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Gandhi Jayanti: Education — The key driver

07:00 AM Oct 02, 2021 | Dr AP Dash

We are celebrating the 152th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, our dearest Bapu, this year. We, as a nation, must think what we should dedicate Bapu, who devoted his entire life for the nation, as a symbol of gratitude. Bapu stood for education and eradication of illiteracy throughout his life. This article, dedicated to education in power and energy, is a small token of gratefulness to the Father of the nation. It fits into the mantra of 'Tomaso Ma Jotirgamay" very much in the literary sense.

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Next to poverty, it is perceived that energy is the biggest challenge for our country. We are an energy starved nation. We are still dependant on oil rich Countries to fulfil our energy needs. Major part of our import bill is still import of oil and gas, leading to a negative balance of payment situation. Our energy sector is going through a revolution. At this critical juncture, the recent national Education policy (NEP) is a pioneering effort in the direction of liberating education and making it more flexible. Imagining a Corporate University in Energy sector, in consonance with NEP, looks very logical.

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BAPU: An approach for learning

When we go through the literature of Corporate University, many Universities catch our imagination. ENGIE (erstwhile GDF SUEZ) University have quite a name in corporate learning and improvement process (CLIP). When we think of quality or Six Sigma, we used to think of Motorola University. Many other Universities in USA and ISB in India are funded by group of Industries. MDI in India initially funded by IFCI and today MDI is a name by itself. Industries or a consortium of industries have found value in creation of Universities/Institutes of excellence and perceive the same as a wealth creating enterprises.

Of late, there has been a flood of Corporate Universities and Institutes in India too. Jindal University, Ansal University are good starts and making a name. RBI and some Banks have created NIBM, Pune. IMI and Fore school of management, New Delhi, are good B-Schools with industry support. TERI was initially floated by TATA and today it is an autonomous and independent body which has created TERI University with a global reputation. BITS, Pilani was a wonderful educational initiative by Birlas long years back, which has diversified much over the years. The common DNA they share is that all of them, created and supported by Industry, are autonomous, profitable and Centre of excellence.

Task cut out for BAPU

It is perceived that BAPU would create certified, industry-ready power and energy professionals, who are ready to take on a job immediately. It would run courses of prime importance in power and energy sector. Courses would be short term and long term. It is perceived that University is for the masses. Hence, apart from regular and in-campus courses, the USP of the University would be to launch courses on correspondence to reach out to the common man. Executive education would be an integral part of the University, where knowledge transfer will take place.

Education and research go hand in hand. As stated earlier, this University will engage in action research and disseminate knowledge. It would undertake futuristic studies and help frame policy guidelines. It would fill the knowledge gap between academics and industry through active industry-academic interface. It is said that in every activity there is a knowledge gap. An executive who has been doing a job for long years need to refresh himself/herself with what is new or a better method of doing the same. Similarly, academics, which dwell in the knowledge domain, need to be connected with ground level realities to make every piece of research industry relevant.

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In order to make research more industry specific, the University can float Chairs and get endowment fund from Corporate to create a corpus to sustain the Chair. Logically expanding the idea, Corporate can create a Centre of excellence (Corporate Chair being a part of it) in a certain area to take up massive research and consultancy to meet challenges of present and future. Centre of excellence can be self-sustainable within, say, 5 years or so, after getting the seed money. For example, we can have a Centre of excellence (COE) in project management, because project delay is a major concern and every delay is a time overrun and cost overrun. We land up in double the cost many a time. Such a Centre can make a huge contribution to fast track project implementation and every company in the business of Projects would like to fund such a Centre.

Similarly, a Centre of excellence (COE) on Renewable would not only be very contemporary and very impactful. Government of India has released its roadmap to achieve 175 GW capacity in renewable energy by 2022, which include 100 GW of solar power and 60 GW of wind power. In 2015, as per IEA report, renewables – solar, wind and hydro – have added up 153 GW of generation capacity globally, which is more than conventional fossil fuel thermal generation. This year IEA estimates that the total renewable capacity increases more than 60% to 4000 GW by 2024, by which time it is twice the size of today’s global coal capacity. Constitution of COE would not only put more emphasis on this sunrise sector but would contribute substantially for the growth at national and international level.

