Professor Mukti Mishra, President, Centurion University of Technology and Management explains how they are creating skilled manpower and bringing about socio-economic change
Centurion University meets the education needs of socio-economically marginalised youth from remote and difficult geographies. The varsity has created skill training centres which impart employment-oriented skill training. They are not only filling an industry requirement for skilled manpower but are also creating employment opportunities for disenfranchised youth.
The 5WH in brief
Who: Professor Mukti Mishra, President, Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM), Odisha
What: Has spearheaded the conceptualisation, navigation and implementation of skill training, vocational education and capacity building for youth living in far-flung undeveloped areas that are bereft of educational facilities
When: First skill training centre set up in July 2006 at Paralakhemundi in Gajapati district, which is Naxal-affected, socio-economically marginalised and tribal dominated
Why: To impart employment-oriented skill training to less privileged youth from remote rural communities who would otherwise have no access to and use for formal education and who in any case cannot afford formal education.
Where: Through a hub and spoke model of mother campuses and satellite centres of Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM) spanning Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand & Himachal Pradesh.
How: By conceptualising industry relevant courses and delivering them through Gram Tarang, a company set up to implement CUTM’s social entrepreneurship agenda; by tying up with the National Skill Development Corporation for better visibility, training content and help in creating the necessary training infrastructure; and by tying up with industry and government agencies for funding, building credibility for the courses and placements.
Industry manpower needs are sourced from the academic world. “As a thumb rule, a country requires 90% workers and 10% thinkers,” says Professor Mukti Mishra, President of Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM), Odisha. In the manufacturing sector and in many service sectors, many companies do not need “knowledge” rich individuals, just adequately skilled manpower. “Higher productivity and zero wastage—even applied to ‘education’—is the mantra of the neo liberal technology obsessed borderless economy,” he adds.
Across the world, universities are perceived to be knowledge imparting institutions, not so much skill imparting and competency building training centres. Unlike many developed nations, however,India has a severe dearth of skills development and vocation-linked training centres. As a result, the Indian education system ends up producing 10% workers and 90% thinkers—the reverse of what is needed.
“In practice, the Indian education system has evolved to be partially irrelevant, outdated and inappropriate. We manufacture millions of degrees without competency or skill sets. So a large number of unemployable university degree holders are without jobs. On the other hand, skills development and vocational education carries a stigma so skilled youth lacking formal degrees are not offered professional vertical mobility opportunities,” observes Dr Mishra.
Youth from rural areas, holding ITI diploma and some even B Tech degrees from second rate institutes desperately need a boost of competency and confidence. Then there is the question of scores of less privileged youth, mostly from rural backgrounds, for whom increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio is not the answer because they are not interested in formal education streams—“the system simply does not excite them,” says Dr Mishra. Their need for livelihood through wage employment or self-employment can only be met through skill training and competency building. According to him, “The need of the hour is for universities to take up this challenge and contribute to the skilling of Indian youth, to prepare them to join the workforce and contribute to productivity.”
Seeing a wider role for CUTM in the region, in 2006, Dr Mishra embarked upon an ambitious project to impart skill development training to less privileged rural youth. Here is how he has gone about translating his dream into reality:
SOLID BACKING: In order to legitimise his vision and make it more broad-based and accepted, Dr Mishra partnered with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to create a network of Skill Training and Capacity Building Centres across the country. “The stringent due diligence process for partnering the NSDC ensures that the skill training provider is easily and speedily accepted as bona fide by agencies and state governments. Also, NSDC partnership has conferred service tax exemption status to Gram Tarang,Centurion University’s social entrepreneurship arm which is constituted as a company,” explains Dr Mishra.
IDENTIFY LOCATIONS FOR SATELLITE CENTRES BASED ON NEED: Today, CUTM has six satellite centres in Odisha, at Balasore, Keonjhar, Bolangir, Koraput, Rayagada and Khurda besides mother campuses at Bhubaneswar and Paralakhemundi. It uses its mother campuses to give trainees some urban exposure and ignite in them the desire to grow academically and professionally—“especially to move beyond boundaries,” says Dr Mishra. Four more satellite centres are located in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad, Vijaywada and Vishakhapatnam (2), and one is in Jharkhand. CUTM also delivers vocational education in 17 schools in Himachal Pradesh and has partnered with that state government to offer skill-based courses in 15 different government-run ITIs. In addition, the industrial hubs Noida, Bengaluru and Pune will soon have one centre each.
According to Dr Mishra, “Centre locations are based on the need. The need, in turn, is determined by the area’s socio-economic status and level of industrial development. Centres in industrial hubs like Noida, Pune and Bengaluru are designed to provide work integrated courses in consonance with the National Skill Qualification Framework for academic and professional vertical mobility.” Broadly, he says the university’s focus is “to provide high impact, low cost skills training in difficult geographies.”
HOLISTIC TRAINING: Students can be put through four levels of training—basic, intermediate, advanced and higher skill sets. The courses are modular, spiral and sequential, and vary in duration from 3 months to 4 years. Some can be done together but mostly they are done in sequence. Some are add on courses for students undergoing formal education. Some are purely practical. The training covers core skills, professional skills, literacy, numeracy, transferable and life skills.
TRAINING INFRASTRUCTURE: Built with the assistance of a low cost loan from the NSDC, each satellite skill imparting centre is equipped with core infrastructure such as tools and machines, and a digital lab for computer knowledge, language training and life skills exposure. Additional funding from the Government of India and Government of Odisha has helped to create a Tool Room.
PLACEMENTS: Partnering the NSDC has given CUTM wider visibility at the national level. In turn, this has helped CUTM to enter into partnerships with the Government of Odisha, the Government of India, corporations and non-government agencies. “Our state of the art infrastructure, which enables us to impart rigorous training, builds the confidence of corporations,” says Dr Mishra.
To date, CUTM has trained 45,000 youth, of whom 60% are young women and 70% are from less privileged, Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Below Poverty Line families. Leading companies have employed these students, including Ashok Leyland, Café Coffee Day, Godrej Industries, Tata ASAL, Honda, Renault Nissan, Lanco Babandh, JSPL, Shahi Exports, Cotton Blossom, K Mohan and others.
CUTM’s training programmes have been nationally recognised. In August 2010, Gram Tarang Employability Training Services was awarded the “Best Skills Project in Rural Communities” at FICCI’s UK-India Skills Forum. It won a Roll of Honour as well as the Skills Champion award in FICCI’s Global Skill Summit in 2012 and 2013. Gram Tarang has also been recognised for its contribution to skill development in the most disadvantaged regions of the country. The National Skill Development Corporation awarded it “Best Overall Performer” for FY 12-13.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Dr Mishra is committed to grow the network to 50 residential skill training centres across the country with the capacity to intensively train 100,000 youth annually.