An article in today’s FT (Search for a workable solution by Amy Kazmin) says, “Not every Indian company looks to the state to churn out the skilled manpower it requires. Larsen & Toubro, India’s largest engineering and contracting compnay, tries to bridge the skills gap with seven Construction Skills Training Institutes it runs across India… Yet L&T has struggled to find enough recruits, given the deep disdain for manual labour embedded in Hinduism’s hierarchical caste system. ‘It is not attractive because of the physical content of the job,’ says Mr Jayakumar. ‘There is a social aspect also; this will take time to change.’”
In a country where people carry human excreta for a living, why is Jayakumar feeding this rubbish and why is Kazmin swallowing it?
Anyway, I am yet to hear of any society that (as a whole) prefers manual labour to desk jobs. So why blame Hinduism for something universal?
And is there no chance that L&T’s curriculum or marketing is at fault?
Elsewhere, the article says, “In reality (…) corporate executives have quickly found that progress depends on the attitude of the training centre’s principals – most of whom are risk-averse career civil servants who still report to a sclerotic state bureaucracy.
Ms Gautam acknowledges that ‘there are teething problems’. At her training institute, for example, she has proposed letting hair and beauty students take commercial customers in their training salon, which would generate revenue to cover ongoing expenditure, such as hiring a technician to maintain the centre’s 100 computers. However, the idea has met with fierce resistance. ‘The principals are scared,’ she says. ‘For them, commerce is a very dirty word.’”
Kazmin obviously doesn’t think anything may be learnt by talking to any of those principles. For example, the principle in that particular school may have been reluctant to start commercial activities because that would mean competing with the very parlours that employ her students after they pass out. Or she may be plain lazy and not want any extra work.
Or she may believe, as other academics do, that places of learning should not get into commerce because there are potential conflicts of interest. There is nothing utopian in this. Many businesses would want the status quo and want academics to approve, if not praise, whatever they are doing; yet business as a whole benefits when research breaks the status quo, doesn’t it?
Anyway, why can’t the students simply be apprentices in regular parlours and pay more fees? Doesn’t that happen in many schools, including business schools? Why does the school have to be a shop?
My problem is not with this particular institute, of course, but with this type of one-sided reporting about the Third World, which by giving half or quarter of the picture only harms business. But somehow business likes it, or market forces should have brought in better journalism.