‘India can bridge EV skill gap by considering international models while acknowledging its labor-intensive economy’: Teamlease’s Subburathinam P | Autocar Professional

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As companies move towards electrification, bridging the skill gap will be critical to augment the industry’s growth. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has estimated that the EV industry can create 1 crore direct jobs and 5 crore indirect jobs by 2030. Subburathinam P, Chief Strategy Officer, Teamlease talks about adopting strategies that combine vocational education and apprenticeships, and the importance of reskilling and upskilling. Edited Excerpts.

How do we address the skill gap as companies move towards EVs, given the latest EV policy?

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship anticipates that the electric vehicle companies in India are going to generate one crore direct jobs by 2030, with an additional five crore indirect Electric Vehicle jobs. The FAME scheme, initiated in 2015 and later revised as FAME India Phase II, aimed to boost electric vehicle (EV) adoption and develop the electric mobility ecosystem. It provided financial incentives for consumers purchasing electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers, while also offering subsidies to manufacturers to promote indigenous production of EVs and components.

Despite this potential, there are significant concerns regarding the existing skill gap in the workforce. The specialised skill set required for installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting EV charging stations is currently in short supply. Traditional educational institutions encounter difficulties in addressing the talent requirements of industries like electric vehicles, given the ongoing advancements in technologies and the constant evolution of requirements.

Educational institutions must update their curricula to integrate EV-specific courses covering mechatronics, battery technology, and charging infrastructure to meet evolving industry demands. Current automotive workers require upskilling and reskilling programs to acquaint them with EV technology and maintain their relevance in the changing job market. Collaboration between EV manufacturers and educational institutions is essential to align training programs with industry standards and technological advancements. Government support through incentives for skill development initiatives and backing vocational training centers dedicated to EV technologies is crucial. Private sector initiatives, including internal training programs, are necessary to cultivate a workforce proficient in EV-related skills and ensure a seamless transition from traditional automotive manufacturing to EV production.

Do we need to rethink education coursework to make skillsets more relevant?

The existing curriculum in India’s institutes may not adequately cover the specific skills required for designing, manufacturing, and maintaining EVs. The emerging job landscape is expected to shift away from traditional manufacturing towards roles in areas such as IoT, mechatronics, robotics, 3D printing, AI, machine and deep learning, analytics, virtual collaboration, automotive design, and computational thinking. To address this gap, the Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has taken steps to skill India’s workforce with adequate knowledge of occupational skills like R&D, Manufacturing, Sales, Services etc. It also has courses for developing standards for Industry 4.0- Robotics & Electric Vehicle.

How can companies look at reskilling and upskilling initiatives?

Collaborative industry partnerships are increasingly acknowledged as a strategic method for attracting top talent within the EV sector. Through alliances with educational institutions, research centres, and established automotive players, companies broaden their access to a diverse talent pool. Moreover, companies can conduct skill gap assessments, devise personalised development plans, and evaluate effectiveness to bolster workforce capabilities. 

Incentivising participation in such programs through career advancement opportunities, performance-based incentives, or recognition for acquired certifications not only encourages employee engagement in learning but also fosters loyalty and retention within the organisation.

What models can be adopted from other countries? Or is India unique in this case because we are more labour-intensive whereas developed countries are more capital intensive.

India can bridge the EV sector’s skill gap by considering international models while acknowledging its labor-intensive economy. One strategy is to adopt collaborative training models like Germany’s dual vocational system, combining apprenticeships with vocational education. Another approach involves fostering government-industry partnerships, mirroring the U.S. model of supporting training programs developed with EV manufacturers. Another avenue for India is to emulate China’s emphasis on specialised higher education programs for EVs, encouraging universities and technical institutes to offer specialised courses and degrees focused on EV technology.

While India’s labor-intensive market differs from the more capital-intensive approaches of developed countries, the focus should be on creating a balanced ecosystem that leverages India’s labor force while integrating capital-intensive technologies. This approach can ensure that India’s workforce remains competitive and that the manufacturing sector can thrive in the era of EVs.

On the one hand people are looking at India due to its attractive cost advantages whereas on the other hand, we are trying to prevent brain drain. It’s a tough balancing act. What is the way ahead?

The trend of companies collaborating with educational institutions for skill development initiatives is proving highly advantageous for organisational sustainability and growth. Through these partnerships, tailored training programs are designed to meet industry needs, ensuring employees are equipped with relevant skills.

How do we make ITIs and training courses more appealing to people? Does the approach need to change? How do we address this underlying issue?

In addressing the underlying issue of making ITIs and training courses more appealing, it’s essential to recognise the evolving needs of both learners and industries. By modernising curriculum, enhancing practical training opportunities, providing career guidance, fostering industry partnerships, offering flexible learning options, and providing financial incentives, ITIs can attract a diverse pool of talented individuals and equip them with the skills needed for a successful career.

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