Skill development key to enhancing livelihood opportunities in Assam

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By: Sumit Barat

Skills and knowledge are driving forces of economic growth and social development for any country. India, being one of the youngest nations in the world, with more than 54% of the total population below the age of 25 and over 62% of the population in the working-age group of 15-59 years, has a demographic advantage of the significant young workforce. As per the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, India currently faces a severe shortage of well-trained, skilled workers. It is estimated that only 2.3 % of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 52% in the USA, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea. Large sections of the educated workforce have little or no job skills, or formal upskilling opportunities, making them largely unemployable.

This demographic advantage of the young population is across all states and is also reflected in the state of Assam – the largest economy in the northeast region with a population of over 3.12 crore as per the 2011 Census. The working-age group is estimated to rise from 60% in 2011 to 65% in 2036. Developing a sustainable skill ecosystem is the key to leverage this demographic shift towards contribution to the state’s economic development.

Contributing to such skill upgrading ecosystem, are private companies that run skill development programmes as part of their Social initiatives like Azure Power. Azure Power is a dedicated solar power company with a journey spanning over a decade of providing low-cost solar power solutions to customers throughout India. Azure Power has been conducting activities for the upliftment of communities and underprivileged youth in and around the villages they operate in. Skill development is one such activity.

In the last 3 years, Azure power has sponsored upskilling of 3500+ beneficiaries across 6 states and 550+ in Assam alone. The majority of them are gainfully employed. The training course is tailored according to the employability prospects in the area. So far these programmes include upskilling the local villagers on Basic Computer education. Supporting the Banking and Financial service industry through remote working, cutting & tailoring, beauty culture, phulkari jutti embroidery, and bike repairing training all benefiting the need of the industry and community. The ultimate goal of running such skill programmes is not only upskilling the beneficiaries but create sustainability through employment. Each beneficiary skilled by Azure Power undergoes a third-party assessment and if qualified are issued National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) certificate under the Skill India programme. The team driving the programmes in various centres are not only targeting up-skilling the beneficiaries but also employability target, thus ensuring the long-term sustainability of the programme. Apart from such skill development programmes, the company is also investing it other community development activities in the state of Assam for e.g. installation of smart class in government schools, installation of RO water purification system, street lights amongst others.

We believe that there is a need to assess the Indian ecosystem for its conduciveness to promote and sustain the grassroot entrepreneurial ventures and Skill Development hence play a lead role here. In Assam, as part of our local community engagement, we have been actively involved in the promotion of livelihood enhancement programme, in four districts of Nagaon, Udalguri, Kamrup and Cachar, of the state, through our skill development training centres. Various Self-Help Groups are also created and connected to these centres with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to take this initiative further in a sustainable manner. Since these skill centres are located close to our solar power project sites, our project staff frequently visits these skill development centres to keep a check on desired outcome and volunteer towards community development. We continue to invest in the communities through our skill development initiatives so that the villagers can have meaningful employment and have a prosperous life in the years to come.

There are many encouraging stories of individuals who have benefitted from such programmes. One such story is of Rongila Brahmha, a young girl from Sarbaherua village -from the Udalguri district of Assam who dreamt of completing her further studies but was unable to pay her tuition fees for a diploma course, she was pursuing in the city. She enrolled herself for a free course in the Azure Power Skill Training Program near her village and after successfully completing her certification course, she is now able to earn and support her family and can also pay for her tuition fees with a dream of setting up her own boutique someday!

The skill development centres across the country run by Azure Power support the overall welfare and wellbeing of the community. The company hopes that such programs will leverage India’s advantageous demographic shift and contribute to economic and social development especially in the rural areas by creating a self-dependent ecosystem. (The writer is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Azure Power Pvt. Limited.)

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