August 2016 | Cynthia Rodrigues

'It's our first year, and Tata Strive is hungry for success'

Tata Strive was conceived as a structured and scalable solution to India’s pressing skills shortage. Taking advantage of India’s demographics, Tata Strive’s mission is to build capacity to train youth with relevant skills for employment, entrepreneurship and community enterprise.

Dr Mukund Rajan, member, Group Executive Council, Tata Sons, who is also the co-chair, advisory board for Tata Strive, shares some experiences and insights from the first year that this India-wide programme has been in operation.

What role do you envisage for Tata Strive in achieving India’s skilling goals and economic development?
In India, around a million young people enter the workforce every month, often without relevant skills. If they don’t have the skills that equip them to undertake meaningful work, they are going to be frustrated. They will not be able to achieve the standard of living they are aspiring for, a situation that might create social tension. As a corporate organisation, it is our responsibility to equip them with skills that are usable in industry.

How important are partnerships to your mission?
We were always clear that Tata Strive could not be an offering only from one corporate house. There are many other talented partners with resources and capabilities. We wanted to ensure a tripartite approach to skill development — one where the corporate sector, the non-profit sector and the government each play a part. The creation of network capacity involves not just leveraging Tata skill development centres but also the resources, capabilities and infrastructure that other corporates, the non-profit sector and the government have created.

How will you ensure that the skills imparted through Tata Strive are relevant to industry needs?
The core challenge is to ensure that the skills we teach are relevant and that is why we invest in the pedagogy and training that will equip people to acquire the right skills. This will also require investment from other corporates. The workplace is constantly evolving, requiring new capabilities. In order to keep pace, we will need constant dialogue with industry.

In your view, what needs to be done to enhance the skilling ecosystem in India, and how are you responding to that challenge?
Tata Strive has studied the entire life cycle of the skill development process. During the induction of candidates, we identify the interests and capabilities of individuals. This helps us train people for the work they are suited for. We also need to invest in the right kind of skill training tools. Once the individuals have acquired the skills, they must be tested appropriately, certified and then helped into the workforce.

What has been the learning from your first year of operations?
We are in the early stages, and we continue to learn. As we get closer to our target, we will have to get smarter with issues such as mobilisation, and matching supply with demand. For instance, around mobilisation, we need to identify the best locations for creating skill development facilities. In fact, we will have to keep doing better at every stage of our journey. Tata Strive is very hungry for success. Right now, it is our first year of activity. The last phase (of skilling), relating to placement, is being developed, and the proof of the value we bring will be in how well we can match our skilled talent with meaningful work. This means people need to stay in their jobs, do meaningful work and earn good incomes.

How can underprivileged communities take advantage of Tata Strive’s offerings?
In all Tata Strive programmes, we will measure our ability to specifically impact underprivileged communities that have missed out on the growth and progress our country has seen. Gender diversity is equally important for us, and we believe getting more women into the workforce is critical for the Indian economy.

Do you plan to replicate this programme outside India?
Skills and the desire for meaningful work are relevant everywhere across the world. In fact, even developed countries have seen social tensions building up in the wake of the global financial crisis. Young people everywhere need the right skills, and they need familiarity with the digital universe. If we can fix this problem in India, we would have learned so much that we could offer our solutions to other countries, as well.