Thursday, July 01, 2010

Private varsities seek pacts with firms for entry-level training

Educational institutions such as Manipal Group, Thapar University, Amity University and Lovely Professional Univer- sity are offering large firms dedicated, long-term training for their new hires. The Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) already has such a tie-up with India's second largest lender, ICICI Bank Ltd. The ICICI Manipal Academy for Banking and Insurance, floated two years ago, offers a one-year residential programme to train the bank's probationary officers fresh out of college. MEMG is in talks with around a dozen firms in the banking, financial services and insurance, retail, and manufacturing sectors. "Potentially, there is enormous opportunity", said Anand Sudarshan, Managing Director and Chief Executive at MEMG. "We hope to close with at least six of these companies this year". He declined to name the firms.

Officers trained at the ICICI Manipal Academy get a post- graduate diploma in banking and insurance from the Manipal University and join the bank as assistant managers. ICICI pays their fees. So far, 1900 probationary officers have gone through the program. "These initiatives aim to create inclusive opportunities that recognize and nurture the talent from across the country, including smaller towns and cities, and from all strata of society", a spokesperson for ICICI Bank said.

Firms are again hiring in large numbers, but employability remains a problem. According to human resource firm Manpower Inc.'s latest talent shortage survey, 16% of employers in India struggle to fill key positions. "If a company hires 100 people, 25 are very good quality, 25 are average and the rest are just absorbed", said J.S. Neerav, Vice-Chairman of the board of governors of Patiala-based Thapar University. It is in talks with some five firms in manufacturing and information technology. Neerav declined to disclose their names.

Public sector companies, too, are being tapped. K.S. Bains, Director General of Amity Institute of Training and Development, the training arm of Noida-based Amity University, said he is in advanced talks with Steel Authority of India Ltd. and in preliminary discussions with NTPC Ltd., NHPC Ltd. and Central Warehousing Corporation for similar initiatives.

Some experts believe these models are short-term fixes. "Once the economy matures (and companies slow recruiting) these models will vanish", said Rajan Kaicker, Executive Chairman at the South Asian arm of U.S. training and consulting firm Franklin Covey Co. Kaicker says the university-corporate training model will work only with scale and, therefore, for services firms that are process-driven, hire in thousands and suffer from high churn.

The institutions say the key advantage is savings. Partnering with universities lowers training costs for firms by 30-40%, said Aman Mittal, Assistant Director of Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University, which is in talks with a large retail firm for a co-branded program. Firms opting for this model don't have to invest in physical infrastructure, faculty or creating a curriculum, he added.

That hasn't stopped firms before from spending on improving the quality of their new hires. In 2005, India's second largest software exporter, Infosys Technologies Ltd., set up the world's biggest corporate training centre in Mysore to train around 12,000 freshers a year, investing Rs. 2,055 crore (Indian Rupees 20.55 billion).

Shekar Viswanathan, Deputy Managing Director (Commercial) at Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd., believes in a mix of the in-house and outsouced models. While the outsourced model gives flexibility and cost advantage it cannot be a cure-all, he said, and added, "Very specific training has to be done in-house...soft skills can be outsourced".

Source: Mint, July 1, 2010

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