Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Honing talent for the textile industry

In light of the vast gap between the demand for and supply of skilled labour available to the Indian textile and clothing industry – the country's second largest employer after the agriculture sector – non-government organisations (NGOs) and academic institutes in Bangalore have launched innovative schemes to train the youth and make them "industry-ready". The government of Karnataka has also launched a programme – the Suvarna Kayaka Abhivrudhi Yojane – with the purpose to impart vocational training to youth and provide them with opportunities to get jobs in industry.

The Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) estimates that the textile industry will need over 47 million workers by 2015, including five million skilled workers and two million technical and other personnel. It currently employs over five million people directly and some 45 million indirectly.

Prakruthi, a Bangalore-based NGO, has decided to provide training to 2,000 garment workers over the next one year in the city. Last year it completed the training of 2,000 workers in Tirupur, the centre for inner wear in Tamil Nadu. Pramod Johan, Prakruthi’s Executive Director, said, "The garment industry has been facing problems like low wages, high attrition, lack of training and lack of transparency in ISO certifications. The attrition rate in the industry is 13 per cent in Bangalore, but this is low compared to Tirupur and other states. Several industries pay Rs. 105 a day for a worker in Bangalore."

Attrition rates could be reduced by paying higher wages, offering health insurance, bonus and a healthy working environment, but this is possible only when workers have high skill levels, he said. Prakruthi’s objective is to obtain a comprehensive understanding of labour and environmental concerns in the garment sector, and develop the capacity of employers as well as labour unions on SA8000 standards (social accountability in the areas of child labour, forced labour, health and safety, compensation, discrimination and disciplinary practices).

It is currently developing toolkits and instruction videos to use in training programmes on the factory floor. It has also formed a Garment Support Group comprising representatives of the garment industry and trade unions to work out solutions to issues relating to wages, training and attrition. In recent years, the setting up of textile and apparel parks across many geographies and the emergence of new entrepreneurs have given a fillip to skill development activities. Further, the advent of fashion education is hastening the flow of talent to the textile and clothing industry.

The Bangalore-based Vogue Institute of Fashion Technology (VIFT) has drawn up a blueprint to train rural youth at its campus in the Integrated Textile Park at Doddaballapur, near Bangalore, set up by the Karnataka government. It has identified training modules for both unskilled and semi-skilled youth to improve their employability quotient.

M. M. Kariappa, Chairman of VIFT, said, "This is the first initiative in the country where a training and skill development programme is being offered in a designated industrial park. There is a huge skill gap which needs to be bridged, which our vocational and skill training education infrastructure will address with the active participation of potential employers."

The institute has secured recognition from the Karnataka government for its programmes. "Our aim is to churn out an industry-ready skilled workforce," Kariappa explained. VIFT offers training in fashion and apparel designing, jewelry designing, gemology and diamond grading under one roof. In addition, it offers a wide variety of off-campus educational and training programmes and undertakes scientific research.

Textile companies have also begun training their workers to enhance their skills, to enable the industry to move up the value chain. Traditionally, the Indian textile industry was content to take advantage of labour arbitrage, and skill training had taken a back seat — until now.

"Generally, a worker has to go through an initial training period of eight weeks before joining the workforce. After that, a month's on-the-job training makes him/her fit to start his assigned job," Rajendra Hinduja, former managing director of Gokaldas Exports, said. Experienced workers are trained for specialised work for higher productivity, he added. Gokaldas Exports is the largest exporter of garments in India and employs more than 40,000 people in its manufacturing facilities. "There used to be 400,000 textile workers in and around Bangalore. Now, that number has fallen to 325,000-350,000 due to the high cost of living in the city. Unless we train people in specialised work and give them better wages, it will be difficult to retain workers in the textile industry," Hinduja added.

Another top company official of a textile company said that though they trained workers to equip them with new skill sets, it was difficult to retain workers in the city. "Due to low wages and competing job opportunities, people are reluctant to join the textile industry. So, there needs to be a concerted effort from all stakeholders to train people," he said.

Source: Business Standard, April 19, 2011

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