Electronics Era: Explain in brief about ASDC and its objectives?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: Thank you! ASDC is one of the 36 sector skill councils operating in India. These are sectoral councils, which have been set up by various industry associations. ASDC has three national industry associations as promoters – SIAM, the Vehicle Manufacturer’s Association; ACMA, the Component Manufacturers Association; and FADA, which is the Auto Dealers Association. We are supported by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, MSDE. Our line ministries include the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) as well as the Ministry of road transportation and highways (MoRTH). So we have six key stakeholders. We operate under the umbrella of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) since the formation of this council in 2011. We are now an affiliated Awarding Body with the apex regulator for skill education in India, which is National Council of Vocational Education and Training (NCVET).
As far as our objectives are concerned, we are focused on how to make effective value addition into skills training, which can lead to further capital creation in the industry, that, in turn, leads to greater economic activity because people will reinvest that capital. And that eventually is also going to significantly add to job creation. We also work very closely with the industry to ensure that we provide a standardized training curriculum for candidates and also a standardized, rigorous process of assessment and certification of the candidates. Finally, we are also looking at celebrating and honoring skills and inclusion of skills in the academic pathway, which is now enshrined in the National Education Policy, NEP 2020. So, overall our focus is on ensuring creating a national platform for skill development in the automobile sector.
Electronics Era: What are the positives and legumes which you observe in the last 10 years in the skill sector?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: As a country our initiatives in skill training and skill development has been from a perspective of working with the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), which were set up immediately post-independence. There is a strong legacy that the ITI institutions have created in this country but, largely have been limited to interventions on the engineering sector. Since we are part of the engineering sector, it continues to play a very significant role in providing and training manpower. But the last 10 years, I think, has been an extremely important period in the entire vocational skill education history in India, because we’ve put this under a mission mode under the Skill India mission.
There are multiple institutions, multiple agencies and multiple bodies who have got engaged under a common banner of Skill India Mission, under the guidance of our honorable Prime Minister. And therefore, this has created a significant movement. However, these are very early years of us maturing into a very robust skill ecosystem. There have been some gaps in the past and we need to correct that. And at the same time, we need to keep up with the various technological and other changes that are happening in the environment. And therefore, there is always the challenge that how do we keep catching up with the gaps that we have already identified? At the same time, new gaps are getting created because there are new changes that are happening in the ecosystem. India is a large country with a large population, very large young population & therefore, the skill challenge is not simple at all. It is a complex challenge in our automobile industry. We notice a lot of skilling initiatives that are done at various levels, at the vehicle manufacturer’s level, at the component manufacturer’s level, at the dealership level, where there is scope to scale it up further. And there is immense opportunity to create new avenues of livelihood. Our industry is a globally competitive industry. All the global brands are here. So there is no compromise that will ever be done by these manufacturers on the quality of manpower that they engage with. And therefore, one of their big challenges today is that they are not getting ready to employ manpower. The employability skills of graduates coming out of either graduation programs or polytechnic programs, or ITI programs, the industry still finds a lot of gap in terms of their skill levels and what they require at the industry. And this is where an organization like ASDC fits in, where we try to understand that gap from the industry side and provide contemporary curriculum, training of the trainers, create content, create assessment structures, certify candidates. This, as it stabilizes, can go a long way in creating a globally competitive industry environment in India especially for the automobile sector.
Electronics Era: What are the initiative that ASDC is taking about for the contemporary curriculum and to skill their students to compete with the global competition?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: Our building blocks are the National Occupation Standards (NOS) which lead to creation of various qualification and curriculum, which are approved formally through the National Skill Qualifications Committee under NCVET. Thanks to Covid actually, we got a little bit of a respite from our daily operations, and it has also helped us to redo all our curriculum in one go between 2020 and 2022. All our curriculum has gone through various layers of scrutiny, gradation, and objections. And we’ve been very fortunate to involve more than 300 industry experts on various domain areas to look at these and give their approvals. And each qualification is approved by the various industry members. Therefore, these are curriculum which have been completely revised. Additionally, we’ve identified new areas of work like electric vehicles, industry 4.0, and also other areas of sustainability, safety, diagnostics, which are areas where we are working not only at a very entry level curriculum, but also looking at how we provide curriculum for up-skilling and reskilling of existing workforce in the industry. So these are some of the areas that we’ve been covering in terms of making our curriculum more contemporary, more relevant and this process will go on because technology is constantly changing.
