Bangalore: Late last year, Mangalore’s employment exchange got a facelift. The state-run exchange started advertising its services, even reached out to students through meetings held in city colleges. Much of this was the result of a so-called public-private partnership between the state and staffing services firm TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd.
On Wednesday, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will inaugurate a similar exchange in Bangalore, again in association with TeamLease—indication that the Mangalore experiment has worked.
Not surprisingly, similar experiments are being considered across the country. India has 968 government-run employment exchanges that have been able to find the people registered with them few jobs.
The Mangalore experiment also succeeded because the partner the state chose is in the staffing business. TeamLease has around 75,000 people on its rolls and is constantly looking for more.
In the Mangalore exchange, TeamLease added three employees to the existing three government employees, networked the computers, and used its own call centre to reach both job seekers and prospective employers. It also added services such as assessment, training, skill development and counselling to the list of those offered by the exchange.
New registrations at the Mangalore centre have since doubled to 1,400 a month and over the past eight months, at least 1,000 people out of a database of 4,000 have gotten jobs, says Neeti Sharma, vice-president at TeamLease who drives the initiative.
After Bangalore, the government of Karnataka hopes to take the new model employment exchange to Bijapur and Gulburga. At least 10 of the 30 employment exchanges in the state will soon have private partners running the show.
The 30 exchanges have had a dismal track record, having placed a few thousand job seekers in the last couple of years, said Vishnukant S. Chatpalli, executive director of the Karnataka Vocational Training and Skill Development Corp., a state government body. “The system needed rejuvenation… Instead of a reactive model now we have decided to take a proactive model.”
Similar efforts are being planned by other state governments. TeamLease says it is in talks with other state governments; and private companies are also in the race.
Namr Kishore, head, organizational learning and marketing, at the Indian arm of US-based staffing services firm Manpower Inc., which is in talks with the Union government and the Haryana government for similar initiatives, says: “This sort of an association will give Manpower higher visibility and access to a large pool of skilled talent in semi-urban and rural areas in which corporates are now interested.”
The new exchanges can be tapped by anyone from a school dropout to a postgraduate. Placements are free, but candidates will be charged a subsidized fee for training, says TeamLease’s Sharma; she declined to reveal the amount. The government, for its part, pays the private firm a monthly fee. Sharma declined specifics of this too.
Chatpalli says the rejuvenated employment exchanges must train and place at least 5,000 candidates in the first year to count as a success. Karnataka expects to create 800,000 jobs following investments of Rs4 trillion promised during the Global Investors’ Meet held in June.
According to the TeamLease India Labour Report 2009, released in June, India’s employment exchanges have so far placed only 200,000 of the 40 million people who are registered with them.
Created in 1959, the ministry of labour runs 968 employment exchanges round the country. Before 1991, when India opened up its markets, people waited in queues and enrolled in these exchanges mostly for coveted government jobs that guaranteed a lifetime of employment.
In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that candidates need not register with an employment exchange to get a government job, making the agencies rather pointless. Liberalization also made the private sector more attractive, even if the jobs were’t necessarily secure.
Since then, “enrolment (at the exchanges) started receding and employers accessing the data also reduced,” said Chatpalli.
The unemployment rate in India was nearly 10% as per the 1999-2000 estimate by the National Sample Survey Organisation, the latest available. The problem is compounded by a lack of skills; 89% of the working population in the age group of 15-59 years have had no vocational training, said the TeamLease report.