So dire is the shortfall of skilled workers in the aerospace and aviation sector that the country's only major aerospace manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), trains a thousand of its own apprentices each year.
Yet, this does nothing to meet the burgeoning requirement for trained workers in a range of other aerospace and aviation entities - including private airlines, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers, commercial service providers and small and medium aerospace manufacturers in the public and private sectors.
That is why a host of leading aerospace companies and establishments have joined the Aerospace and Aviation Sector Skill Council (AASSC), which unveiled a plan in Bengaluru on Tuesday, to certify 5,20,000 trainees and 6,000 qualified instructors over the next ten years.
Amongst those who have thrown their weight behind the AASSC are Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Max Aerospace and Aviation Pvt Ltd, Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL), Federation of Indian Airlines and Airports Authority of India (AAI).
HAL chief, T Suvarna Raju, who chairs the AASSC, says they will draw up a standardised curriculum for training workers in some 70-odd trades. The aim is to create assured professional skills in fields ranging from Levels 1&2 (low skill) workers like baggage handlers and airport drivers, to Level 4 (highly skilled) workers like engineers, scientists and technicians.
Over the next three years, AASSC plans to introduce 30 courses, which will benefit the "aerospace sector battling for talent in various disciplines", says HAL.
"The curriculum will be defined and set out in writing. Any institution that has the facility to impart this training will be invited to take it up", says Raju.
At the apex level, the nodal agency for such trade training is the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), which coordinates skilling activities through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a not-for-profit, public-private partnership (PPP) established under Section 25 of the Companies Act.
To establish a skills council for the aviation sector, the NSDC roped in three sectoral agencies - HAL, the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), and the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries (SIATI). Working together, they established the AASSC last year, as a Section 8 Company (non-profit organisation) under the Companies Act, 2013.
Of the AASSC's capital of Rs 25 lakh, HAL has contributed half, while BCIC and SIATI have shared the balance.
AASSC is drawing up the training guidelines, parameters and standards for the aviation sector under the oversight of a management board that represents all major facets of civil and military aviation.
"Initially, there will be 18 board members, including from commercial airlines, and service and manufacturing sectors. However, we can expand the board to 26 members, if we determine the need for additional representation", says Raju.
While not yet announced, it is learned that Wing Commander (Retired) D Peter Immanuel has been chosen as the first chief executive of the AASSC.
The NSDC's website says "It aims to promote skill development by catalysing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational institutions." It aims to achieve 30 per cent of the government's target of "skilling/up-skilling 500 million people in India by 2022".
The NSDC claims to have 211 training partners and 3,026 training centres, which have trained 51,63,546 people, of whom 21,14,816 have already been placed in jobs.
In January 2014, the defence ministry had set up its own coordination body, the National Aeronautics Coordination Group (NACG), with the charter: "To recommend national policy on aerospace and a comprehensive plan of action for suitable augmentation of indigenous capability in the field of aeronautics by (March 31, 2014)." Skills development would have been an important component of this charter, but the NACG has achieved nothing so far.
RESKILLING THE AEROSPACE: WHAT THE SKILL COUNCIL PLANS
To certify 5,20,000 trainees and 6,000 qualified instructors over the next 10 years
To create assured professional skills in fields, ranging from Levels 1&2 (low skill) workers like baggage handlers and airport drivers, to Level 4 (highly skilled) workers like engineers, scientists and technicians
To introduce 30 courses over the next three years to benefit the aerospace sector
To promote skill development by catalysing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational institutions
- To achieve 30 per cent of the government's target of skilling/up-skilling 500 million people in India by 2022