July 15 is observed as World Youth Skills Day to raise awareness on the importance of investing in youth skills development. Rajendra Jagdale, director general and chief executive officer (CEO) of Science and Technology Park (STP), talks about the initiatives taken up by the department, the challenges and what needs to change.
Located on the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) campus, STP was established as a not-for-profit autonomous institute by the department of science and technology (DST) in 1986. Its main objective is to promote startups and impart requisite skills. Jagdale was instrumental in preparing Indian universities’ technology Database which showcases some of the emerging technologies from Indian varsities.
“So far, we were not focussing on skills for employment creation; creating job creators and not job seekers, by major mandate. We have set up 98 companies successfully in several domains. We are not domain specific but domain agnostics,” said Jagdale.
Recently, while recruiting engineers for their own projects, Scitech Park realised how none of the engineering graduates or postgraduates were skilled or groomed for employment.
“We realised that none of the engineers after graduation or post-graduation are employable. There is a large manpower which is unemployable. It is embarrassing that our youngsters are spending a crucial phase of youth studying engineering and still don’t know anything. Here at the centre, even after recruitment, we have to put in a year to make them professionally ready. We waste time in grooming them till they become productive for us,” Jagdale said.
This has been seen across all industries, and according to Jagdale, the national skill development programme focuses on very low-end skills, including carpentry, masonry and facility management. There is nothing to improve the skills of engineers. As Jagdale said, “We may get good carpenters and electricians, but how do we make our engineers employable?”
With this in mind, Scitech Park decided to team up with educational institutes to upgrade the quality of engineering graduates. “What we decided was if I had to
spend my time then might as well do it well. So, instead of opting for big education institutes we picked up educational institutes with good education networks, working for rural areas or Tier II and III towns; students from economically weaker sector.”
The massive Rayat Shikshan Sanstha headquartered in Satara with 42 colleges, 438 high schools and 4.5 lakh students across rural Maharashtra is among the institutes chosen, along with select industries to create employable engineers.
“Now, how do we generate funds? We are happy to share that we are working with companies such as Altair Engineering, Siemens and Tata Technologies. We are designing high-end skill training programmes with corporate engagement. We are requesting educational institutes to provide us with a built-up space, some money, maybe 10-15 per cent of the total project cost. The rest will come as aid from industries.”
Jagdale said that the Scitech Park knows how to design and manage skills upgradation programmes. In the next four months, five to six centres will become operational- four under Rayat, at Kharghar (Mumbai), Hadapsar, Satara and Ahmednagar. Each of these will be a ₹20-22 crore project, including building cost. Two other projects will be conducted with Marathwada Mitra Mandal’s College of Engineering and one in Baramati. “This is purely for engineering design, virtual testing, prototyping and 3D printing,” said Jagdale. These projects will also look at re-skilling people employed in the small and medium enterprises
(SME) sectors. Here, industries purchase a lot of new equipment with embedded technology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Their employees need to be trained to use them. “I call these facilities centre of invention, innovation and incubation (CIIIs),” said Jagdale.
The CIIIs will also serve as incubators for entrepreneurs. “They
may be engineers or non-engineers. They can come and create a product which is novel and new and has good market value. We will support them with space, engineering management facility, plus team of mentors to guide them.”
In addition, these centres will provide accèss to risk capital, seed capital, venture capital and private equity.
Other initiatives at the Scitech Park include Nidhi Prayas Centre funded by the DST at Cummins College, Kothrud.
“Here, anybody who has an idea to develop a product comes to us.” If chosen, they are given a grant up to ₹10 lakh and given an opportunity to convert their ideas into working prototype and do market testing. If it works, they can go for commercial production.
“We funded over 12 people in 2017 and plan to help around 10-15 people this year. It is becoming a very successful project,” said Jagdale while expressing gratitude towards Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India and New India Assurance for their projects under Nidhi Prayas Centre.
But otherwise, Jagdale sees challenges in the unavailability of adequate funding for promoting world class skills as the current government programmes focus on low grade skills.
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