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Media’s looming manpower crisis

Media’s looming manpower crisis

The Indian media and entertainment industry is growing at a fairly robust pace and looks set to expand manifold over the next decade. But how will it find enough people with the right skills to feed the machine? One study puts the requirement for personnel at 4 million in 2022, a number that seems impossible to meet given the quality and employability of the current, meagre talent pool.

Last week, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and KPMG released their annual report on the Indian media and entertainment sector. It is clear from the report that in spite of the global economic uncertainty and tepid Indian growth, the industry registered a healthy growth rate of 12%. Backed by strong consumption in tier II and III cities, continued growth of regional media and rapid expansion of new media businesses, the industry is estimated to grow 13% in 2012 to Rs82,300 crore, the report said. Thanks to this pace and as a key influencer of overall wellbeing, the media and entertainment industry looks poised for the evolutionary changes that will accompany this growth. Enabling policy, industry initiatives, new technologies and increasing consumption are facilitating the process. Finding enough qualified and skilled people is essential to maintaining the momentum. But the personnel issue doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves.

To staff each of these components, a wide variety of skills is required—from top-level managers and producers to spot boys, stuntmen, make-up artists and lighting technicians. Similarly, in the distribution of films, television and, to some extent even print, people with distinct skills and expertise are required. The unique requisite of these sectors is the balance of technical, managerial and creative abilities that are needed in each role.

To address these requirements, there are plenty of institutes— both private and public—where a range of courses and subjects are offered to those interested in the industry. However, the employability of most students from these institutes is questionable. Media education and the various allied courses offered in our country suffer from lack of standardization. This is also evident from the wide variety of courses and levels of programmes with no accreditation. The mushrooming of media institutes has also meant a serious shortage of faculty members, especially those who are able to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology and specializations.

Higher education authorities such as the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are responsible for post-school higher education and technical education, overseeing courses that require rigorous approvals. But courses in mass communication and journalism are not always considered relevant to the industry besides being regarded at times as being of dubious quality.

Then there are a range of institutes offering short courses, mostly certificate courses, that are more focused on skill development or vocational education. Some of these courses include photography, editing, anchoring, programming, etc.

Taking the lead in addressing requirements in the sector, Ficci and NSDC recently announced the formation of a sector skills council for the media and entertainment industry. This is a positive development. The challenges and opportunities faced by the media and entertainment industry need to be tackled through foresight and the synergetic efforts of industry leaders, policymakers and academicians. Clearly, a larger vision for the industry, especially on future manpower development, needs to be articulated.

The biggest challenge in developing suitable manpower will be the issue of trainers of faculty who are themselves trained, apart from quality education standards that address the unique requirement of creative, technical and managerial skills. This includes linking the various levels of education corresponding to the competency standards required in various job roles. Perhaps a good way to address this complex scenario is to map the diverse players, roles and requirements of the sector. There is sufficient global experience and international learning that can be drawn upon to provide the required impetus to the media and entertainment industry in India.

P.N. Vasanti is director of New Delhi-based multidisciplinary research organization Centre for Media Studies (CMS). She also heads the CMS Academy of Communication and Convergence Studies.

Also Read | P.N. Vasanti’s earlier columns

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