Skill development initiative lags in Maharashtra

Shardul Nautiyal, MumbaiThursday, December 31, 2020, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Government flagship Life Science Skill development program, conceived three years ago, is lagging in Maharashtra due to poor stakeholder response and lack of government interventions in bringing the industry, academia and life science skill development council on a common platform for enhancing the career prospects of the student fraternity. Both are comfortable in their own zone and resist change, opine industry experts.

“Having been associated with skills development initiative for the life science industry for the last three years, I have gained a deep perspective. The worst sufferers are the student fraternity. It’s time we make a change for which the government needs to step in and whole-heartedly support the significant efforts taken by people like us.  Maharashtra, unfortunately, is lagging way behind,” said Hemant Deshpande, CEO, Pollux life Science LLP, Mumba    i.

In Maharashtra, the Life Science Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC), established under the auspices of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has mandated Mumbai-based Pollux to upgrade skill-sets among emerging pharmacists to bridge the industry-academia gap.

According to LSSSDC estimates, the employment opportunities in the pharma sector for chemists in quality assurance, quality control, and production along with a medical representative will double to 657,432 from the prevailing 316,619 on pan India basis over the next eight years by 2024.  In Maharashtra alone, the workforce is expected to surge to 197,232 from 94,987 during the same period of eight years.

The industry has been drawing flak from the academia and government for not giving enough focus on the life science skill development council (LSSDC) approach towards making the student confident about the skills attained. There appears to be friction in driving ahead of the policy of giving a helping hand to students towards a holistic approach for making skill development successful in the country and Maharashtra in particular.

Pollux life Science LLP has been leading the program in Maharashtra with a lukewarm response from the stakeholders. It has tied up all major institutions of life sciences across Maharashtra in Aurangabad, Pune, and Mumbai.

The council jointly with the industry has developed about 50 “National Occupation Standards”, which define the skill-sets needed to perform the major job roles in the pharmaceutical sector.

On a pan-India basis, the council aims to certify the skilled workforce of 21 lakh over the next 10 years.

“The thrust would be to create industry-specific talent pool by not only imparting knowledge but also improving the employability of pharmacy graduates including soft skills. This process would facilitate the smooth transition from education to employment of these pharmacy graduates and in the process reduce the burden on the corporate to mould the recruits,” said Deshpande, with over three decades of experience in the pharmaceutical domain.

LSSSDC has been working hand in hand with the members of the pharmaceutical industry including Abbott, Ajanta Pharma, Aurobindo, Baxter, Bayer, Bharat Biotech, Biocon, Cadila Pharma, Wockhardt and Pharmexcil among several others.

Pollux led by Hemant Deshpande provides professional solutions including skills development exclusively for the pharmaceutical industry.

LSSSDC creates a robust and vibrant eco-system for the development of a skilled workforce matching globally recognized standards for the life sciences sector in India. This will provide meaningful livelihood opportunities to a multitude of people in the pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and clinical research space in India. LSSSDC seeks to address this by focusing on sector-specific competencies/skills, quality assurance through the accreditation of skills acquired by trainees, curriculum development for skills training, qualification framework and setting of standards and benchmarks, aiding in recruitment and placement of trained and skilled workforce, and becoming a repository of information.

Skill-based training in healthcare
The Maharashtra skill development ministry is planning to come out with skill-based training programs to equip the youth for a career in healthcare as nurses and technicians as the state is presently facing a huge challenge of skill gap due to the mass migration triggered by the COVID pandemic.  The ministry will adopt the models on the lines of Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF)’s flexible digital learning solutions and interventions.

Nawab Malik, minister for skill development and entrepreneurship for Maharashtra, while speaking to Chronicle Pharmabiz informed, “Based on its experiences, the ministry has planned to come out with skill-based programs as part of Skill India campaign to train youngsters for career avenues particularly as nurses and technicians. There is a huge gap in terms of building manpower resources in healthcare during COVID-19. We are also exploring budgetary provisions on the same so that the programs achieve desired outcomes.”

Skill India campaign was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 15, 2015, to train over 40 crore people in India in different skills by 2022.

“If we want to reach out to the masses and offer youth access to skill-based training during COVID-19, then we need more institutions like SBF for skilling youth,’’ he further added. SBF has developed evolutionary hybrid approaches to vocational skill training models. In fact, as per a study titled “Scenario amidst COVID 19 - Onground Situations and Possible Solutions” conducted in April, about 56 per cent of students in India do not have access to smartphones.

SBF’s own study too revealed similar numbers. The study that covered over 2,500 of the organization’s alumni showed that only 40-45 per cent of the students had access to smartphones and over 50 percent did not have any access to virtual training methods. SBF team realized that while theoretical knowledge could be delivered to the trainees using digital platforms, the challenge was to ensure that it was translated into the application using innovative pedagogy blended with experiential learning.

SBF has pioneered a model where its team delivered home-based pocket training kits for skill training courses in health and wellness to ensure that the trainee could use them to practice while attending live sessions or watching the videos.

Gaurav Arora, vice-president, projects (skills and sports), SBF explained the initiative, “In early April, it became clear that skill training in an in-person manner would be difficult shortly and online was the way forward. An initial pilot of 250 students which blended practical training with home kits and on-line lessons, proved successful. We now have the ability to take this model to 1,500 students over the next three months. We believe our model can be replicated ensuring youth continue to work towards their goals and build resilience despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves today.”

Framroze Mehta, president of, Rotary Club of Bombay said, “It is more important than ever now, to continue skill training for youth whose futures depend on it. While there are challenges, they are also myriad opportunities. Rotary Club of Bombay got on onboard this project because we believe that it is our collective responsibility to support such an excellent initiative. It would be good if other organizations too supported such an initiative.”

SBF which was started in 2002 empowers school-going children by enabling them to make the right choices about their health, education, and livelihood. In-school leadership and advocacy programs equip children with life skills needed to lead change.