Far from the glamorous world of MBA job fairs and corporate recruiters, a silent revolution is brewing in Maharashtra’s labour market — one that might prove crucial to the country’s economic growth.
The state’s network of 750 Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), the country’s largest, which teach highly specialised vocational trades such as welding and auto mechanics, has tied up over the past two years with more than 100 companies, such as Bharat Forge and Indian Hotels, which runs the Taj chain.
These companies are helping train these youngsters, many of who are school drop-outs, and crucially, employ them.
Unlike graduates and post-graduates, these youngsters are guaranteed work because there is such a huge demand for them.
“We have more than enough managers,” said Rajesh Jain, deputy general manager at Jindal Steel, which has tied up with six ITIs.
“But there is a dire shortage of those trained in skilled trades,” he added.
A Confederation of Indian Industry survey estimates that, at the current economic growth rate, Maharashtra will need 40 lakh industrial skilled employees (distinct from professionals such as software engineers and chartered accountants) by 2010.
But the state’s ITIs produce less than 500,000 employees every year.
“The need for skilled manpower is only going to escalate as the country progresses,” said Ajit Ranade, the Aditya Birla Group’s chief economist.
Kailash Wadekar, 18, will soon be ready to tap this demand. His father, a farmer, began earning Rs 4,000 a month two decades after he began working. But for him, a monthly salary of Rs 12,000 is only a year away.
The class X-dropout is doing a course in air-conditioning and refrigeration at an ITI in Wada.
This will culminate in a one-year apprenticeship with Bharat Forge, one of India’s largest auto component makers, after which he will be absorbed into the company.
“I could not afford to go to college, but I have a guaranteed job that will pay me more than anyone in my family has ever earned,” he said.