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Decoded! How skill development schemes can deliver better results for apparel industry

by Dheeraj Tagra

03-December-2018  |  7 mins read

Skill Development

Skill development and job creations have been the top priorities of Narendra Modi-led government and still the party is working in these directions. Apparel manufacturing is a major tool for both as it is totally labour-intensive industry. Efforts like Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) and many more focus on creating skilled workforce for apparel manufacturing industry. Most of the states are also supporting similar initiatives and working aggressively in this direction.

But despite that on the ground level, there are still gaps in skill-sets and a major portion of the industry is not happy with the overall outcome of these efforts. Why is it so? Are there issues in implementation of schemes…is it because the fresh workforce does not want to join the textile and apparel industry… or is it due to the down condition of the industry?

We asked these question from Indian apparel industry veterans and exporters who have interest in skill initiatives and found some more reasons as well as suggestions for better results.

One point on which all agreed was that skill development schemes related to apparel manufacturing industry was initially targeted to the very basic level and the scenario is still same. The company hires ‘untrained’ people and trains them by imparting minimum skill so that these ‘trained’ people can be further developed at the workplace. “This may be just enough at the starting point, but we have to move forward and focus on skill development 2.0 and talk more about higher order skills, be it industrial engineering, or focusing on SPM (special purpose machines). As such skill development now needs to shift into a different gear…,” says Gautam Nair, MD, Matrix Clothing, Gurgaon. Matrix Clothing is working with many top international brands and retailers.

Gautam also insisted on improving overall condition of textile and apparel manufacturing industry. “Overall the infrastructure, which is conducive to textile manufacturing, does not exist in India. If once we can address the basic issues of the industry, like infrastructure, lack of synthetic fabric, etc., the fate of the industry will also be changed. All these things are completely interlinked and impact skill development too,” he adds.

Some stakeholders of the industry appreciate these initiatives but raise issues on the transparency which is actually based on their experience. Ajay Kumar Kak, CEO, Jay Pee Knit Fab, Faridabad running a factory of more than 400 people informed, “Some consultants or agents came to me and asked me if they can run a training centre through me. They explained things to me in detail, but I felt there is lack of transparency in their discussion. Why I need to have their involvement or support in regard to run a skill development centre or to execute any such scheme.” Despite being willing to be a part of such initiative he could not start it… “It seems some ‘eyewash’ is also there in the execution of these schemes,” says Ajay, who also accepts that due to these massive efforts, some positivity is there adding that the schemes need more improvement too.

Apparel Training and Design Centre (ATDC) has the biggest network as far as proper training centres for apparel manufacturing is concerned. Rakesh Vaid, Senior Vice Chairman of ATDC who is also running his own apparel export house, Usha Fabs says, “Up-skilling is an area where the industry is little lacking as basic sewing machine operator still seems to be the focus. Fashion is changing every day, new attachments, folders, machines or innovative raw materials are being used. We at ATDC are trying to fill this gap at a faster rate and initiated new programmes. Over the period our quality of training has also improved a lot.”

He does highlight one drawback in schemes related to skill development which is linking of skill with the job placement. “There are states in India where training is going on a good level, but there is no industry. To bring youth from such state and to offer them a job in Delhi-NCR, or some other established hubs, will again increase urbanization and this whole process is very difficult also. The Government should focus on backward districts regarding skill to enable them.” He further adds that once an area will have the skilled workforce, the industry itself will go there.

Animesh Saxena, MD, Neetee Clothing, Gurgaon another well-known apparel exporter has a strong view on this and sees this issue at two levels. “As a country, we are always obsessed with the numbers and the whole focus of skill development is also based on the same. Like how many candidates you trained and produced. Nobody wants to go after the kind of quality training you provided. Unfortunately, we are lacking severely on that front. We, as an industry, are not providing proper skillset and which keeps on changing.” He added that unlike whole world, trainees are not being trained with a complete process.

According to him, the industry feels disconnected between the service provider and the service taker as there is a mismatch between people required and skilled people available in the industry.

The younger generation is more interested in making quick money. They also have this issue of working with the apparel manufacturing industry. So, majority of training providers just catch some people who can be trained, so that their numbers can be fulfilled. Service providers don’t take their proper aptitude test; whether this person is fit or not, interested or not interested to join the apparel industry…

KM Elango Mariappan, CEO, Peacock Apparels, Madurai does have similar opinion and believes that some of the training centres are not training people as they should do according to terms and conditions of the schemes.