In an interview to TOI, Naik is optimistic about the economic recovery which is under way. Excerpts:
How has the pandemic hurt the skilling process?
It has been hit very badly. Things are improving now, people are coming back. L&T has been able to get its entire workforce back and we have a new set of people. 30-40% is the separation rate in the construction industry and we have to train all of them as new people come and every site — we have 600 sites — has a training centre.
The Prime Minister, through action, has emphasised that skilling is the backbone of any country’s economic development. He appointed a full-scale Cabinet minister. We also have nine training centres and two more are coming up.
Many people can build a building, but the quality of training will not be good unless the trainers are very good. You would need more than 100 such “training for trainer” institutes to improve the quality of trainers, who in turn can improve the quality of trainees. This is NSDC’s ecosystem and ITI has their own parallel ecosystem.
Has the industry’s response improved to embrace skilling?
All the big industries are doing their own training to suit the trade that is required for their products — like auto, truck, power. But there is no absolute standard for all of them.
The real problem is 75% or more people are employed in the small-scale sector and they are the people who really suffer because they cannot afford to have a training camp for 50 or 20 people employed. That is what NSDC and ITIs have to capture.
There are expectations of a massive expansion of the manufacturing sector. Will they find skilled workers?
I think each industry who wants to come will have to take the raw materials, which is basic trainees, and work on them for six months or a year to train them to suit their needs.
For example, Japan for the last three years wanted skilled manpower from India, because Japanese are ageing. It has taken us last three years to train 300 people for Japan, because Japan conducts their own tests and if they don’t pass, then you have to keep training. They need to train for one year on basic Japanese language.
Now, Russia wants more than 100,000 people in their eastern side. Though nothing is spoken about, lots of Chinese have gone there and Russia is worried. They are interested if Indians can come there, but the problem is skilled manpower. Nobody wants unskilled and semiskilled people then invest in starting factories. India is not able to cope with that.
What is your assessment of the infrastructure sector?
Our real problem is qualification of contractors. 86 road projects are half done. We were approached for it, but as a practice, we don’t take up half-completed projects. I know of companies, who are qualified without experience — zero experience — are getting projects.
Hydrocarbon refinery type of projects are given to a company which will never get completed. The tunnel, which has been talked about for last 10 years, is now given to a company which doesn’t know what a tunnel is. Why are we not qualifying people as per international norms, so that project gets done?
How do you see the overall economic recovery?
Well, it is inching forward. Unfortunately again, Covid has erupted in several states. I hope with arrival of vaccine and hastening of that process, we are going to sooner come out of this pandemic. I expect in the next year economic growth will be much higher, provided there is no crowd, there are no agitations for four months.