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‘We intend to train 35,000-40,000 students and professionals over a three-year period’

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Pollux Life Science Solutions has been mandated by Life Science Sector Skills Development Council (LSSSDC) established under the Ministry of Skill Development to upgrade skill-sets among emerging pharmacists. Hemant Deshpande, Managing Partner, Pollux Life Science Solutions, shares more details about the mandate, the gap between academia and the industry and his vision to bridge this gap, in a têtê-à-têtê with Lakshmipriya Nair

Tell us about your partnership with LSSSDC? What does it entail and how would it help build skills in the pharma industry, both in qualitative and quantitative terms?

Hemant Deshpande

The Ministry of Skill Development along with stakeholders in the pharma industry had established LSSSDC with the broad objective of skilling aspiring workforce and existing working professionals in the pharma spectrum. We, at Pollux Life Science Solutions,  have been affiliated by LSSSDC as their training partner for the state of Maharashtra. We have initiated the process with a set target of 5000 students and professionals to begin with for various roles in the pharma industry, by bringing together academic institutions and the industry on the same platform.

As part of the training module, we will additionally provide intangible, soft skills for candidates in segments of quality control and assurance, production and medical sales representatives, which cover over 70 per cent of the job roles in the pharma space. Apart from bridging the gap between the academia and the industry, we will also upgrade professionals to address modern day challenges of the regulatory and policy makers at the shop floor level.

Reportedly, on a pan-India basis, LSSSDC aims to certify skilled workforce of 21 lakh over the next 10 years. Of that, how many people do you intend to skill in the next three years?

With support from LSSSDC, Pollux Life Science Solution has started off with two pharma clusters in Mumbai and Pune. We are in the process of adding Nashik, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Goa, Daman and Indore to our geographical spectrum. Going by our initial estimate and limited cluster of two cities, we intend to train 35,000-40,000 students and professionals over a three-year period. However, we are hopeful of scaling up our training modules across pharma clusters in the Western region to ensure that the target set by LSSSDC for these geographies are achieved by us.

What are the skill sets that need to be developed in the fast-evolving life sciences industry in India to ensure its growth momentum?

As part of the training module, LSSSDC has already documented technical proficiency and competency skills in the curriculum and we have added analytical and responsive skills that are significant to industry needs. These skill sets are based on evolving regulatory issues from the remunerative market that has far reaching impact on the industry, for instance, the notices received by the Indian pharma companies. The objective of skill upgradation is to ensure that India maintains its numero uno status as a low-cost producer of quality formulation drugs in the globe several decades down the line.

How will Pollux help bridge the gap between the academia and industry, and improve the employability of students?

In terms of remuneration, currently an Indian pharmacist is one-sixth that of a US-based equivalent professional. However, though the fresh pharmacist is well equipped with the fundamental theory as part of his scope of work, it is found that they are not adequately exposed due to the application of theory. This we intend to effectively inculcate in them by ensuring practical working at shop floor of pharma companies as intern during the training period. This process would ensure seamless transition from a student to a working professional with immediate effect and help them rise to the evolving regulatory challenge and other modern day work culture.

Can you elaborate on the curriculum on which the courses have been designed? How are they aligned to develop the National Occupation Standards devised by LSSSDC?

Broadly, Indian workforce stands at 3.7 per cent in terms of the National Occupation Standards laid down while it is 97 per cent in South Korea and 50 per cent in China. This calls for an urgent need in bridging the gap vis-à-vis the academia and the industry and hence the curriculum has been devised with deliberations and inputs from functional experts. The curriculum has been aligned to specific needs of each job role in terms of theoretical conceptual knowledge and practical application of it. The execution methodology of the curriculum has also been defined in terms of number of hours to be spent on each topic and internship with the industry.

Stringent global regulatory norms have made it imperative to develop a highly skilled workforce which would be competent to effectively meet quality standards and support the industry growth. What are your initiatives in this direction?

Unlike in the past, when one could learn through trial and error, the current market environment does not leave any scope for making a mistake at any level. Hence a solitary mistake at the shop floor by a low-end employee has the potential to invite regulatory attention, which could be disastrous from a financial as well as good-will perspective for the company in particular and the country in general. With functional experts in the saddle, Pollux intends to take up case studies and failure analysis of those historical event that had a bearing on the Indian pharmaceutical industry and the solutions that needs to cope with such eventuality. These initiatives will considerably eliminate the errors that may otherwise threaten to blow out of proportion.

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