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Skill level directly impacts quality, which has a direct impact on human life

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Ranjit Madan, CEO, Life Science Sector Skills Development Council links skill levels in the pharmaceutical sector, quality and safety of medicines, and India’s global market share, in an interaction with Viveka Roychowdhury

Sir, as CEO of the Life Science Sector Skills Development Council (LSSSDC), set up under auspices of Ministry of Skill Development, what advice would you like to give the leaders of pharma companies regarding the January 1, 2018 deadline issued by the Drug Controller General of India (DCG(I)?

Ranjit Madan

DCG(I) circular of August 26, 2016, which has since been endorsed by various state FDA offices as well, makes it mandatory for all organisations to hire those certified as per standards developed (National Occupation Standards) with inputs from industry. It also mandates all organisations to have all employees (other than D. Pharma/ B.Pharma/ M.Pharma, for whom this is desirable) assessed. Those clearing need to be certified by LSSSDC; others need to be upskilled through bridging courses which LSSSDC will help provide, or by organisations addressing the shortfalls ‘in house’.

Since skill level directly impacts quality, which in life sciences (LS) has a direct impact on human life, criticality of all employees meeting agreed/ defined standards is of critical importance. It will also have a direct bearing on India’s ability to be a major global player, as also to increase its global market share—where stringent regulations like US FDA and EU are in place.

We must also bear in mind that quality of education and ITI certification in India varies greatly. Cost of any errors due to substandard skills at any level, far outweighs all costs incurred to undergo the exercise, be they time, resources including monetary.

Finally, to facilitate conducting a skill gap analysis under ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) programme of GoI, we have organised for all assessments of employees of small scale sector (below Rs 150 crores turnover) to be free of cost under PMKVY (Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana).

Which are the pharma companies which have shown interest in partnering with  LSSSDC to  expand skilling activity in life sciences sector?

We have thus far received complete details of employees to be assessed under the nine major job roles which are currently our focus, from 27 companies. Of these, and in line with schedule provided by the companies, over 3000 employees from about 20 companies would have been assessed by end April. We have also received advice in writing for 9000+ employees to be assessed in coming months. Prominent companies that have thus far registered data/ interest in writing with us include Abbott, Akums, AstraZeneca, BiologicalE, Cadila, Claris Otsuka, DRL, DSM, GVK Bio, Mankind, Morpen, NecLife, Panacea Biotech, Reckitt Benckiser, Wockhardt, apart from SMEs. More companies are establishing contact with us on a daily basis.

What are the crucial areas where the pharma sector needs to build up skills?

All areas are crucial and skill shortfalls exist in all. In due course, as the exercise gains further momentum, we would have a much clearer picture of the extent of challenge i.e. by size of organisation, by job roles, by cluster etc. At this point though, and as agreed with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and CDSCO team, our focus is on the major nine job roles: Manufacturing Assistant- Life Sciences,  Packaging Assistant – Life Sciences, Production/ Machine Operator, Fitter Mechanical- Life Sciences, Production Chemist, Maintenance Assistant- Life Sciences, Production Supervisors, Packaging Supervisor Machine/ Manual- Life Sciences and QC Chemist, which comprise over 50 per cent of job volume in manufacturing and QC.

Has the skill gap scenario improved since the Skill Gap Study conducted by LSSSDC in 2014 with KPMG?

The Skill Gap report (or base report) highlighted the job roles and clusters which we need to focus on to address the skill gap challenge in the sector. We have, since then:

  • Developed with industry input, National Occupation Standards for 61 major job roles that comprise 90 per cent of total job volume of sector. Six of these have also been mapped with UK standards, and we now have ‘transnational standards’ in place for these six, for future use
  • Developed, with Industry input, curriculum and content for the major 10 job roles that cover almost 70 per cent of total job volume of sector
  • Accredited over 70+ training partners
  • Conducted 36 ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes, certifying 326 trainers—with help of ‘Master Trainers’ nominated by major industry partners
  • Certified close to 15000 candidates for various verticals

To sum up, an entire skilling eco system is in place and skilling activity has already been triggered. We now look to industry to help scale up the activity, and seek state government help to, in tandem, mobilise suitable candidates.

Who are the other stakeholders, besides pharma companies, who need to be part of this skilling initiative?

The sector currently employees approximately 800,000 in about 10,000 units, 90 per cent of which are in small and unorganised sector — where we are mandated to conduct a skill gap analysis and help bridge any gaps. Further, we need to skill candidates for meeting demand of fresh hires. Together, over a 10 year period, the target is of the order of 2.1 million. This a huge challenge. The most critical stakeholder is of course the industry. Also very important is the academia, which includes colleges, universities and schools—especially those located in the five major clusters of LS activity viz. Baddi in HP, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam in Telengana/AP, Bengaluru in Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra. This is so that the youth in such belts desirous of finding meaningful livelihood in this sector, can be skilled (with practical training) and get employed in industry located in the respective clusters. Role of state government is also very crucial—specially in creating awareness amongst the youth in the respective states and in helping mobilise suitable candidates

What are LSSSDC’s strategies to meet its goals of helping to generate a sustained stream of high quality skilled individuals, approximately 2.1 million in number— over 10 years?

  • As shared, we are sharply focused—first targeting the most voluminous job roles in the major clusters of life sciences activity
  • Realising that quality directly impacts human life in the sector, all our decisions are driven with this being the foremost parameter
  • Industry involvement at each stage of skilling chain is vital, since it is the organisations that are hiring those certified. Inclusivity is the key. Today we can proudly state that practically all of the top 30 companies are involved closely with us, and we continue to forge partnerships with more and more organisations. Crucially we are forging strong connect also with small scale units which are such an important constituent in the sector. It’s worth highlighting that major organisations such as Cadila, Wockhardt, Granules have either accredited their ‘in house training’ facilities with LSSSDC or joined hands in skilling; others are expected to follow
  • Skilling is being imparted by enlisting support of industry so that practical training is imparted on the shop floor or lab of industry, considering the high capex of equipment required for skilling. In this, we will continue to leverage our strong connect with industry associations, all of who are represented on our governing body, and entities such as CII
  • Convergence with our line, Ministry (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and DCG(I) office is critical to success of the initiative. The fact that DCG(I) has issued a circular shows the strong faith that they have reposed in us and our activitities
  • With aim to leveraging technology to make the system as efficient as possible, e.g we are aiming to make available digitised assessment, effective July 2017

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