our brand is not known. At Team Lease Skills University our combination of job oriented full time courses, our one entire semester of on the job training (OJT), and job oriented short term diplomas will make people realise what value we are adding. More than USP we believe we have the EVP, extra value perception, which we are trying to create.

How is Team Lease Skills University bringing about a change in the education industry in India?

We are trying on multiple fronts: One, we have employers at the heart of our curriculum. We use technology to reach out to our 25000 (and growing) for online learning, we are using modularity in our courses which allows a student to exit and enter at multiple stages.

Many educational institutions are benefitting from expansion via franchising. What is your opinion on franchising?

We don’t believe that it can be franchised as it is a model which requires intense involvement of industry, students and faculty. This is difficult to outsource. The model works best when all the stake holders see value in the final output.

Highlight your expansion plans. Will Team Lease Skills University adopt the route of expansion via franchising?

We are being asked by a number of states to set up a Skills University. We will evaluate the options only if there is a value in expanding. Currently we are focused on our NETAP program and our campus at Vadodara.

How important is technology in education? Do you think the future of India’s education industry lies in EdTech? Elaborate.

Technology is crucial for a variety of reasons and not just online learning. Using blended mode requires usage of videos, children learn through apps, one can create self learning material on the cloud and use some apps to create individualised evaluations. Technology can be used to monitor on the job student performance wherein the student, faculty and the concerned supervisor can be on the cloud to exchange and interact.

What do you think lacks in India's skill development sector?

There is a need for a more long term approach like what TLSU has. Currently the focus is on a lot of short term ‘repair’ approach. The final long term solution is in ‘prepare’ which requires patience.

How do you think the gap between the present skills in industry and those which the industry requires can be bridged?

The industry has to come forward. We have seen a great success with NETAP and more companies are adopting it. We are exploring course structures where the student studies for a day or two in a week and spends the rest in work place, learning while doing. The industry should be open to accepting such models which are common in Germany and Austria. Each of the stakeholders in the system whether the University, the student or the employer needs to take a step forward. The University should be open to being flexible and teach accordingly.

Where do you see India’s education sector in the next 5 years? Where do you see Team Lease Skills University in the next 5 years.

TLSU will be the largest in terms of number of students in a combination of physical campus, cloud campus and the on the job apprenticeship campus. The education sector would see a lot of churn with non performing colleges in engineering and MBA closing (they are already shutting down in dozens). Foreign universities may come in if the government opens up the sector which may benefit the high end of the spectrum like those aspiring to go to Harvard or Stanford or Wharton.

India requires many such universities to come up in the near future to ensure students learn appropriate skills before they step out in today’s corporate world to work. Skill building is an important ingredient to push the production possibility front line outward and to take growth rate of the economy to a higher route. Skill building could also be seen as an instrument to empower the individual and improve their social acceptance.

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