Reskilling, Up-skilling Key CSR Tactics to Tackle a Post-Covid World: CII Panel

New Delhi, August, 2020.

Skill development is one of the best means to achieve sizeable impact and derive strategic imperatives from CSR agenda especially in the challenging times of COVID-19, according to an esteemed panel that discussed “Skill Development through CSR” in a webinar organized by CII, North Region. Digital platforms across verticals like healthcare, education, retail are expected to generate significant employment in coming quarters and the pace at which innovation in skill building is adopted to such online models is critical in the wake of new emerging realities.

Batting for strong inter-agency partnerships and bridging the digital divide, the panelists agreed that Covid has changed the way resources are allocated in CSR. The renewed focus is on employability that leads to employment which further leads to economic upliftment. India is aiming to become a 5 trillion-dollar economy and enjoys a strong advantage of vast and young demographic that stands at a crossover of digital leap. By 2023, 70 million more people will have entered India’s workforce (data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-2018. Unemployment concerns have shot up in India off late due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his address Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee Former Secretary, Government of India, and Former Director General & CEO- IICA, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs said, “Covid-19 poses special challenges for skill development. Today when the world faces a crisis, the government, corporates and implementing agencies are turning to CSR. Promoting education, special education, employment-enhancing vocational skills is the need of the hour and our law has been successful in addressing that. Difficulty in skilling, re-skilling and people employment are some of the key challenges we need to address. Government must now act as a facilitator and encourage corporates to go more into the skill development. We also need to meet the dynamic needs of the employers by offering flexibility in the courses being designed, certifications being offered and the way we train our resources. The need of the hour is to tap into technology to leap-frog youth of today into employability.”

Brigadier P K Goyal (Retd), Conference Chair and Member, Regional Committee on Skill Development and Livelihood, CII Northern Region addressed the opening session, saying, “Covid-19 and the global lockdown has impacted the skills ecosystem, resulting in imbalance in the skills landscape. There is a dire need to skill, upskill and multi-skill a huge workforce so there is suitable employability. An effective means to do this is through CSR funds. Govt of India, the corporate industry with their funds and the implementing agencies along with consulting agencies are the umbilical link to an effective skilling programme.”

Lt Gen. Dr S P Kochhar, Director General – COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) added, “A good thing, at present, is that the government has accepted that skilling is a challenge and they are trying to address the gap. We have been advising a skilling program which is Cooperative, Collaborative, Inclusive and Adaptive. If we use technology, such an initiative becomes easier. Training can be normalised across the country, using technology. We can combine Make in India, Digital India, and Skill India, as complementary models and CSR plays a major role in supporting this initiative. We can create co-skilling spaces, with soft and IT skills at the entry-level segment, generic sector skills at the next level of the segment, and the third level being the vaulted training centres where domain knowledge is imparted by industry experts.”

The webinar also included eminent speakers like Dr Sudhir Kapur, Chairman, Regional Committee on Skill Development & Livelihood, CII Northern Region, Ms Anita Rajan, CEO, Tata Strive, Mr R Anand, Principal Consultant & Advisor- HR, HCL Tech Ltd, Mr Chetan Kapoor, COO, Tech Mahindra Foundation, Ms Dhanashree Page Head Operations, Digital Inclusion, CSR, Capgemini India, Ms Romira Roy, Executive Director & Founder SEED, Mr Ashish Singh, Head – ITI Projects, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Ms Meenu Bagla, VP and CMO, Cyient Ltd, Mr Rahul Agarwal, AVP-Finance, Goodera, Mr Mahesh Munjal, Co-Chair Regional Committee on Skill Development and Livelihood, CII Northern Region & CMD, Majestic Auto and Mr Arun Nalavadi, ED- Sustainability and Partnerships, Magic Bus India Foundation.

The panel outlined ways for India Inc to utilise its CSR Funds to undertake skilling programs that are vital to restart the economy. It also examined the relevance of the CSR Law for skill building and the importance of creating an ecosystem that enables new age skills for a sustainable future.