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University to plug skill gap

University to plug skill gap

TeamLease and Gujarat are putting in place India's first vocational education university.

Education pundits often tell you that employability is a bigger problem than unemployment. They also believe that India might fritter away its demographic dividend in the next few years if employabilityrelated issues are not dealt with.

Sensing an opportunity, TeamLease Services, India's largest staffing firm, has recently announced the country's first vocational education university in Gujarat. The university will set up 22 community colleges across the state and offer two-year associate degree programmes in collaboration with employers. Though there are several skill training institutes in the country, this is the first university for vocational education.

TeamLease Services announces country's first vocational education university in Gujarat.
Says Manish Sabharwal, Cofounder and Chairman: "At TeamLease, we have hired one person every five minutes for the past five years. But we have also only hired 5 per cent of the people who came to us for a job. That is the state of employability we are addressing."

Sample the market size Team-Lease and other players are targeting. India's demographic dividend means that more than one million people will join the country's labour force every month for the next 20 years. However, the skill crisis means that more than 58 per cent of the youth suffer from some degree of skill deprivation. "Converting growth to poverty reduction requires a massive overhaul of our education and employability ecosystem," says Sabharwal.

Bharat Gulia, Senior Manager of Education Practice at Ernst & Young, feels that the idea will work at multiple levels. It will help improve gross enrolment ratio and make students job-ready while they earn a degree. "Above all, this will be a great way to link vocational with higher education. A healthy education ecosystem needs all kinds of universities," says Gulia. You can expect to hear about more such ventures, he adds.

The total investment outlay for the university is Rs 30 crore in the first phase, which is spread over three years. "Then we want to take it national," adds Sabharwal. Last March, TeamLease had acquired a controlling stake in the Indian Institute of Job Training or IIJT, a vocational training services provider with a national network of more than 200 centres. At IIJT, students are imparted three to six months of training. But many students need training over a longer period. That is where the university comes in. "We are creating a corridor of opportunity. At the 22 community colleges, we will have a two-year associate degree that can lead to jobs as well as to a college degree," he says. This will apply only to Gujarat for the time being.

Each college will have five to 15 satellite-enabled classrooms. The degree will be divided into four semesters with the last semester including an internship with an employer. The annual fee will range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000. The first two courses to be rolled out include accounting and IT infrastructure management.

Also, each college will have an intake of 300 to 600 students initially. "If you have campuses spread across acres, you increase the cost of training. At the vocational university, we are aiming to set up smaller campuses, but in greater numbers. Hence, the distributed model of community colleges," explains Sabharwal. Employers will be at the heart of academics, while technology will be at the heart of operations, he adds.

-Saumya Bhattacharya

Published on: Feb 15, 2011, 1:41 PM IST
Posted by: Navneeta N, Feb 15, 2011, 1:41 PM IST