Bridging the skill gap in Manipur

Manipur with a population of 27 lakhs has an unemployment figure of 751376 according to the latest official data. With Government employment dwindling, the private sector remains as the only other prospect. In this grim scenario enters an ambitious, young entrepreneur, L Niranjan Singh who has seized the opportunity to tap and train and reduce this figure by one lakh in ten years.

Niranjan Singh with a Management degree and 16 years experience in Fashion Retail Industry around the world chose to return home and make his mark. He set up JCRE Skill Solutions in 2013, as a unit of Big Concepts Foundation Pvt. Ltd. and has never looked back. "I aim to enhance the employability of local youth through quality training of international standards," he said with determination.

In Niranjan's opinion, North East youth are naturally inclined to the service industry and this talent pool has to be recognized and nurtured. JCRE Skill Solutions offers training to enhance employable skills in Hospitality, Retail, Beauty and Wellness, Apparel/Dress making and Construction. Efforts are on to introduce two more units from October this year, namely IT/ITS/BPO and Banking Financial Services and Insurance, in addition to the existing training centres at Thangmeiband and Sekmai in Imphal West District.

In three years JCRE Skill Solutions has trained over 3000 youth in various trades and arranged placements for about 53 % with a staff size of 24 trainers and a few support staff. Their official partnership with the State Power Sector has enabled them to train 300 linesmen for Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited. As the lone private institution that partners with a private power department, this has added another feather.

JCRE Skill Solutions has become a certified partner of National Skill Development Corporation of India as its first training partner in Manipur and the second in the entire North East. This official recognition has boosted the number of students, increased the placement prospects and led to another leap. Australian Retail College inked an MoU with JCRE Skill Solutions last May offering mutual exchange of technical ideas and opportunities across the continents.

'In ten years we plan to expand to 10 centres in Manipur, 2 in Nagaland and another in Mizoram. We are already in the process for this in Ukhrul, Churachanpur, Chandel and Senapati districts,' said an excited Niranjan as he narrates the recent exploratory trips to the hill districts to seek franchise partners.

The institute focuses on specialization and sustainability as a player in Service Industry. Alumni/ Post training tracking is one method of extending the mentoring process and build partnerships across the country. Niranjan explained that tracking has enabled his agency to get feedback both from the alumni as well as the service industries hiring them. Such positive responses have improved placements and the internal efficiencies of the institution.

While the target populations are youth who have completed High School or Higher Secondary School the product quality of Government Schools compels training institutions to revisit the basics. Niranjan feels that if the government pays greater attention to quality teaching it will hugely enhance the confidence and pace of the trainees.

Their course fees are the lowest in the state however interested candidates are unable to access bank loans for such small amounts. According to the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Rin Yojna guidelines Bank of India is supposed to offer loans from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5 lakh. In Manipur this is yet to materialize.

JCRE Skill Solutions has also led to creation of immediate opportunities. At least three hostels in the vicinity thrive on the occupation by JCRE Skill Solutions students thus providing more employment even beyond its trainers and trainees.

In the Central Government, the new Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship headed by Rajiv Pratap Rudy has revised the UPA's Kaushal Vikas Yogana, STAR-1 initiated in 2013 and dovetailed it with the 'Make In India/Skill India' model to a more aggressive Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana. Following this the National Skill Development Policy was drafted and recently Common Norms as well as National Skill Qualification Framework were introduced.

This allowed local training institutes like JCRE Skill Solutions to compete and qualify as skill providers for at least 7 packages under PMKVY this year. Niranjan sees this as the perfect opportunity to reach out to poorer families, especially from the tribal community.

Government of Manipur has had an experimental phase in skill training five years ago through Manipur Skill Development Society but it was abruptly aborted. Another official version by the name Manipur Society for Skill Development was flaunted without much success or motivating results.

PMKVY under the MSDE offers the needed opportunity for both training partners and trainees to avail government support in advancing skill development in various trades. The latest comprehensive package includes food and lodging support for trainees which will encourage more players in the sector and reduce the existing acute unemployment figure. Sports certainly will be another potential arena.

While neighbouring states like Assam have integrated skills training in colleges, Manipur has not recognized the importance of skills development as an optional paper for a semester. Retail enterprise is mushrooming in Manipur and dovetailing this in academics can yield huge opportunities.

JCRE has become a buzzword in the State today because of their credentials.  Their professionalism and achievements in various sectors have made a huge impact in the local skill training market and impressed the Government. However the Director said in humility that ultimate success should be measured by the service rendered to society.

Jugeswar Center for Retail Excellence (JCRE)

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