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SMU co-hosts workshop on innovation in skills development in Mumbai

Image above – SMU

Virtually every listing of the biggest obstacles to prosperity and growth in emerging markets inevitably features skills and education toward the top of the list. Businesses across emerging markets cite quality of labour and trained talent as severe constraints to their ability to grow and add value. Citizens seeking better lives for themselves and their children have often given up on the government, and look to private entities for solutions. A thriving marketplace has developed in many countries, and innovation thrives in many areas. Yet the success is uneven and progress often slow. There is much to be gained from pooling ideas across countries, contexts, and approaches. For large companies, small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs alike, there is a clear bottom line incentive for firms to be seized of the perils of inadequate skills development in both urban and rural areas.

Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Deloitte Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London Business School (LBS) co-hosted a workshop on ‘Innovation in Skills Development’ in Mumbai, India, on 21 and 22 February 2015.

Aimed at initiating a conversation between practitioners and academics to share insights and develop a research agenda on innovative solutions to education and skills development in an emerging economy like India, the research consortium was organised by Professors Rajesh Chandy (LBS), Rajendra Srivastava (SMU), Shantanu Dutta (University of Southern California and SMU), Om Narasimhan (London School of Economics) and Ankur Sarin (Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad). Represented by members of their leadership team, participating organisations included the National Skill Development Corporation, Aspiring Minds, Dastkar Andhra, Mahindra & Mahindra, Digital Green, Centurion University, Gram Tarang, Head Held High Foundation, Global Action on Poverty, Dharma Life, Singapore Education Consulting Group and the Conference Board.

The workshop saw a healthy exchange amongst the 26 participants on several issues around innovations in skills development. There was consensus that while India’s demographic profile presented a great opportunity, it was unlikely that industrialisation and manufacturing would be sufficient to take advantage of the available opportunity especially in the context of climate change and increased inequality. A key challenge that emerged from the discussions was balancing the imperatives of paying attention to the diversity in the contexts in which skills development is encouraged and to do it at the scale required by a large economy like India. For instance, citing the example of Singapore, Professor Srivastava pointed to the economic dividends available from strategically made investments in human capital and the potential of using technology to do it in a large scale. In a related discussion, Professor D N Rao from Centurion University pointed to the efforts being made to vocationalise mainstream education in India. However, the significant gap in actual practice and design of policies still remained.

The workshop also witnessed engaged discussions on the necessity of investments in foundational skills and the value of measurement and assessment as means to increase the efficiency in the market for skills. A theme that is often neglected in discussions around skills development is traditional skills such as that of handloom weavers and rural artisans. Bringing these into the fold and recognising the assets that already exist in villages served as the basis for moving towards a framework on developing skills in the rural sector. Similarly, concrete steps were made in the workshop towards developing a sector-level framework that would capture skills requirements and opportunities across the entire value chain in a sector.

The workshop concluded with optimism that the discussions would lead to increased collaborations between practitioners and academicians in addressing challenges of skills development.




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