With the Indian textiles and clothing industry expected to reach $85 billion by the year 2010, the gap in the demand and the supply of skilled manpower is expected to be 2 million, especially as the present institutional structure is seen to be inadequate to bridge this gap, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
Realising that the majority of workers at the shop floor level were women with low level of education, the IL&FS Cluster Development Initiative Ltd (IL&FS CDI) launched Project SEAM (Skills for Employment in Apparel Manufacturing). The project, which is supported by the Ministry of Rural Development, is targeted at the rural poor, enabling them to benefit from the growing economy while also meeting the skills needed by industry.
Says RCM Reddy, MD, IL&FS CDI, “The logic for launching this programme essentially is two-fold. Today, we have a large number of unemployed rural youth in the country, but with no employable skills even as we have a labour shortage in employment-intensive manufacturing industry, specially in the garment and leather sectors.”
“Therefore this programme has been launched with the objective of meeting the twin targets of: meeting the requirement of shortage of skilled manpower for apparel industry in this case; and, assisting the government in terms of its poverty alleviation targets.
Project SEAM seeks to train and place 500,000 rural below poverty line youth in the apparel sector in five years. Conceived as a public-private partnership, it seeks to leverage existing strengths, infrastructure and resources for optimal outcomes, without creating any new buildings or institutions. Trainees for the project are selected from rural BPL families in close consultation with the District Rural Development Agency.
For turnout of high quality candidates, a cadre of trainers is trained in imparting a specialised training module, customised to meet industry needs. The project, supported by the Ministry of Rural Development, has already trained 14,928 people of whom 14,158 have already been employed by the apparel industry.
The innovative course content, developed in a multimedia format, and translated into several local languages, also incorporates a soft skill component to enhance the standards of performance. Training is imparted on state-of-the-art machines currently in use in the industry. As part of the course, the candidates are regularly assessed for skills against standards set by Methods Workshop, South Africa, which is also the certifying agency.
The National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) of the Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal government agency for monitoring the programme.
For Rita of Meghupati village, Tirupur, life was full of hardships but now it has changed. She now earns Rs 3,000 per month as a specialised worker as against being a domestic help earlier. “My family is in comfort now and I can send my children to school,” says Rita. A lot of BPL people are now employed after getting the training under the SEAM and are in more comfort than ever.
Several established associations such as Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI), Tirupur Exports Association (TEA) and SPV’s like Gujarat Eco Textile Park Limited, Metro Hi Tech Park, Tarapur Textiles Park Ltd, Baramati Hi Tech Textile Park Ltd have placed confirmed requirement of manpower thereby assuring placement for every single trained BPL youth.
One of the features of this whole programme is the use of innovative multimedia content that ensures better acceptability. Apart from the use of multimedia content, the training programme also includes soft skills development programme for improving social security measures and boost team building among the trainees.
“This innovative teaching methodology is very important for better absorption of the teaching inputs by the trainees. Accordingly, we have translated over 80 hours of content into various regional languages for the basic sewing machine operator programme,” says Reddy.
It has often been felt that lack of communication skills spoils the interaction process. One of the challenge that the programme sucessfully tackled was getting the people to communicate properly, first within the group and then with other people.
The multimedia courses are delivered by a trained faculty with the help of K-Yan, an innovative teaching aid that eliminates the need for multiple traditional teaching aids such as computers, projectors, etc. The K-Yan aid, developed and patented by IL&FS Education & Technology Services Ltd, is a fully integrated unit— a high-performance computer, projector, CD/DVD writer and audio system, all rolled into one.
“The soft skill development programme has helped me to improve my confidence and I have learnt to work in a team environment,” says Pradeep Kumar, trainee, NITRA training centre, Meerut.
Project SEAM also several in-built risk management processes, like lack of placement opportunities for the trained people. That risk is covered by way of ensuring the active participation of industry in the project through a special partner vehicle company.
The second risk is the inability to scale up this programme to achieve the target to training 500,000 people. “We have deployed a programme management team in important places, with the objective of coordinating with the stakeholders and identifying the needs of industry, the operations in centres and managing such centres,” says Reddy.
The third risk is lack of ownership and lack of transparency. For this an e-portal has been set up where the profile of every trainee, his training details and placement details are captured. A trainee’s performance is closely monitored for over a year after the training.
So far, around 15 training centres have been operationalised. The centres are located in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The involvement of the training centre does not end with just providing training to the candidates but involves providing placement assistance.
The distinguishing features of Project SEAM from usual skill development programmes are essentially that it is industry driven, including for course content development, actual management of the programme and placements.
Under it, IL&FS first maps the requirements of the apparel industry, identifies the requirement and then puts in place the course content. Also, it seeks to use the existing infrastructure to impart training, thereby saving on operational costs.
Project SEAM is part of IL&FS CDI’s initiative SPRING (Skills Programme for Inclusive Growth), which endeavours to catalyse, facilitate and manage large-scale, demand-driven skills training and placement programmes. IL&FS Cluster Development Initiative Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of IL&FS that was set up with aim of providing commercially sustainable, integrated business and institutional framework and solutions for the development of micro, small and medium enterprise clusters