Organisations are mandated by the Indian Companies Act 2013 to serve the society as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, albeit in their individual capacity subject to a minimum of 2 percent of their average net profits earned during the preceding three financial periods. This is of a particular importance since we no longer live in an era where organisations work solely for profits. The heightened focus on social responsibility has shaped the organisational functioning towards their role with respect to the prevailing societal and environmental issues that require extended support.
As a result, the organisations take up CSR initiatives in several domains that are often aligned up to their corporate values with an aim to bring out a positive change in the society. At the same time, it also contributes in terms of their enhanced brand awareness and recognition.
Skilling for CSR
The organisations are free to choose an activity as per their own discretion provided that activity is permitted as a form of CSR. A wide range of activities can be undertaken by the organisations for their CSR initiatives. While every CSR activity is relevant and contributes to the cause in its individual extent, skilling as a CSR activity has been rising in prominence during recent times.
Skilling for CSR, in simple terms, is the infusion of skills in an individual with an aim to transform their lives through the utilisation of these learnt skills, preferably in a professional or an entrepreneurial set-up. A lot of organisations invest in skilling programs that cater to the impoverished sections of the society. These programs not only result in the accumulation of desired skill-sets but also provide employment opportunities in the form of placements leading to a transformation in the lives of the underserved people.
The Indian Scenario
India, as we all know, is home to more than a billion people. The second-most populous country in the world is the most populous one when it comes to the youth. The youth form the present and the future workforce. However, India grapples with a high rate of unemployment. In the month of June 2021, the unemployment rate was around 9%. The Covid19 pandemic has obviously been impactful in this regard. Nevertheless, there is a structural obstruction that promotes the rate of unemployment and that is the lack of the presence of vocational skills among the youth.
Despite having a huge reserve of human resources, India lacks behind when it comes to vocational skills. According to the Human Development Report, 2020, only one in five Indians in the labour force are skilled. India ranks 129 among 162 countries in this regard. Certainly, there is a huge scope of improvement! It is indeed a necessity for the advancement of the nation and the society and that’s precisely the reason why more and more corporates are inclining towards employability linked vocational skilling as a sought-after form of CSR activity.
The first step towards skilling is education. While a significant percentage of Indian population is devoid of vocational education, for those who’re not, education provides a basic conceptualisation that’s prerequisite to attain the job-relevant skills. In an ideal context, the academic knowledge transforms into employability-based skills. However, in the Indian scenario, education doesn’t necessitate this transformation of knowledge into job-linked expertise. So, whether they’re educated or not, only a small percentage of students are skilled with respect to work.
Majorly, the students possess academic knowledge, however they don’t possess the know hows to apply that academic knowledge into real-world employment situations. India has a huge availability of talent, but this talent needs to be transformed into income-generating avenues.
That’s where skilling comes into play to bridge the gap.
Types of Skilling
Skilling can be classified based on multiple parameters such as skill-type, industry, section-based etc.
- Skill based- Includes advanced technical skills, soft skills, interpersonal skills. Communication skills etc. Communication skills in our country is a particular area of concern that requires a lot of training. Many in the rural areas suffer despite being technically acquainted due to a lack of appropriate communication skills.
- Section based- There are certain disadvantaged sections in the society that require upliftment through skilling such as women, financially weak, specially-abled, minority communities etc.
- Industry based- Every industry requires skilling. However, the solutions are distinct with respect to the industries.
Women Empowerment through skilling
The CSR based skilling includes a gamut of activities across a range of industries. Skilling can also envelop women empowerment. There have been several CSR initiatives that provide employment-based skills to women candidates. This in turn leads to the upliftment of women as independent individuals who are capable of earning their own livelihood. Women from underserved communities, widows, financially-weak families get an opportunity to withstand their ailing circumstances through the successful completion of these initiatives.
Many organisations provide entrepreneurial skills to women, providing them with an opportunity to start off with their own small ventures. Several organisations impart training based on stitching, tailoring and other activities to women from weak financial backgrounds, thus, incorporating a self-employment mechanism- an avenue of regular income for them. In this way, women are empowered through skilling based on entrepreneurship.
Similar is the case with specially-abled individuals from weak financial backgrounds. They need skill-training with respect to their capacities and they can flourish as independent earners being a part of the skilled workforce.
Other Skilling Programs
Other skill-based CSR programs include ‘campus to corporate’ program that involves a successful transition from an academic to a professional world. Industry specific skilling examples include General Duty Assistant or Nurse based skilling in the medical domain, Computer/programming training in the IT domain, Construction skill training, Art and Craft based skilling etc.
The CSR initiatives based on skilling benefits both the individual and the industry in which they’re placed. It also benefits the company undertaking the CSR activity.
CSR apart from being an ethical or philanthropic activity, is a great source of recognition for the organisation. Though this recognition isn’t the primary objective, it emanates out of the CSR based social work that the organisation undertakes. Infosys, Mahindra and Mahindra, TATA Group & ITC Ltd. are well known for their CSR work. It adds to the brand value and reputation, further drives out sales and reduces costs.
For skilling as a CSR activity, it not only contributes in nation building but also is capable of serving the long-term goal for any organisation by maintaining the availability of a skilled workforce for various roles within the industry. It’s akin to cultivating your own workforce.
For any organisation, the human resource is its biggest asset. High turnover rates can be distressing for a particular industry. Given the times that we live in, uncertainty looms over. Skilling-based CSR initiatives not only transforms the society by uplifting the poor, but also works well for the organisation in terms of developing its own workforce through placement opportunities. This is the reason why many organisations indulge into CSR activities that align well with their industry. Although, several other organisations do undertake skilling projects as an independent activity.
The enhanced role of skilling as a CSR activity for nation building has been well documented. Skilling is a future-oriented activity that manufactures human resources. Considering the gap between the actual and the desired skill set levels, it is pertinent for corporations in India to invest in skilling.
With so much of a young population in our arsenal, India quite naturally stands in a highly favourable position to develop and uplift itself. Alas! There is a lack of equal opportunities, for not all have equal access to education and skilling. The same young population that appears to be a promising booster to our development remains one of the biggest impediments as well. We have individuals ‘fighting’ it out among themselves for educational institutes, since the demand is high and supply is limited. To convert the young population into human resources is the biggest challenge.
Around 65% of Indian population lives in the rural areas. A lot of skilling potential needs to be mapped in the rural region. The CSR based skilling activities have the capability of mobilizing the resources in the rural hinterland for the purpose of providing vocational skilling to enhance employability.
For the poor and the needy in these areas, skilling serves as the only reliable option to gather skill-sets that will help them advance in their careers. Unfortunately, the number of such people is huge. Nevertheless, a lot of governmental initiatives along with CSR initiatives of corporations have worked around well to create an environment that fosters growth for all. Obviously, a lot of gaps still remain, a lot of scope is unmapped, continued efforts in the domain of CSR skilling would yield long-term results that will eventually prove as a game changer, for the society, for the country and even for the organisation!