Thursday, August 5, 2010


The quality and quantity of manpower deployed by Indian food industry never received the attention it deserved so far which has resulted in lop-sided development of this vital sector. The exercise by the industry association in assessing this aspect vis-a-vis food industry is indeed timely. The manufacturing industry needs workers for low end operations for managing day to day production activity while qualified personnel are required for supervision and coordination. There are many teaching "shops" in the country with practically no facilities awarding "degrees" and according to FICCI these graduates are not found adequately "equipped" to manage their operations efficiently. It is a sad reflection on the food technology teaching system in the country which is caught in a time warp, not moving with time and ignorant of modern developments in the subject. The report is timely and highly relevant and AICTE or UGC or HRD Ministry or the MFPI must give due consideration to the suggestions made by the industry. Here is what the FICCI has to say on the subject.

According to news reports, FICCI "sought government intervention to set up a dedicated fund and a high level panel for faster development of the $181- billion food processing sector that is reeling under acute shortage of skilled manpower. The rising demand for specific skill sets and available supply has eroded the competitiveness of the sector, the survey based study of Ficci said. The study on Rising Skill Demand: A Major Challenge for Indian Food Industry, reveals that about 60 per cent of the 250 participant firms were not satisfied with their employees' current level of technical skills and knowledge. As the sector is projected to become a $285-billion industry by 2015, it would face further pressure on the manpower front, the study said, adding the sector would require 23 lakh production managers, engineers, quality controllers and R&D specialists. "Meeting this demand would be challenging, since 80 per cent of the total work force in the food processing sector comprises people having lower-end skill set," it said. Due to lucrative job opportunities in other sectors, there was scarcity of production managers and engineers in this sector, which needs to be addressed, said the study".

In the survey conducted by FICCI,"Respondents felt that the courses offered by various institutions are outdated and it was imperative to review the course curriculum to match industry expectations. "The government should immediately formulate a task force of all the get the course curriculum across all institutions and training institutes reviewed and updated," it said. The chamber also felt there was a need for immediate adoption of ITI's by the food processing industry in various clusters to upgrade the lower-end skills. Besides, the government should allocate separate budget for human resource development for the sector for enhancing and upgrading skills, it said. The food processing industry should partner with food technology/processing institutes on a pilot basis for up gradation of higher-end skills, it suggested".

Food industry is different from other sectors because of the high priority accorded to safety of the products they make and their influence on the consumer health. The suggestion to integrate the ITI schools with production clusters is eminently practical. The biggest hindrance in improving the quality of personnel is the grossly inadequate training infrastructure available at almost all institutions and even in a few case where there are some minimal facilities these are invariably outdated and obsolete. How can any one expect products from such moribund training institutions to be able to work in industry about which they have no prior clue. Hundreds of ITIs presently working in the country must be asked to add certification courses specialized in food processing and such trained personnel will meet the needs of the industry for floor level operations.

Probably MFPI of GOI must undertake a fast exercise to estimate the HR needs of food industry from qualitative as well as quantitative perspectives and a massive infusion of funds is absolutely necessary to upgrade the training infrastructure by setting up small scale multi-operation machinery for hands on experience. Involvement of industry will be useful and since FICCI has raised this issue, this is the ripe time to strike a deal with them to offer training avenues for graduates in their processing facilities. The course content must be drastically altered and completion of graduation must be linked to a minimum apprenticeship of 6 months to 1 year in an active industry for inculcating the industry culture. Active steps also are called for upgrading the skills and knowledge base of the teaching community that will shape future food technologists.

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