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How vocational skilling can transform telecom

The India telecom sector is one of the fastest growing markets in our country with a 6.5 percent contribution to our GDP. A vast and diverse nation, we are of the youngest countries with a median age being 28.4 years. This is remarkable given our 1.38 billion strong population. There is an enormous potential to utilize this human resource in the progress of our nation.

Currently, India is the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.18 billion and is the second largest market in terms of number of app downloads. There is also a surge in demand for digital products and services since the beginning of the pandemic. The government has enabled easy market access to telecom service frameworks which has ensured affordability of telecom services.

What does the future hold?
We are looking toward rapid growth in market size and manpower demand within the telecom sector. The number of internet subscribers in the country is expected to reach 829 million in 2021 and overall IP traffic is expected to grow four-fold at a CAGR of 30 percent by 2021. We are also expected to grow at an annual rate of 11 percent by 2023 in the telecom-ad market. The smart cities project will involve major telecom-based services like 5G and IoT. The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 envisaged attracting investment worth USD 100 billion in the telecommunications sector by 2022. App downloads in India is expected to increase to 37.21 billion in 2022. I believe we can leverage this opportunity to set up special manufacturing zones in and around these smart cities making production and maintenance easier for interconnected services. Rural tele-density has reached 58.5 percent and vocational training is required to fulfil the growing demand for telecom job roles. Cross-platform skills will also be needed in high density urban areas. We need to focus on installation, maintenance and servicing.

The recent push by the government for indigenous manufacturing of telecom and handset equipment will also create huge demand for skilled workforce. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expects the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to make India a telecom manufacturing hub. With cabinet approval of USD 1.67 billion, it is estimated to lead to local production worth USD 32.77 billion. 40,000 new jobs are also expected to be generated to fulfil the demand. Add the NDC Policy mandate to train/re-skill 1 million manpower in new-age skills, and it becomes clear that new roles will continue to be added at an increasing rate in the coming years. The requirement can be as much as 360,000 new jobs for meeting the growing demand of the telecomn industry.

If we are to consider the plans of the government for offering better connectivity to all districts and private ambition of higher market capitalization and provisions for in-house solutions in e-commerce, satellite broadband, data centres, cloud solutions amongst others, we require highly skilled workforce to execute these tasks in a timely and efficient manner. The government has already allocated USD 413 million for the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). Previously, 9.3 million candidates have already been skilled under the PMKVY scheme with a net 50 percent expenditure against the total funding. PMKVY 3.0 is aimed at 717 districts, 28 States/eight UTs, and is a step towards Atmnanirbhar Bharat There will be greater responsibilities and support from states/UTs and districts. District Skill Committees (DSCs), under the guidance of State Skill Development Missions (SSDM), will be more involved in addressing the skill gap and demand at the district level. Vocational education at an early level for youth should also be considered in order to capitalize on industry-linked opportunities. The National Educational Policy 2020 imparts key focus on vocational training for a holistic growth and increased employability. By taking the bottom-up approach to training, we identify job roles that have demand at the local level and skill the youth, linking them to these opportunities (Vocal for Local). The Telecom Sector Skill Council has been set up to provide skilled manpower by analysing the skill gap at the national level. Operating under the NSDC, its key objectives include catering to all sub-segments of the telecom industry and provide adequate manpower through skilling/re-skilling/upskilling and other flagship government initiatives like NAPS, CSR, NULM etc.

As we increase the consumption of telecom and telecom-enabled services, we will see a sharp rise in need of manpower to enable these services. Big ticket government projects like smart city, NDCP, National Broadband Mission, BSNL’s venture into satellite-based NB-IoT and more will lead to enterprise level creation of jobs in both current and futuristic job roles. We must get the ground running to enable India to capitalise on its growing popularity at the world telecom stage.

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