With more than 500 million people under the age of 29, vocational training expert, Parampreet Singh believes that India is on the cusp of either a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster.
“It is really important that we skill this massive youth population so that they can be qualified, regarded for their skills and that they can actually find properly paid work,” Mr Singh said.
Recognizing this, recent years have seen the Government of India begin to overhaul the vocational training sector. Now, there is an urgent need for training providers to offer high- quality, practical courses that can not only reach the hundreds of millions of young people across India, but also the 70 per cent of the population who still live in rural villages.
Mr Singh believes that one solution lies in the Australian education system. In 2003, he travelled to Australia to study a Masters of Information Systems at the Melbourne campus of the Central Queensland University.
“I owe a lot to the Australian education system,” he says. “As students we were encouraged to think critically and creatively and this has shaped my approach to business.” After graduating and working as a consultant for a private vocational training firm in Melbourne, Mr Singh was introduced to Australia’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training system.
“I was amazed by the system,” he recalls. “I thought it was a solution for most developing countries … looking at India as an example, less than five per cent of the workforce in the vocational space is formally qualified,” he explains.
This is mainly because people are unwilling to undertake vocational training, as most courses are still too long, expensive and fail to develop the skills industry is looking for.
Without viable vocational training options, trades people in India, and many other developing countries, remain under- appreciated and their salaries, plus social status remain low.
Determined to make a difference, Mr Singh returned to India in 2012 and launched his company Uday, meaning rise. In 2014, Uday became the first training provider to offer short, skills- based courses adapted from the Australian TVET system to suit the Indian context.
Now employing 30 people across seven states and working with 70 training partners, Uday is enabling those least able to access training opportunities – young people, farmers and women – to gain marketable skills.
Already, Uday has helped 8 000 young people to train as stonemasons, electricians or for the hospitality industry. They are also one of the first vocational training providers to take entrepreneurship training to one of India’s most overlooked human resource – rural women.
Often unable to travel far from their homes or villages, due to family commitments or social restrictions, Uday is working with women in their homes to help turn their hobbies into viable businesses.
On the outskirts of India’s sprawling call-centre capital, Gurgaon, lies the tiny village of Abekor. Here, Uday’s entrepreneurship training has enabled Susma and her friends to develop their handmade dolls into a marketable product. Uday then linked the women with buyers in Australia.
“I never thought that something we make in a village in India can be valued and sold all over the world,” Susma says as she and her two colleagues pack their handmade dolls, ready for export to Perth.
“Because we have such a large population, if we can skill that population and help them become part of India’s growth, that will change lives,” Mr Singh says.
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- Information about the Australia India bilateral education and skills relationship can be found at: www.australiaindiaeducation. com/ and the international skills training courses pilot program www.education.gov.au/internationalskillstraining