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'We Train People Directly For Jobs'

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Sharad Talwar, CEO, IndiaCan aims to train around five lakh 'ready to deploy' people annually.  IndiCan was set up when Educomp and Pearson joined hands to create a vocational education institution to provide training as well as placement assistance for entry-level aspirants. Talwar, who was president of Educomp before starting IndiaCan, spoke to BW Online's Poonam Kumar and explained the infrastructure and expansion plans of IndiaCan


How Did Educomp And Pearson Come Together For A Joint Venture?
I was literally the first employee of IndiaCan when two years ago I was asked to set up a vocational education division for Educomp, India's largest education company. I initially  joined 17 ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) - of which I was the chairman -- across Punjab, Haryana, UP, Delhi and Rajasthan in a public private partnership.

The vocational business has great potential but of course ITI work is more like CSR for us. But I realise that it has a huge potential. Also what people generally need is soft skill and spoken English. They may have been trained as auto-mechanics or plumbers, but they need that skill. They need customer services skill also. So we wondered whether we should develop all this content on our own or talk to the best person in this business globally.

We have students and teachers but what we don't have readymade content that is portable across the world. Pearson has big practice in this area in China, Latin America and Russia. So we realised that we could actually tweak that content in an Indian context. They also have a great content engine. That's how the conversation initially started and we soon realised that they have the best vocational content in the world. They are the biggest suppliers of publishing material in that segment.

What Is The Basic Idea Behind IndiaCan?
IndiaCan is basically focusing on vocational education which is a division of Educomp. When Pearson and Educomp inked the joint venture, the mandate was to make people employable. We are not here to provide degrees. We are here to provide a short course to help people get entry-level jobs. We entered the joint venture about a year back. Last year from January to December was the first full calendar year we were in operation. Today I can say that we are in a strong position.

IndiaCan has three key divisions. One is vocational educational set-up where we provide short- term courses. Another initiative is a company called PurpleLeap. It enters partnership with colleges and teaches soft skill to the final year's students. These are typically engineering colleges and are meant for those students who fail to land jobs. We are working with around 100 colleges in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Chandigarh and Aligarh.

The third initiative is ETEN (Educomp Tele-Education Network) which prepares people for different exams leading to immediate jobs. For example,  it helps with CA exam preparations which leads to immediate jobs. We are not into preparation for IITs and IIMs because that does not lead to jobs. We are also training those appearing for bank probationary and civil services exams. We have got 120 colleges for PurpleLeap, almost 120 centres for ETEN and 100 centres for vocational training.

What Kind of Infrastructure IndiaCan Has For Vocational Training?
We have centres providing retail courses. What sets us apart from other training centres is that IndiaCan retail centres provide industry-specific content in a blended learning environment. There is V-set-learning including video conferences as well as face-to-face training. The students also get hands-on training which helps them get entry-level retail jobs. Another differentiator is international certification.

We provide vocational training in sales, basic IT, accounting, retail and spoken English.

Why Do People Treat Vocational Education As An Inferior Education?
Making vocational education main stream is a very big job. We are working with vocational players who actually introduced the National Qualification Frame Work where people can return to mainstream education after taking a vocational course. More than that, I think the eco system needs to be changed and the industry ought to give a premium to those who have gone to the extent of getting trained and certified.  Unless that happens people will not see any benefit in getting a certificate for vocational education.

How Do You Equip Teachers?
Generally, we find teachers from industry and then we get them certified. Teachers are told to go for a certification course before they can actually teach the class. For instance, every spoken English teacher first has to take a spoken English test which is again a Pearson test. And only those who pass the test are appointed by IndiaCan.  It's a very rigorous process.

What is WorkFirst Certification?
WorkFirst is an international work certification - again from Edexcel - a Pearson company. Anybody who gets the certification can work both in and outside India.

Why Is This Different From Other Training Institutes?
The difference in this certification is evidence. People have to have evidence of their expertise. For example, if we are teaching someone auto mechanism and we conduct a theory exam, it makes no sense. The only way to prove that you are a very good mechanic is to produce evidence. Even in services sectors like retail or sales we have evidence-based system. They have to prove that they have actually learnt selling and retailing. This is not based on paper-pencil exam.
Is There Any Other Player Who Can Actually Give You Competition?
I don't think anyone has a certification course of this kind. There are many institute which provide short duration courses but we are different from them because we have international content which is tested across the 400 countries in the world. And we have international work certification. Also, we have a huge certification process for all our teachers before they are allowed to teach. We have enabled V-set learning.  I think these unique strategies are the big differentiators.

What Would Be The Exam Pattern For The IndiaCan Student?
It's an evidence-based system and not a paper pencil exam. It's based on evidence that you have actually learnt the trade except for spoken English. It's called placement test. We have a different test for spoken English.

Who Is Your Target Audience?
School and college drop-outs and working people who want to enhance their skills for career growth. We both "prepare and repair" people's careers. For instance, somebody working as a peon in a company and wants to learn spoken English to take up a front-office job in a hotel or a retail outlet, can come to us.

Why Is The Duration Of The Courses So Short?
People come to us when they are looking for a job or want to better their prospects. We don't want to train a person for one year and still attend the same level of job which he could get after three months' training. The training is around three months at entry level and there are programmes in which training is for one year. We have a tie-up with NDTV for Broadcast Journalist course. We have 100-hour programmes for spoken English courses and six-month training programme in accounting.  We have evening classes for corporates. We have centres which are open between 7:00 p.m and 10:00 p.m.

What About Expansion Plans?
We plan to go to tier II and III cities. We have around 100 centres across the country at present. In India there are almost 1,000 cities with a population of five lakh where can have a centre and train at least 500 people in a year.

What Are The Key Government Projects You Are Handling?
We are running two projects with the governments of Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat.  The key government projects are - Rajasthan Mission on Skill and Livelihood, Special SGSY, Ministry of R&D, Rajasthan Knowledge Corporation Limited, Bhopal Pilot, Angul Pilot and more.

These are training centres for people below the poverty line (BPL), people who can't spend any money but have talent. A person has to have a BPL card and we admit them into our centres. We train them for free and get them jobs in respective sectors.


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