COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic crash has unveiled the vulnerability of the economic and development systems of all the countries of the world. This is true especially for India which has multiple problems such as – low digital inclusion, poor quality education, un-employable workforce, inadequate infrastructure among others. These deficiencies have enhanced the crisis for the country amid COVID-19 pandemic resulting in more than 1.8 crores loss of jobs (excluding unskilled labour jobs) in 4 months.
In such dire situation, according to an esteemed panel that discussed “Skill Development through CSR” in a webinar organized by CII, North Region, ‘Skill development is one of the best means to achieve sizeable impact and derive strategic imperatives from CSR agenda especially in the challenging times of COVID-19.
COVID-19 lockdown has given rise to many digital platforms as a way of troubleshooting issues while maintaining isolation and social distancing. The platforms provide services across verticals like healthcare, education, retail and so on. These platforms are expected to generate significant employment in coming quarters. In order to ensure equal opportunity for all, the pace at which innovation in skill building is adopted to such online models is critical.
Endorsing strong inter-agency partnerships and bridging the digital divide, the panellists at the webinar agreed that COVID-19 has changed the way resources are allocated in CSR. Therefore, the renewed focus of the country has to be on improving the employability of the workforce that leads to employment which further leads to economic upliftment.
India is aiming to become a 5 trillion-dollar economy in the near future. It has an automatic advantage of vast and young demographic that stands at a crossover of a digital leap. According to data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-2018, by 2023, 70 million more people will have entered India’s workforce. With so many more people joining the workforce, the industry has to prepare itself to accommodate them, which is already struggling to accommodate the people already present in the workforce.
In his address, Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee Former Secretary, Government of India, and Former Director General & CEO- IICA, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs said, “Covid-19 poses special challenges for skill development. Today when the world faces a crisis, the government, corporates and implementing agencies are turning to CSR. Promoting education, special education, employment-enhancing vocational skills is the need of the hour and our law has been successful in addressing that. Difficulty in skilling, re-skilling and people employment are some of the key challenges we need to address. The government must now act as a facilitator and encourage corporates to go more into the skill development. We also need to meet the dynamic needs of the employers by offering flexibility in the courses being designed, certifications being offered and the way we train our resources. The need of the hour is to tap into technology to leap-frog youth of today into employability.”
Brigadier P K Goyal (Retd), Conference Chair and Member, Regional Committee on Skill Development and Livelihood, CII Northern Region addressed the opening session, saying, “Covid-19 and the global lockdown has impacted the skills ecosystem, resulting in imbalance in the skills landscape. There is a dire need to skill, upskill and multi-skill a huge workforce so there is suitable employability. An effective means to do this is through CSR funds. Govt of India, the corporate industry with their funds and the implementing agencies along with consulting agencies are the umbilical link to an effective skilling programme.”
Lt Gen. Dr S P Kochhar, Director General – COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) added, “A good thing, at present, is that the government has accepted that skilling is a challenge and they are trying to address the gap. We have been advising a skilling program which is Cooperative, Collaborative, Inclusive and Adaptive. If we use technology, such an initiative becomes easier. Training can be normalised across the country, using technology. We can combine Make in India, Digital India, and Skill India, as complementary models and CSR plays a major role in supporting this initiative. We can create co-skilling spaces, with soft and IT skills at the entry-level segment, generic sector skills at the next level of the segment, and the third level being the vaulted training centres where domain knowledge is imparted by industry experts.”