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Posts Tagged ‘SMEs growth’

Understanding issues around Higher Education (HE) and local enterprises in Manipur today may be started by asking two most basic questions simultaneously – ‘Why does someone need to go college/university for HE studies’ and ‘What does industry sector need to grow in terms of manpower and skills’. We ought to look at HE sector and industry growth issues under the same umbrella for analysis and not in distinctively separate dimensions. The same fixed amount of input (i.e. Time, Money and Manpower) needed to tackle those two issues separately may be used collectively under an integrated strategy to simultaneously tackle the need to support growth of more local enterprises (thereby providing jobs to local people) and the need to revive higher education in colleges/universities (thereby satisfied academics, support staffs, and students).

Govt of Manipur ought to understand ‘the underlying implicit and explicit relationships between HE institutes and Industrial firms in a state/country’. The detailed analysis (though very critical) on how operation of state govt departments in HE sector (such as Education (U), Technical Education, and Adult Education) can be improved is beyond the scope of this article. Also, what’s excluded herein is how administration of colleges by respective college management can be enhanced and how liaising with Manipur University or Central Agriculture University as affiliated bodies may be made more efficient.

The approach of designing and delivering HE services in Manipur seems to ‘start and end with Education only’, without looking beyond and considering the local environment in which HE services operate. Graduates and post-graduates with traditional degrees are produced within Manipur who may be of least relevance to local needs or lack enough course experience to cause social impact locally. Moreover, it looks like as if colleges and universities in Manipur are just created to produce few finest graduates to be then exported to other Indian and foreign cities for better jobs and follow-on studies. Thus, return on investment (ROI) in terms of social and economic impact by having 70+ colleges and two universities within Manipur currently seem below expectation on ‘continued business justification’ rating and underperforming as a public service proposition.

On the other hand, state govt departments servicing to social and business organizations (such as Commerce and Industries, Cooperation, Income-Tax) are yet to show confidence on local people about their ability to bring about visible sustainability support to local companies and growth of new startups. Unhealthy law and order issues in Manipur (cited as a result of insurgency) may likely not attract big companies from outside Manipur to open up offices within Manipur and also, locally grown-up businesses may not successfully survive for continued operation after startup.

State govt has initiated some programmes recently to provide skill-based trainings in various industry sectors to youths/students in Manipur by financially sponsoring to third-party institutes within and outside Manipur state. Such initiative does help Manipuri youths/students to get employment in companies outside Manipur. Yet, there is huge vacuum to enable local companies to grow so as to absorb such trained individuals for the benefit of local economy. Thus, this current approach of state govt seems just like a one-sided policy to invest public fund meant for Manipur state on training few local Manipuris youths/students and then exporting them as quality manpower resources to feed into the need of other cities/states in India.

So, What if, for once, we look the spectrum of Higher Education from the perspective of need by industry and local market?

Universities in most global locations (esp. in UK) are now exploring extensively on various HE concepts to serve needs of industry clients proactively – such as Work-based Learning, Bespoke Training, Contracted Research and Consultancy, Modular-based course Programmes, etc. In order to outsmart the upcoming huge competition from various private training business companies on teaching similar course offers as universities do normally, UK universities are now more inclined towards the Research and Knowledge Transfer aspect for survival and income generation while maintaining a reasonable income generation through teaching degree/post-graduate courses.

In UK, Modular-based course Programmes are highly successful because courses are delivered in block modular mode. As an example: A 5-weeks modular course of a subject paper looks like 1-week face-to-face class plus a 4-weeks (away from classroom) academic experience period to reflect the learning by self. Students are either asked to write a written exam or online test or submit a project assignment by the end of the 5th week. After successful completion of the 5-week period, academic credit is awarded for the module. The student receives the degree after completion of all the mandatory course modules (including projects). In this approach, students (from nearby the university, within the UK and foreign countries) can travel to the university campus to attend the 1-week face-to-face class and then return back home to complete the next 4-weeks academic experience period. These students are still considered to have done the course study in Full-Time mode (though in modular approach).

If one explores the business model of large ‘training business’ companies: (1) these companies pick up the demand of particular skill sets needed for companies in an industry in a geographical market, (2) they hire industry professionals and academic experts to devise course contents and structure of delivery, (3) they advertise the courses for delivery in particular date/month of a year and recruits students accordingly, (4) they hire large classrooms or offices on rent for a specific period in line with the course delivery schedule, (5) they also hire trainers/lecturers on contract to deliver the planned courses. Thus, global companies in training business get the necessary income inflow from students’ fees and the profit after deducting the payment for classrooms hire and contracted staffs. This model is likely to be successful as long as these training companies are able to provide trained students who can get job in a company after studying the course with them.

For HE delivery in Manipur, we can reuse some concepts from both UK universities’ modular course delivery approach and global training business companies’ course delivery approach. Some state govt departments (e.g. as Commerce and Industries) can identify specific industry sectors that need to be groomed for growth within Manipur for social and economic impact locally. Other state govt dept (e.g. Education (U), Technical Education) can be entrusted with the responsibility to design and develop specific courses (in degree and post-graduate levels) by hiring industry professionals and academic experts to meet the likely demands of skills needed in job profiles available in that specific industry, and also include academic aspects of reasoning and creative thinking in the course design for students. This course development can be done in consultation with competent academic governing bodies (such as UGC, AICTE) and universities (in Manipur or outside the state or abroad). State govt departments (e.g. Sericulture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Science and Technology) can provide funding incentives/vouchers to local SMEs and business owners to recruit local candidates as their employees to undertake relevant jobs in their businesses, and at the same time, allow to access those funding grants only to directly reimburse some percentage of course fee/expense of their sponsored employees who are undertaking such specially created degree/post-graduate courses in their industry sector. This approach enforces business owners to be more responsible and accountable in both business growth and HE delivery. Also, students paying fees on own to study such courses are more likely to get a job on graduation in the local market. Already available buildings of local colleges in various towns in Manipur or other state govt offices or Manipur University or Central Agricultural University can be hired in advance for delivery of the degree/post-graduate courses in a modular fashion. Also, lecturers/staffs can be hired on contract for the course deliveries from industry and academic institutions in Manipur.

This suggested approach does involve (1) developing such course programmes after agreeing on a teaching and learning pedagogy (thereby, extensive consultation among industry, academia, academic standard bodies, and govt) (2) applying Project Management and Programme Management methodologies to ‘create and dissolve’ the entire design and delivery activities as multiple projects in a programme mode (thereby, saving money and administrative headache because of not having to build new costly classrooms and incur maintenance cost for infrastructures, not to continue providing salary and maintenance cost for teaching and non-teaching staffs after the duration of course delivery, etc), (3) efficiently managing resources needed for supply and demand to higher education delivery and industry growth (thereby, matching HE delivery services to current needs of industry in a ‘pull mode than push mode’).

Thus, state govt must undertake drastic changes in the current approach of HE delivery and Enterprises support in Manipur. Also, an in-depth research by hiring competent HE-Sector strategists is essential along with consultations with all stakeholders involved in HE delivery and Business Support services.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com

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