Auto makers partner state-run ITIs to get skilled employees

Auto makers partner state-run ITIs to get skilled employees
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First Published: Mon, May 21 2007. 11 57 PM IST

Updated: Mon, May 21 2007. 11 57 PM IST
Like many other such state-run institutes across the country, Gurgaon’s Industrial Training Institute (ITI), where the country’s future auto mechanics, plumbers and carpenters are acquiring their professional skills, is a series of ramshackle buildings.
Classrooms, spread across a 17-acre campus, are dilapidated, with cracked walls and rotten asbestos roof, with dust-caked ceiling fans that don’t run due to a lack of electricity.
But amid that decay, there are piles of rubble and cement bags, and girders scattered around, all signs of a renewal taking shape at the institute.
For, ITI Gurgaon is one of a few select institutes that are leading a change in how such institutes are run and how shopfloor workers are being trained across the country.
It is part of a pilot project of a private-public partnership and is being run by a non-profit society, which has senior managers from Maruti Udyog Ltd, India’s largest car maker, as well as other auto companies among its members, apart from faculty, students and government officials.
And it’s not just the physical infrastructure that is being upgraded, companies are getting more say in the course curriculum, so that the people who graduate are employable.
“Students (in these institutes) are educated and not trained,” says K.K. Swamy,
deputy managing director at Toyota Kirloskar Motors Ltd’s, local unit. “We hope to bridge the gaps by partnering these institutes.”
For long, Indian companies have bemoaned the lack of qualified personnel and the poor quality of the technicians they hire from such institutes. Now, in the last six months, they are taking the initiative in changing the status quo, spurred by a Central government which is encouraging private participation. Auto and autoparts makers, such as Toyota and the Sona Koyo group of autopart makers, are partnering state-run ITIs to hand-hold students and train them to meet their specific requirements and save on the time spent training workers, which could range from 10 weeks to a year.
According to the government’s blueprint for the auto industry, the Automotive Mission Plan 2006-2016, the number of workers required in the industry is estimated to go up 10-fold to 25 million, as companies such as Volkswagen AG and Renault SA spend Rs60,000 crore to build more car and truck-making factories. Of this, a tenth, or about 2.5 million workers, are likely to be directly employed in the industry in shopfloor positions such as machinists and technicians.
Toyota is partnering 20 institutes across the country, primarily for training workers who service cars at its dealerships. It has a target of training 1,000 such workers till 2010. This is just a precursor to its starting its own institute to train workers at a time when it is planning to build a second factory in the country.
Tata Motors Ltd, India’s largest auto maker by revenues, has started a pilot programme in Singur, West Bengal, where it expects to train 340 freshers in association with local institutes such as the ITI Hooghly and the Ramakrishna Mission, a non-government organization. The company, which is building a car factory in Singur, had earlier said it expects to hire 1,000 people for the project.
“It is the company’s long term philosophy to recruit local people where ever we have plants. We are doing it at our new plant at Singur,” said Rajiv Dube, president of the passenger cars division at Tata Motors.
While some companies say they are doing this as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives, the main objective is essentially to find and hire workers.
“It is part of a CSR initiative,” says Surinder Kapur, chairman of the Sona Group, an autoparts supplier. “But there is a requirement for multi-skilled people in the industry and this will help meet that.”
Sona, which is developing a six-month programme for the institute, eventually sees itself getting into the business of education and training in this sector. “It’s early days yet, but it’s a possibility we are keenly exploring since we have the necessary expertise,” says Kapur.
With ITIs offering courses that teach people only a single skill, and “19th century stuff,” as one industry called the courses, these companies are working at different levels to ensure that they get a model worker.
Traditionally, the involvement of companies with ITIs was restricted to sporadic donations or some feeble attempts at work placements. Now, companies are themselves developing course curriculum to supplement the material that is used to train the students.
“Our involvement with these institutes vary from financial support to improving the curriculum and sending our own people for providing training” says Praveen Kadle, executive director, finance and corporate affairs at Tata Motors.
The new course materials includes soft skills, such as health and financial awareness, concepts such as kaizen, a method of continuous improvement, total quality management and total productive maintenance. “The aim is to make the worker productive from day one,” says Swamy.
Apart from this, the companies also provide engines, lathe machines and organize refresher course for the faculty of these institutes at their factory. More importantly, students are offered internships at the factory or at dealers’ service outlets and often assigned a mentor from the supervisory staff from the partner company.
“Now that we got to train on proper machines in the last six months, companies trust us to handle customer vehicle,” says Anil Kumar, 21, a graduate of ITI Gurgaon, who is interning in a Maruti service centre in Gurgaon.
The concept of industry partnering training institutes is relatively new in the blue-collar or shopfloor area for India even though this has long existed in the white collar domain of information technology.
IT companies, such as Accenture Inc.., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd and Infosys Technologies Ltd have been working with high-end academic institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore for training their manpower and enhancing their productivity levels.
India’s apex body for software companies, Nasscom, also works closely with University Grants Commission under its IT workforce development initiative aimed at improving productivity levels of around 10 lakh software professionals employed in the country.
The trigger for the partnership model at the blue-collar worker level, apart from the manpower problem that is plaguing the industry, is encouragement from the central government, which has called for increased company level participation in the education sector, especially in ITIs.
In the recent Union Budget, finance minister P. Chidambaram has allocated Rs750 crore for ITI upgradation, and offered an interest free loan of Rs2.5 crore for such institutes.
“In government-run institutes, everything is run in a set pattern,” says S.S. Sangwan, joint director in charge of ITIs in the Haryana administration. “Technology is changing fast and students have to be trained in them, so we have to invite the private sector.”
“Once the go-ahead is given there are questions of what to do and how to do it. That’s where we come in,” says Rajeev Khurana, a 20-year veteran manager at Maruti, who’s the company’s pointman for the ITI. He coordinates all aspects from developing course curricula to faculty training to liaisoning with the public works department of the state to building roads inside the camps.
The Haryana government has so far signed agreements for four institutes. It expects to do so for 32 other institutes soon, says Sangwan.
But it will be a slow process since typically there is resistance from the institute itself. “As all government employees, we were insecure about our jobs,” says Gurdeep Sathija, a senior instructor at ITI Gurgaon. “But once those fears were resolved, we backed the process.”
Abhineet Kumar in Mumbai and Pankaj Mishra in Bangalore contributed to this story.
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First Published: Mon, May 21 2007. 11 57 PM IST
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