With more than 500 million people under the age of 29, vocational training expert, Parampreet Singh believes that India is on the cusp of either a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster.
“It is really important that we skill this massive youth population so that they can be qualified, regarded for their skills and that they can actually find properly paid work,” he says.
Recognizing this, recent years have seen the Government of India begin to overhaul the vocational training sector. Now, there is an urgent need for training providers to offer high-quality, practical courses that can not only reach the hundreds of millions of young people across India, but also the 70 percent of the population who still live in rural villages.
Parampreet believes that one solution lies in the Australian education system. In 2003, he travelled to Australia to study a Masters of Information Systems at the Melbourne campus of the Central Queensland University. “I owe a lot to the Australian education system,” he says. “As students we were encouraged to think critically and creatively and this has shaped my approach to business.” After graduating and working as a consultant for a private vocational training firm in Melbourne, Parampreet was introduced to Australia’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training system.
“I was amazed by the system,” he recalls. “I thought it was a solution for most developing countries … looking at India as an example, less than five percent of the workforce in the vocational space is formally qualified,” he explains.
This is mainly because people are unwilling to undertake vocational training, as most courses are still too long, expensive and fail to develop the skills industry is looking for. Without viable vocational training options, trades people in India, and many other developing countries, remain under-appreciated and their salaries, plus social status remain low.
Determined to make a difference, Parampreet returned to India in 2012 and launched his company called Uday, or Rise. “When I started Uday, the whole focus was to become a bridge between Australia and India for knowledge exchange, but I soon realized that this alone won’t help,” he says. So, in 2014, he transformed the company into the first training provider to offers short, skills-based courses adapted from the Australian Technical and Vocational Education and Training system to suit the Indian context.
Now employing 30 people across seven states and working with 70 training partners, Uday is enabling those least able to access training opportunities – young people, farmers and women – to gain marketable skills. “If we can actually skills these people and help them get qualified, they have far better opportunities and there are opportunities … India is growing,” he says.
Already, Uday has helped 8,000 young people with different training needs.
“Because we have such a large population, if we can skill that population and help them become part of India’s growth, that will change lives,” says Parampreet.