Pearl Tiwari, Director & CEO, Ambuja Cement Foundation

ACF values sustainable partnerships by collaborating with like-minded organisations offering ourselves as implementers to those that share our vision.

May 21, 2019 06:05 IST India Infoline News Service

Pearl Tiwari, Ambuja Cement Foundation
Pearl Tiwari is the Director and CEO of Ambuja Cement Foundation and President (CSR & Sustainability) at Ambuja Cements Limited. With 35 years of experience in the development sector, Ms. Tiwari is a social development professional having worked in this area across diverse academic, NGO and CSR roles. Pearl joined Ambuja in 2000 and ever since has been at the helm of nurturing Ambuja Cement Foundation that has expanded from a fledging team to nearly 600 development professionals it now boasts of today, with a pan-India presence active in 29 locations across 11 states. Ambuja’s CSR efforts have been recognised widely and the recent years have seen a slew of national and international awards for CSR and water management, bestowed by different chambers of commerce and other organisations of repute.
 
In an interview with Shweta Papriwal, Editor, Indiainfoline, Pearl Tiwari said, “Based on demand from location-specific industries as well as students, ACF has also introduced customized courses including nursing assistant, food & beverage services, industrial sewing machine operator and retail management.”
 
Please take us through the overview of SEDI and its objective (courses, duration, fees, eligibility to join, placement percentage etc.) 
There is a major gap in the skilling ecosystem as India will need 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to meet its demands of a growing economy. On the other hand, there is an increase in school dropouts from the education system for various reasons leaving them unskilled and underqualified. It is for these reasons that Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) has placed a large focus on Skill and Entrepreneurship Development to provide opportunities for rural youth with training and employment opportunities to become active, productive and lift them and their families out of poverty. ACF’s Skill and Entrepreneurship Development Institutes (SEDI) deploy outreach workers who counsel, motivate and encourage young people to consider skill training at SEDI.

Its objectives include:
  • High Quality Livelihood Training
  • Sustainable Partnerships with Industry Organizations
  • Address Market Demand for Skills
  • Post Training Support for Retention
  • Fostering Entrepreneurship
  • Career Counselling for Students & Parents
SEDI offers 49 accredited courses from 13 sectors, some of these being masonry, plumbing, electricians, automobile (two–wheeler) repair and computer hardware and networking. ACF also implements mason training course, enabling trained youth to work as skilled masons in the booming infrastructure sector.
 
Based on demand from location-specific industries as well as students, ACF has also introduced customized courses including nursing assistant, food & beverage services, industrial sewing machine operator and retail management.
 
How has been SEDI's impact across India?
With its presence in 10 states, SEDI has contributed towards the economic conditions of SEDI graduates. Post training, about 75% graduates were able to participate in economic activities with savings sent back to their families in villages. Thus making them financially self-sufficient helping those clear loans, supporting sibling education and repair houses.
 
Soft skills were also provided with behaviour at workplaces, reporting hazardous conditions sensitivity towards others and greeting seniors. Some of the employers have also given very positive feedback on our trainees’ sensitivity towards safety, personal hygiene and teamwork. There is a transitional impact with trainees boosting their confidence along with personality, communication skills and behaviour.
 
We adopted a specific focus on gender diversity and mainstreaming women dropouts. Today, over 40% of women graduates trained are women and sometimes relocating to nearby towns for employment. The enrolment of girls in male dominated courses encourage them to pursue careers in electronics, welding and machine operations. Group placements were also encouraged so that they could collectively address the initial settling challenges.
 
Highlights of SEDI:
  • 30 SEDI established centers spread across 10 states in India
  • 45,000 youth trained till date
  • 8,159 Enterprises started
  • 624 trained female candidates in male dominated sectors
  • 41% of SEDI trainees in the skilling centres are women
 
How many youths have been trained till 2018 and what is the target/goal for the next 2-3 years? 
Till date, we have trained 45,000 youth with a placement rate of 74.96%. The target for the next three years is to reach 50,000 trainee keeping women enrollment to 45%.
 
How many are entering the labour force market every year? How SEDI is helping them to get jobs?
As per the Labor Bureau data over a period of four years from 2012 shows on an average 4.75 million people are added to the labour force in India. The majority of youth from the rural background has the least possibility of getting employed because of being unskilled. The major reasons are due to lack of access to vocational training facilities in villages.
 
SEDI located in rural areas has provided access to youth previously unable to enter the job market owing to lack of education/vocational training in their areas. SEDI infrastructure made available at training centers is best-in-class and as per market requirement with basic computer facilities, English training, life skills and safety being mandatory components of training besides the trade skills. Our knowledge partners have also provided machinery tools and equipment to maintain a standard training relevant and upgraded for the industry.
 