It is presumed that BAPU would engage in global collaboration and global funding. By being a part of the global alliances, the University would not only have global recognition but can collaborate to synergise on critical areas and priorities. For example, it can collaborate with EPRI, USA, to do cutting-edge research and may work on Shale gas technology. It can collaborate with the geo thermal initiatives of New Zealand Universities. It can do collaborative research with Universities in Canada, Brazil and Argentina in Hydro sector. Singapore is good case study for power distribution and Nanyang Technical University (NTU) has a Centre of excellence in Energy, which gets international funding and is worth collaborating. These are indicative examples. For research, sky is the limit. It all depends on how much we fly.

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Skill development

Skill development is one area where we, as a nation, have put high emphasis but we need the same to be very proactively done in power and energy sector. We may take the case of power sector. As per the 13th Five Year Plan, India is targeting a total of 100 GW of power capacity addition by 2022. In a conservative estimate, the need for technical manpower and non-technical manpower would be 1367000 and 428000 numbers in the 13th plan. The way solar sector is growing, the need for technical skilled manpower (at apprentice and operator level) is considered to be very high, though, no clear estimate is available now. The latest CEA report corroborates this assertion. With many employees retiring, the need for filling up the positions would be very urgent. Somebody levelled it as a ''Decade of retirement''. This happened to many companies in India. If we do not prepare for the eventuality now, the country would face a severe crunch of adequately trained manpower in the near future.

We do have Training Institutes by each Corporate in power and energy sector who are captive to their organisation and mostly train their own executives. Management institutes floating programs (long term and short term) in this sector are only handful and they hardly can take the full load of the future demand. They are expensive too. Even if few Institutes are available, faculty – both technical and management – are not readily available in the market. We need to develop manpower as a priority.

In this context, the role of University, like BAPU, as a vehicle for skill development needs a mention. As said earlier, Universities are for universal education. They are citadel of inclusive education. We can imagine a scenario, where a technician, a plumber, a wielder or any technical hand needed for power and energy sector, would like to get certified to get a job. Let us visualise again a scenario where, in a family, the father is skilled but aged and he wants his son/daughter to grow in his field. But he does not have money to send for a formal education. This is where BAPU would contribute a lot by floating mass certified correspondence courses and ask the students to take the "hands on'' part through workshops in certified ITIs in the vicinity.

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In a nutshell, we have discussed what exactly BAPU could do. It will help the country tide over many challenges and put it on high trajectory of growth. BAPU would sculpt long term and short term solutions, through action research and analytics, for the power and energy sector woes. It would engage in teaching (running courses), research, consultancy and capacity building in the country. It would have high focus on renewable and new sources of energy like tidal, geo thermal and shale gas. The thinking part shall be taken over by BAPU. There are many, at least 50, small and big, Institutes in the Country who are engaged in teaching and research in the power and energy sector. They can be affiliated to BAPU and become Centre of excellence. Being under one umbrella, all these Institutes can synergise their operation. Now, we do not know who is doing what.

Corporate CSR and BAPU

Father of the nation was passionate about corporate houses being an engine of change in ploughing back funds for social development. Now that every profitable enterprise is mandated to spend 2% of the profit on CSR, his dream can be realised. Corporate may find it very easy and truly emancipating to allocate fund from CSR spending on BAPU, as it would carter to a very core sector of the economy. The best gift we can ever think of giving to Bapu on his birthday is BAPU. The benefit of BAPU to the Indian economy in general and power and energy sector in particular, would certainly be huge and may actually contribute to our Government's vision and recent strategy of “Power for all”.

(Dr. AP Dash, Dean, NTPC School of Business (NSB), Noida. Views are personal.)

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