Electronics Era: There is a grim reality at the bottom of Indian Auto manufacturing capabilities – the dilapidated condition and their overall safety. How can we overcome these challenges?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: Safety is an important element in the entire automotive industry. I look at two large areas of safety, one is industrial safety, which means safety at the production centers, where we are manufacturing goods – making cars, parts of cars or servicing cars. There is safety that is required to be followed by candidates. It is even more relevant in today’s context because we are seeing electrification of vehicles. We are talking about high voltage components there, and there is a significant increased risk of fatalities if the right safety measures are not formed. All our curriculum focuses heavily on safety requirements for that particular job to be carried out.
Second, another area where we are glued on and we are trying to do our bit, is the element of road safety. Road safety has elements of education and prevention on one side. And on the other side, should there be a road accident, how do you reduce fatality resulting out of that road accident also counts. We are trying to launch some awareness programs at college levels because that’s where the youngsters need to be told about the road safety elements and we are looking at first responder training. Recently we completed, a large-scale program for Training of first responders along various highways in Odisha for road safety. As road safety warriors, or ‘Rakshak’ as they call it in Odisha under the project ‘Rakshak’. This has been done in partnership with State Transport Authority, Odisha and GIZ of German Federation & Red Cross Odisha. So we’ve had a multi stakeholder collaboration effort that we put in here. Safety is high on our agenda.
Electronics Era: According to you, what are the Technology Trends that you are looking for in the Automotive Sector in 2023?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: Automobiles today have become like a mobile computer. We have a huge amount of electronics in each vehicle – two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers, and commercial vehicles. All of them have significantly higher amounts of electronics. Recently, due to the semiconductor shortage, there were supply issues for vehicles. That has eased now with greater supply that is coming into the market. But we will see more and more usage of electronics. Also, there is a lot of work being done on software areas within cars, computing speed, communication speeds, introduction of 5G and all of that. Today, connected cars are already a reality, and there could be many more innovations coming around. There are manufacturers in this country itself who know each car they have sold, where they are now? What’s their condition? Would they need a service in the next 24 hours? There are some troubling indicators which must be investigated further? And these are all known from a control room sitting remotely somewhere.
This also enables transporters today. Logistics is one of the fastest growing sectors in India. And road transportation is backbone of that system. The use of technology is now helping both drivers as well as fleet owners and fleet coordinators in terms of how they can control the movement of the goods. They are in control, if there are any emergencies. How can they respond to it?
Of course, adoption of electric vehicles is on the rise. There are associated challenges and associated advantages. We do hope to see involvement of hydrogen fuel cells, involvement of maybe solar technologies in the years to come. It may not happen in 2023, but these are new initiatives; a lot of research is going on in these areas. We do hope to see some breakthrough results coming in sooner than later. And hopefully, those can then be commercialized and can be applied to providing mobility solutions. We do see an exciting path forward for youngsters who want to come into the automobile sector. They must get themselves skilled and continue to get themselves skilled as they do their journey over the future. The next 15 to 20 years definitely seems exciting – a lot of climate control issues have to be addressed, and transportation is here to stay.
People will move around, and goods will move around also. Indian skilled manpower is in very high demand across the globe in various fields, including automotive. So far, we have been seeing only IT engineers going global. But even with automobiles we do see a lot of opportunities and a lot of people are already going, and even blue collar skilled workers are also going much beyond the Middle East. They’re going all over the world.
Electronics Era: If a student would like to take admission in ASDC. How can he approach your institutes and what are the criteria for that?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: ASDC is an Awarding Body as an organization. So, we only affiliate our training institutions. We have close to about 300 plus active training institutions today providing training in various areas. We have a very interesting part on our website called Career Guide, it’s called www.careerguide.asdc.org.in. It’s a microsite within our website where the student can actually go through what are the possibilities of training in the automotive sector? How can that lead to a career progression in that pathway? What could be potential learning opportunities in today’s condition? Where are those opportunities in India in different clusters or geographies? And additionally, if they have any question, they can simply go to our website get onto the contact us button, put their query, and somebody from the team will start getting in contact with them, to get them to pick up the right program for them at the geography that they are in and under a training center which can provide such training under the banner of ASDC.
Electronics Era: If a student is unable to afford the course fees. How does he get the findings for the course?
Mr. Arindam Lahiri: There are lot of funded programs that the government runs both at a central government level and at a state government level. There are some opportunities there. In addition, there are a number of CSR funded programs that we do where the training is free Not only training is free, they also provide for, sometimes, their residential expenses during the training, the food, stay, etc. or at least their transportation to and from the center etc. So, if you have the right intent and right attitude, funding is not going to be a major issue. If you are looking at a specific program, sometimes you may have to wait a little bit because the funded program might not be available at that point in time, but I’m sure it will be available in future. There are also a lot of free e-learning training programs on our website itself, which have been created by various automobile manufacturers like Toyota, Eicher Motors and others. So people can also get acquainted with automobile technologies. These free courses can help them to get started. Once they find further interest, they can also come and do a hands-on training program.