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‘We hope to start similar skilling activity in Gujarat and Maharashtra as well’

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Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC) recently introduced the Skilladder programme for medical sales representatives to enhance their skills. Ranjit Madan, Chief Executive Officer, LSSSDC discusses more about the programme with Usha Sharma

Tell us more about LSSSDC’s recently launched initiative called Skilladder?

20160715ep20Apart from skilling youth for specific jobs, the government rightly desires that skills acquired by those through on-the-job training (OJT), instead of formal skilling, should also be assessed and recognised. This is under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) initiative. Under this initiative, LSSSDC has recently launched ‘Skilladder’, aimed at already employed ‘medical sales representatives’ or MSRs, which at approximately 200,000 represent over a quarter of the life sciences sector workforce. The product has e-content required for skilling a MSR, being made available on a mobile app— recognising that MSRs are on the field, and unlikely to be available for any classroom based up-skilling, should that be required. The initiative is in three stages. The first is an assessment to ascertain skill gaps, if any. Those clearing the assessment are certified formally as MSRs. Those falling short in any area, have the option to upskill themselves, using ‘Skilladder’. The final stage is re-assessment to certify that the MSR is now fully skilled.

Why do working MSR of the pharma companies need such programmes?

It is highly desirable that skills, acquired on the job, of all those who are currently employed, are recognised and certified. In the process, those who have any skill shortfalls should be able to up-skill themselves, This includes MSRs. This, whilst increasing the self-worth of such workers and aiding them in their career progression, will serve to raise productivity of the workforce, and significantly benefit the employers.

Why aren’t many opting for MSR as a career opportunity and how will the Skilladder programme enhance it further?

As a minimum education qualification, MSR requires minimum graduate degree/ diploma, preferably in Science. Students with such qualifications prefer other career options- such as IT. A major part of the challenge lies in creating awareness regarding the career opportunities including salaries and commissions that this job entails; where industry must play the leading role. Skilladder, by providing an avenue to enhance skills of those currently employed as MSRs, can only catalyse the process.

Till now, how many MSRs have enrolled for this programme?

This is a recently launched initiative. So far 11 major Indian and MNC organisations have participated in the RPL initiative, involving 600 MSRs. We expect many more organisations to participate in this, as the word spreads.

Presently, the Indian pharma industry is facing a lot of, will there be also technical assistance in the Skilladder as well? How much detailed knowledge will be given to MSR in the cGMP area?

MSR is not a QC/ Mfg job, and hence GMP does not apply here. However, the qualification pack and national occupations standard relating to MSR, and derived from it the curriculum and content that we have developed—with inputs from Industry—cover the required Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Practises (UCPMP). Going forward, we are exploring similarly making available e-content for other technical job roles (other than MSR) on the mobile app.

Which associations/ pharma companies are acting as the governing bodies? And why is ISCR not a member of the governing body?

We have all the major and actives associations such as IDMA, BDMA, IPA, OPPI, CIPI, Pharmexcil, ABLE, ACRO, Indian Pharmaceutical Association represented on our governing body. We can examine the value addition of other associations joining us.

Give us a broad perspective of the global skilling scenario and what is the growth percentage?

Although India has the youngest demographic profile and is therefore well poised to reap significant demographic dividend, it stands at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to workforce formally skilled. Countries like South Korea have 97 per cent, and others such as China, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, the US have between 50-90 per cent of its work force formally skilled. India is under five per cent. Hence, the dire need to skill its workforce. With this backdrop, the government has taken upon itself the challenge of rapidly skilling youth in various job roles, across various sectors.

Tell us more about the industry cluster-based game plan and how are you going to execute it?

Life Sciences (pharma, bio tech and clinical research) activity is highly clustered. Approx 65 per cent is in five clusters i.e. Baddi in Himachal Pradesh; Hyderabad, Telangana and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh; Bengaluru, Karnataka; Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad, Vadodra, Ankleshwar in Gujarat. Accordingly, for all technical job roles (and most others except MSR fall under this), we are focusing on these major clusters. Skilling in such job roles e.g. production chemist, QC Chemist, QA Chemist, requires practical training on shop floor and lab equipment — which is very expensive. Also, it requires experts to demonstrate the use of such equipment. We are therefore proceeding cluster by cluster, locating suitable training partners and involving industry — who will support practical training, and subsequently hire those certified. In Baddi, we have Abbott, Cipla, Fresnius and Sentis participating; in Hyderabad it is DRL, Granules, Aurobindo and Biologicals E; in Bengaluru, Biocon, Merck and Shasun have come forward for this. The first batches of production chemists and QC chemists (being the major job roles) have begun to be skilled. Importantly, most of the students have already received placement, subject to being certified by LSSSDC upon completion of their skilling module.

What are the new programmes you plan to commence at LSSSDC?

Major organisations who can afford it, and in the face of an inadequate supply of skilled workforce, have been doing ‘in-house’ skilling. For convergence and synergy, we are encouraging such organisations to join hands with us. Cadila is the first major company to have done so, and its skilling centre in Ahmedabad is now accredited to us. Wockhardt will be the second organisation.

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