Sunday, October 18, 2009


Infosys Technologies Limited, the $ 4 billion Bangalore based IT giant, is a pioneer in skill development as far as IT sector is concerned and their 'campus connect' program, started in the year 2004 is indeed unique. The concept is based on the need to expand the skill base of students being trained by the average teaching institutions, most of them becoming just teaching shops with grossly inadequate infrastructure and knowledge-limited faculty having practically no exposure to industry and corporate culture. In less than 5 years, Infosys was able to knit together over 500 engineering colleges in India as well as in other countries like Malaysia, China and Mexico through a well planned exposure program that helped about 58000 students and 3000 faculty members to upgrade their skills vis-a-vis IT industry and its operations. The modusoperandi consists of training of students through lectures and seminars, industry visits, on-hand training, interacting
with peers and exposure to world class infrastructure and governance. Similarly faculty members were also provided with opportunities to imbibe industry culture so that their perception and knowledge base is significantly improved making them much superior teachers. Such private-public alliance between the private industry and public institutions(PPP) is laudable and has the potential to create tremendous impact at the national level as the graduates coming out of the universities become more versatile with practical outlook.

What Infosys is is doing for IT sector must be emulated in the manufacturing sector also to create a pool of exceptionally bright talent pool which can help the industry to upgrade their technical manpower very significantly. There could be practical constraints to design such a system in the manufacturing sector as is being done in IT industry because of logistical difficulties. Manufacturing involves deployment of complex facilities like specialized equipment and supporting services for which extensive infrastructure is necessary and there are very few such industries in the food sector which can boast of a world class processing facility. But even if a few of them like Britannia, Nestle, ITC, MTR Foods, Coca Cola, Pepsi can pool their resources it should be possible to create a system like the one Infosys was able to do it.

Food technology training is being done at present in some universities and annual turn over from these institutions is about 1000 technical persons per year. Though AICTE has streamlined the course duration and there is some uniformity in the curriculum, the quality of the products coming out of these colleges is appalling and alarming, calling for an overhauling of the present system. As for the faculty, most of them have never seen a even the gate of a food industry, let alone the shop floor! It is no wonder that there is practically no linkage between the academia and the industry and most of the so called trained personnel from these institutions are not in demand. One and the only PPP model that exists in Mysore to day, set up with initiatives by a few enlightened flour millers in the eighties of the last millennium, is just limping along because it was not nurtured properly and adequately during the last few years, the fault lying with the short
sighted policies being pursued.

An industry-academia net work involving at least four large scale industrial units spread over 4 regions in the country can consider creating a regional training program for students from nearby food technology colleges and such a program must be built into the course proper with AICTE concurrence. At least a semester must be devoted for industrial training in the industry before making them eligible for receiving their degrees. Government support through incentives to the industry and financial help for the students to cover their expenses incurred during the training can provide the necessary spark. Industry can be expected to build necessary facilities to accommodate these students for training purpose. Same must be done for the teaching faculty also through a 'sabbatical' program to enrich their teaching skills.

Food Parks being promoted in a big way can be another 'vehicle' for achieving the above purpose. As a policy all food parks cleared by GOI must have a training component, with each unit extending the processing facility for 'hands-on' training for the benefit of food tech students from universities. Such facilities should have residential facilities also and special financial support by GOI for such programs will encourage these Food Parks to offer such programs. Of course much planning has to go into making the proposition a working reality. Offering deemed university status to private industry who can invest adequately to establish training infrastructure inside their facilities is another possibility that deserves some consideration. Unless some thing is done immediately to improve the quality of trained personnel coming out of academic institutions, food industry in India cannot expected to be a formidable player in the economic landscape of the


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