By Laura Quinn
Last Friday I was very happy to make it to the Godrej Good Conclave in Mumbai, which focused on how to create a more employable India, and how to do it at scale. As part of its “Good & Green” strategy, Godrej has an ambitious aim to train one million youth in skills that enhance their earning potential, by 2020. Apart from some guts, an aim like that takes a genuine commitment to work with stakeholders across the ecosystem in order to find new solutions to the numerous issues in India’s employability landscape. And so the Godrej Good Conclave was initiated, by Mr. Nadir Godrej himself.
The speakers and audience were as well-curated as you’d expect at an invite-only event like this, with CSR funders, skilling NGOs, and advisory organisations all present. Overall it was an intelligent and enjoyable day of conversations that threw up some interesting debates. But for me some key issues emerged that absolutely need to be addressed if we’re to tackle India’s employability gap with any real success in the coming years. Issues that need not only require debate but that require action, innovation, and multi-stakeholder commitments.
In general, understanding the impact of employability programmes feels stuck in the dark ages. It was absolutely surprising to hear how NGOs and funders are starting to shift from measuring the number of people trained to measuring the impact of the training. That should be absolute basic hygiene in any programme from the beginning. Of course it’s critical to note that the particular complexities of skilling make impact-tracking more complex that some other programmatic areas but that’s exactly why, instead of putting in place basic tracking mechanisms now, we need to be talking about how to innovate methods of impact assessment within the space, with employers and trainers working together. If we work together effectively we can combine forces to undertake large-scale tracking, compare different methodologies, and sharing smart, “best-practice” learnings across all stakeholders.
The critical role of employers
Employers are one of the critical end goals of any employability programme but their role as stakeholders in the dialogue is too often understated, including a noticable absence of voices from the formal employment sector at Friday’s event. Some of the key messages coming out on Friday involved issues of making formal sector jobs attractive to young people and aligning their aspirations and attitudes with those of employers. Anyone interested in training for employability needs to be working actively with employers to successfully close the loop from training to sustained, long-term employment.
Overall the biggest issue that came out of the conversations for me was that working towards a market-based solution is critical. Industry needs a workforce, and people need and want jobs. It’s an industry in its own right and a natural market-based process. Non-profits that provide employability training tread a very fine line in potentially undermining the inherent value of that training and preventing the natural market of a skilling economy from taking hold. Although NSDC has done come commendable work in standardising training courses, there’s too much complexity and poor delivery to build “consumer” confidence that training is being done to the highest standard and will lead to long-term employment.
It was great to debate some of these issues on Friday, but it would be even better if we could get together to act on them. There’s a lot of talk around the problems but not enough around how we create and test new, innovative solutions. So, inspired by Godrej’s first step in convening the right stakeholders together, we might just take on that mantle and see if we can make it happen...