The skills boom

Print edition : April 11, 2008

On the University of Kerala campus in Thiruvananthapuram.-S. MAHINSHA

Kerala now has 84 engineering colleges from which some 25,000 students graduate every year.

TURN a corner or a newspaper page and you cannot miss them: soft skills training institutes, industry incubation centres, entrepreneurship development units, finishing schools, practice schools, language and accent training business houses. Scores of HR (human resources) training institutions in every town and city are now the most visible signs of the technology-industry boom in Kerala.

A talented and skilled set of employees is the basic requirement of the IT/ITES industry and wherever human talent is available, the IT and ITES industry will go there, the State IT Secretary Ajay Kumar said.

Pressure has been building on the government and the universities in Kerala to keep pace with fast-changing needs, whether in offering courses that are of contemporary relevance or in developing skills and entrepreneurship.

Kerala is also witnessing a mushrooming of institutions in the private sector providing soft skills, language and accent training and career-oriented skills to employees of the new-age technology parks and institutions. The State, which had just a handful of engineering colleges a decade ago, now has 84 engineering colleges from which nearly 25,000 students graduate every year. Over 150,000 graduates come out of the various arts and science colleges under the various universities in Kerala. The government has launched a programme to improve the employability of these graduates by updating curricula and launching special schools. Many of these educational initiatives will be established in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The target is to generate a 100,000-strong pool of human resource for the IT/ITES industry every year.

A Model Finishing School has been established at the Institute of Human Research Development in Education (IHRDE). Many more are to follow, according to Ajay Kumar. We are also planning a mass-based human resource development programme for IT/ITES industry wherein nearly one lakh college students and graduates are expected to be trained in a special training programme in collaboration with NASSCOM, IT industry and IT training institutes, he said.

Technopark, situated near the University of Keralas campus, will house two finishing schools in the next few months. The first is a 5,000 sq ft facility offering courses in technical subjects related to IT. The second is a soft skills finishing school to be run by a Dubai-based company, Afras Ventures, headed by former U.N. Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor.

These are in addition to several other business-enabling ventures already functioning in the Technopark campus, including the Technopark Business Incubation Centre (T-BIC), Technopark Technology Business Incubation, the National Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, the IT Productivity Centre, and the International Centre for Information and Communication Technology.

The University of Kerala recently established an Entrepreneurship Development Cell with the objective of developing an institutional mechanism to create an entrepreneurial culture among students and alumni of affiliated institutions. It has established an Industry Incubation Centre, where students in their final semester of study or within five years after completion of their course can start a business in less than a weeks time. The first such university-incubated company, Sooryakiran Bioinformatics (P) Ltd., came into being in 2005 and has been successfully offering services to national and international clients in the exciting field of bioinformatics.

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