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India faces acute shortage of trained personnel

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Organised retail is the largest employment generator in India outside agriculture. Bharti Wal-Mart Training Centre, India’s first special skills training centre aimed at bridging the shortage of skilled workers for cash-and-carry and organised retail formats was recently inaugurated in Amritsar, Punjab. Located at Government Institute of Garment Technology (GIGT) Amritsar, the institute is run by the department of technical education, Punjab government. In an interview with IndiaRetailing, Arti Singh, vice-president, Bharti Wal-Mart, shares the vision of Bharti Wal-Mart ‘s latest venture. Excerpts:

IndiaRetailing: Why did you choose Punjab?
Arti Singh: Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal’s vision to increase employable youth in Punjab matched perfectly with our corporate social responsibility objective of supporting education in India to eliminate poverty and create jobs.

Additionally, we are close to opening our cash-and-carry operations in northern India in the coming months and one of the major challenges we have faced is getting talent that is job-ready with the right customer service mindset and requisite skill set. It is simply not available.

IR: How is the institute different from others?
AS: Organised retail is still relatively new in India, and wholesale cash-and-carry where Bharti Wal-Mart operates is even more recent. Most experts agree that India faces an acute shortage of trained personnel with required skill-sets. Several youth who are of employable age, are effectively unemployable because they lack vocational skills.

In order to help address this competency shortage, we have entered into a public-private partnership with the Punjab government, the first of its kind in India, to set up a training center where students can enroll and gain world-class knowledge and learn best practices in retail and cash-and-carry operations so that they are job-ready. In addition to creating opportunities for these people to work at Bharti Wal-Mart, we hope to create a pool of talent in Punjab that can pursue productive careers in cash-and-carry and organised retail formats in Punjab.

IR: How many candidates have enrolled so far? How many do you expect till the end of the registration date?
AS: We have had nearly 500 walk-in candidates, with over 300 enrolled so far. Our marketing campaign has rolled out recently and we expect these numbers to increase.

The institute would be able to provide training and certification to an average of approximately 125 candidates per month, with classes being conducted for six days a week, for 2-3 weeks. The center offers short-term vocational certification courses that will equip candidates to become floor and sales assistants or supervisors at wholesale cash-and-carry and retail ventures.

IR: What kind of certification would the candidates be given after the end of the program?
AS: Candidates will be certified by Bharti Wal-Mart. As we move forward and grow in scale they will be co-certified by us and the department of technical education, government of Punjab.

IR: What is the eligibility criteria for students to enroll?
AS: Eligible candidates are required to have a minimum education of class XII and a minimum age of 18 years. Candidates are selected following a written and an oral test.

IR: What is the fee-structure of the courses? Are there hostel facilities provided within the institute program?
AS: All enrolled candidates are awarded 100 per cent scholarships. Currently, there are no hostel facilities provided within the institute.

IR: What are the profiles of the faculty of the institute? How many of them are there?
AS: There are five faculty members on board currently. People have been hired with industry experience so that they can relate to the job at hand. Secondly, the trainers needed to be certified for standardisation of delivery. A rigorous week long, full time ‘train the trainer’ program was carried out before the deployment of staff.

IR: Do you plan to launch more institutes in other parts of the country?
AS: As this skill centre’s capacity gets fully utilised, we will explore the possibility of using classrooms at other industrial training institutes (ITIs) and polytechnics across Punjab to increase coverage.

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