Many great thought leaders from around the world have discussed the importance of education. While Mahatma Gandhi felt that one should learn as if you were to live forever, Nelson Mandela thought that education was the most powerful weapon that could be used to change the world. Aristotle even postulated that, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead”.
This is because education enables the development of new skills and knowledge – which especially improves the lives of those living in low-income communities. For example, education often enables the primary income earner to secure a new job and improve family income over time. Practically this means greater spending on children’s education, family healthcare and food – enabling a more prosperous life overall.
Nowhere is the importance of education and skill development more relevant than in India. Despite a vibrant and rapidly growing economy defined by a large youth population, India faces a significant shortage of skilled labour.
For example, only 3% of the 15 million individuals that enter India’s workforce each year undergo vocational training and only about 13% are graduates and post-graduates of university or college. Moreover, 53% of employers have indicated that skills deficiency is one of the key reasons for entry-level vacancies.
An appropriately educated and skilled workforce has the potential to be India’s national asset – as it has the world’s youngest workforce with a median age significantly below China and other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
With this in mind the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), a unique Public Private Partnership that promotes skills development in India by catalyzing the creation of vocational institutes, and [email protected], a grassroots initiative aimed at realizing the dream of an inclusive and developed India, recently hosted the Power to Empower competition in partnership with Ennovent and TiE-Delhi NCR.
For the second year in a row, the Power to Empower competition provided a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to turn India’s skill development challenge into an opportunity to create sustainable models. As a result, entrepreneurs with product and service innovations having a strong skills focus, ease of replication and potential long-term financial viability were invited to apply to the Competition. The results were overwhelming; over 234 nominations and 84 applications from across India were submitted.
We are now pleased to announce that Elements Akademia won the 2013 Power to Empower competition.
Elements Akademia has a truly empowering approach to skills development. The company, which is India’s first business school management, firm aspires to bridge the gap between academic education and corporate needs and currently fully owns the operations of an under-performing business school in a tier 2 city.
“Most students that come from small towns often require soft skills more than academic theory. Our curriculum and pedagogy emphasizes employability and practical learning thus being one of the first ones to marry the universal appeal of formal higher education with the practical utility of skill based training”, says Nishant Saxena, Founder of Elements Akademia.
Additionally, Saksham a model that links the unskilled and unemployed to training via skilled unemployed artisans was the winner of the student category. Saksham will first be piloted in Vellore with unskilled individuals being trained for one year in areas such as handicrafts, pottery, embroidery and tailoring.
JustRojgar and Octavesim, the runner-ups in the Power to Empower competition, also brought forth skill development models that have the potential to generate both financial and social impact.
While JustRojgar offers turnkey manpower outsourcing for informal sector jobs and hosts skill centers in small towns, Octave Simulation develops interactive e-learning courses imparting practical industrial knowledge to technical professionals working in various industries.
Innovation such as Elements Akademia, Saksham, JustRojgar and Octavesim create improved access to jobs as well as empower current and future employees to effectively learn new concepts. In the long run, developing skilled labor ensures individuals can lead more prosperous lives.
To equip the winning teams in effectively implementing and scaling their impact, the Power to Empower competition provides an all-paid short course by Deakin University, Australia with travel sponsored by the Victoria Government of Australia, a complimentary annual TiE Associate membership as well as mentoring support and a scholarship to attend the Sankalp Unconvention Summit in Mumbai April 17 and 18, 2013.
These winning innovations of the Power to Empower competition highlight that India’s skills landscape can be transformed by enthusiastic entrepreneurs with viable business models that balance both skill development and financial goals. It is through grassroots partnerships such as these that the country’s education and skill development statistics can be turned around to create a more inclusive and developed India.
Maya Angelou quoted, “When you know better, you do better”. Bridging the gap of skills development will provide solutions to many of the other challenges faced by low-income people in India. Competitions such as Power to Empower hosted by NSDC and [email protected], in partnership with Ennovent and TiE-Delhi NCR, are therefore a huge step in the right direction.
 Source: National Skills Development Corporation, 2012