Once skill training is complete, SEDI helps facilitate the placement of graduates into their first jobs, via a network of partnerships with industries and business. We organise Job Placement & Meets, Job Fairs, Mentoring and Support and Refresher Training.  We track our graduates for 2 years so that they are well settled with their new jobs.
 
What is the demand-supply scenario for skilled workforce in India?
There is a mismatch in the current labour demand and supply skill because of the disconnect between the education/skilling institutes and the labour market.  The high level of attrition seen after skill training is because of not addressing aspirations among the youth, to ensure better preparation for the job they go into. Placement agencies and potential employers need to be vetted thoroughly to ensure that new entrants are being treated well without discrimination. This would enable skill training to become aspirational for youth. Skill training initiatives delivered and monitored effectively will tremendously benefit Indian’s demographic dividend.
 
Please share with us ACF’s upcoming collaborations with the government/companies/ NGOs.
ACF values sustainable partnerships by collaborating with like-minded organisations offering ourselves as implementers to those that share our vision.

Upcoming collaboration with Government include:
  • District Mineral Foundation in Gujarat - Training of 1000 youth at four locations 
  • State Skill Development mission in UP, HP, Punjab, Maharashtra and MP
  • NULM - National Urban Livelihood mission in UP and MP
  • NSFDC- National Scheduled Caste Finance and Development Corporation in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
  • NABARD - in all location
 
Upcoming collaboration with Private entities include:
  • Schnider Electric 
  • Jaquar
  • Gruh Finance
  • Hindustan Zinc
  • AU Small Bank Finance
  • Alkem Pharma
  • HDFC Bank 
  • IndusInd Bank
  • Castrol
 
Which are the key professions/industries wherein trained people are getting employed in India?
The key profession where SEDI trainees are getting employment are;
  • Hospitality - F&B services, Front Office, Fast Food Restaurants 
  • Insurance and Banking - Microfinance executives, Banking Product Sales and Marketing, Front Office, Customer Services 
  • BPO - Domestic call center operators
  • Retail - Sales, customer relations, supervisors, store management
  • Hospitals - Assist Nursing, General Duty Assistant
  • Electronics Industries - Manufacturing line operation, LED manufacturing line operator
  • Automobile - 2/3 wheeler mechanics, storekeepers
  • Construction - Masons, Electricians, Bar benders 
  • Manufacturing Industries - Machine operators, CNC machine operators, Welders - MIG Arc, gas and spot welders
  • Self-employment - Electricians, A/C technicians, Home appliances technicians, Masons/Contractors
 
What is your view on the skill gap? How to fill this gap effectively?
Response: Today’s youth have a lot of aspirations. Everyone wants to enter the academic system as opposed to skill-based training with the belief that blue collar workers are not treated with the right kind of respect.
 
Due to technology advancement and revolution in communications, many skill sets which were on a high demand have become outdated. Industries are adopting new changes and have to keep them aligned with technological development. Unfortunately, technical training is lagging behind with the speed of change. Institutes are still producing technicians with outdated skills and hence this workforce is not relevant to the current industry set up.
 
Additionally, though technical skills are being provided, there is lack of soft skills that train the youth to be job-ready. Tools like leadership, problem solving, venture building attitudes will only build confidence and conviction of self-reliance which is often required by employers.
 
There is a need for elevating Safety standards in the job world in India. Reporting hazardous condition, familiarity and sensitivity to dangerous materials, exhibiting safe behaviors or even prohibiting bad habits like smoking, chewing of tobacco and alcohol consumption definitely impact behavior of the youth in a work environment.
 
Our SEDIs take care of all the above components preparing our trainees to face any circumstance.
 
What is the importance of integrating technology courses in vocational training in today’s digital world?
Everyone is now moving into a digital world with the skill set demanded by labour markets including digital skills. Technology oriented courses also provide opportunities for trainees to expand their horizons with their skills. It also provides an option for trainers to make the course interactive and build learning materials with a variety of activities available online.

In today’s world, being technologically inclined is the need in every profession. Employees need to constantly keep pace with the changing technologies.
 
Please tell us about future expansion plans and new courses/ training and development programme of SEDI.
Completing 15 years in service, we have evolved cost-effective programmes relevant for rural masses and market requirement. They are proven scalable models and can be replicated anywhere particularly in remote areas. Being in sync with the industry is more crucial and we are committed towards working in that direction.
 
We would like to use this model as a tool for expanding our relationship with visionary leaders and like-minded partners. We will also explore new ventures and promote entrepreneurship in rural areas so that some youth become employers rather than employees creating microenterprises and fuelling rural markets.   

Related Story