Use CSR funds for reskilling, upskilling of workforce to tackle post-COVID world: CII panel

Use CSR funds for reskilling, upskilling of workforce to tackle post-COVID world: CII panel
As unemployment concerns have shot up in India off late due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a CII panel today pitched for effective use of CSR funds for re-skilling and up-skilling of workforce in the country in order to restart the economy.

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 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Law for skill building and the importance of creating an ecosystem that enables new age skills for a sustainable future.

Dicussing on “Skill Development through CSR” in a webinar organised by industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the panelists said 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, they said in a statement.

“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,” Former Director General and CEO Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs Bhaskar Chatterjee said addressing a webinar on organized the industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Asserting that promoting employment-enhancing vocational skills is the need of the hour, he said there is a need to address the challenges like difficulty in skilling, re-skilling and people employment.

“The government must now act as a facilitator and encourage corporates to go more into the skill development,” he said.

Noting that there is meet the dynamic needs of the employers, Chatterjee suggested that this can by done by offering flexibility in the courses being designed, certifications being offered and the way resources are trained.

The need of the hour is to tap into technology to leap-frog youth of today into employability, he added.

Brigadier P K Goyal (Retd), Conference Chair and Member, Regional Committee on Skill Development and Livelihood, CII Northern Region said: “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.”

Stating that training can be normalised across the country, using technology, Kochhar said,” 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.”
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"CSR is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it because it is good for our business."
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