Skilled Kerala gets an Investment Edge

Kerala’s enviable Human Development Index places it on par with several developed countries of world. The state’s literacy rates (93.91 percent), life expectancy (74 years) and the lowest sex ratio (923 men per 1000 women) has made it a consistent topper in the country’s human development index. Kerala has other several distinctions with a 2005 report by Transparency International ranking it as the least corrupt state in the country.
The high human development index has had its impact on the education sector. It has led to a burgeoning demand for better higher education facilities especially in the area of skill development and technical education. The high literacy rates have meant that there are more and more youngsters flocking to the employment market.
The Role of the Government: As the exceptional literacy rates indicate, successive governments in Kerala have understood the link between education and better living standards. The state is also becoming increasingly aware of the fact that it is important to produce employable graduates. There has been acknowledgement that creating world class institutions is important to achieve this goal. Since 2000, the government focus has been to raise the level of technical education in the state, improve skills development and to forge better links between industry and academia. A blue print produced by the Kerala State Higher Education Council has highlighted five areas that have to be strengthened. These include developing better infrastructure, encouraging the use of technology, ensuring better teachers’ training, more concentration on research and providing autonomy to institutions. The implementation of these measures should take the education sector in Kerala to the next level.
Transforming Kerala into a Knowledge Economy
(i) Encouraging Private Sector Participation: Technical education in Kerala has expanded by leaps and bounds since the government opened up the sector to private participation in 2001. The liberalisation of the sector saw enrolment in engineering colleges go up from 2800 in 1991 to 28,000 in 2008.
(ii) Ensuring Skills Development: The government’s Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence (KASE) has been given the responsibility of ensuring focused and specialized skills development programmes in the state. The Academy ensures that the skills development programmes are spread across the spectrum so that Kerala’s traditional industries as well as its newly emerging knowledge economy will benefit. KASE’s joint venture projects with industries, National Skill Development Corporation as well as training companies are expected to result in the emergence of world class training centres. The Construction Academy based on a Public Private Participation mode at Chavara in Kollam district is an example. KASE is also seeking a tie up with Smart City in Kochi. The idea is to set up a Multi Sectoral Skill Development Centre to cater to the demand for skilled workers in the knowledge economy. The government has also initiated skill development projects in schools across the state. The first phase concentrates on the information and technology sector. Later, the focus will be expanded to include hospitality, retail, tourism and health care.
(iii) Encouraging Foreign Collaboration: The government is also tapping foreign investment to develop this sector. For example, Germany has committed to focusing on skill development in Kerala. As part of this commitment, Bosch Rexroth is setting up a Centre of Excellence in Automation technologies at College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET) while Mercedes Benz already has a MoU with the Government Engineering College, Barton Hill, to set up a centre of Excellence in automotive mechatronics. The Emerging Kerala platform also saw several investors express their interests in investing in the education sector in Kerala.
The focus on providing ‘employable educated youngsters’ via better technical education and skills development programmes is sure to give Kerala an investment edge in the near future.