India’s leather industry: providing employment to the poor6 October 2017
India’s colossal population represents a near-bottomless human resource, but poverty and a lack of education are endemic. Dr Swarna V Kanth and B Kanimozhi of the CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute explain how training is helping ordinary people acquire the skills they need to thrive in the country’s rapidly expanding leather sector.
The CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) has catered to the artisanal training needs of the Indian leather sector since its inception through various avenues, including the Leather Technology Mission. CSIR-CLRI, as a social empowerment initiative, is hosting training programmes for artisans below the poverty line in different leather trades across India, with financial support from various institutions.
The institute has the wherewithal to train more than 10,000 candidates in the next two years, readying them for some form of employment. CSIR-CLRI helped 650 candidates in different leather trades during 2015–16 as part of this initiative.
The CSIR-CLRI study related here considers skill training needs, the background of participants, eligibility criteria, implementation mechanism, project flow and critical phases. Trainees have also contributed feedback on how they perceived elements such as course material, infrastructure facilities and post-training assistance. The primary objectives of the project include tapping the talent potential of Indian youth, and improving productivity and improving quality of life for the disadvantaged.
The outcomes of the training are compared with its original objectives to identify success points and areas for improvement, and the conclusions will form the basis for future skill development initiatives.
India’s leather industry has witnessed robust growth right from 1950, transforming from a mere raw material supplier to significant product exporter. Leather is the eighth largest foreign exchange earner of the country. Today, almost half of India’s leather business comes from international trade. India exported leather and leather goods worth $5.92 billion from April 2015 to March 2016.
The Indian leather sector currently employs more than 3.09 million people. It is estimated that this figure will more than double by 2022. The current industry trends, including increased exports to high-end markets, are driving a shift towards mechanisation; the skills gap in the sector is mostly at the entry level, where the workforce lacks basic technical skills. The major responsibility, therefore, lies in endowing professional skill training to the labour to create a more able workforce.
As part of its 12th five-year plan, the Indian Government’s initiatives for developing skills in the leather sector focus on placement-linked training, with a plan to train around 200,000 unemployed workers, along with skill upgrades for trainers. The human resource development (HRD) mission for the leather sector aims to increase skills as well as technical development. The training proposed under the scheme is to be output-linked; at least 75% of those trained are to be placed in the industry.
The skill development model of CSIRCLRI is unique and must be appreciated qualitatively, as well as quantitatively, to serve as a potential model for the upcoming skill development initiatives of the institute. The key objective of this study includes throwing light on the skill development model followed by CSIR-CLRI in 2015–16.
The skill development programmes in 2015–16 were analysed in terms such as the skill requirements and employment aspirations prevailing in the leather sector substantiating the need for the skill development training; objectives of the training, training model and mechanisms involved in project implementation; and the outcomes achieved in terms of placement.
The outcomes of the training were analysed quantitatively for the candidates covered in 2015 in terms of the number of candidates trained and/or placed by region, and the demographic characteristics of the participants.
The results achieved through this project have been assessed by capturing the current status of the trainees and the improved quality of their lives.
Elements such as course material, infrastructure facilities and post-training assistance have been studied through a survey administered completed by candidates. The results will be used in improving the quality of the skill training imparted to future participants.
Right for the job
Shop-floor workers, machine operators and maintenance personnel constitute around 80–90% of the workforce in the leather processing or products industry. There is hardly any specialised shortterm course that caters to the needs of these workers. The skill development efforts of CSIR-CLRI for 2015–16 covered the states of Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The skill development programmes during 2015–16 were organised in association with the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC).
The programmes focused on improving employability among those considered ‘double below poverty line’ ($1,523 for rural areas and $1,873 for towns and cities).
Candidates had to be 18–50 years old and to have been educated to fifth-grade standard in order to be eligible for either of the 35 or 60-day programmes.
The objectives of skill training were to:
- provide skill development training that would lead to an increase in employability and productivity of the workforce for the Indian leather sector
- train needy artisans in state-of-the-art technology
- create employment opportunities for the candidates to find work or to start their own microenterprises, giving preference to female beneficiaries
- impart market-based skills along with technical skills on shop floor operations of leather-processing technology, footwear manufacturing, and leather goods and garments
- focus on overall personality development of the trainees and the production of technically superior products
- enable trainees to gain hands-on learning experience beyond the common learning programmes, and help them to spread and sustain a technology culture through exposure to global best practices.
Up to standard
The curriculum of the training has been standardised to a level deemed acceptable by the industry. CSIR-CLRI awarded a proficiency certificate to all those trained under the scheme. Its training is in step with the level of skill required in the industry and considers the variety of existing strengths that can be exploited.
The trades covered encompass the entire value chain, from leather processing to finished products, such as leather processing technology (tanning, post-tanning and finishing); footwear manufacturing (cutting and clicking, closing and stitching, chappal-making); and leather goods and garments (cutting and clicking, assembling and stitching).
Finding and mobilising candidates will be primarily carried out by state agencies, NGOs and leather industry associations. The selection process will be demand-driven. Candidates who apply for the programmes will be initially screened based on the eligibility criteria. Those who satisfy them will then be counselled on their future prospects after receiving training in the different areas. Only those who seriously wish to acquire the skills, and then a job in the leather industry, will be considered for selection. CSIR-CLRI’s provides technical training, support, monitoring and concurrent evaluation. It has also outsourced training among its regional centres for extension and development. Periodic monitoring and assessment of the training will be conducted by experts at CISR-CLRI’s headquarters, as well as regional centres. Final authenticated certification is provided by CSIR-CLRI.
The priority in the leather and leather product clusters in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal was the supply of skilled labour. The positioning of these clusters in the global value chain is such that their competitive advantage is drawn out by nurturing valuable primary-level human resources to the maximum extent. The Kanpur leather cluster is increasingly integrated in a global manufacturing and distribution chain, and therefore drew the most candidates (300).
The Fourth Annual Report on Employment and Unemployment 2014 stated that, in India, 13% of those aged 18–29 were unemployed. Most candidates for skill training belonged to this demographic. The prime focus was on encouraging women candidates; nearly half of the total number of those trained were female. Low educational status was prevalent: 43% of candidates were educated up to fifth or ninth standard, and 38% of candidates had studied up to tenth. Just over 4% held a diploma or degree.
A rich resource
Following the training, CLRI has placed 478 candidates in employment in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Three candidates from Chennai are now engaged in CSIR-CLRI itself as trainers for subsequent batches of skill training, at a remuneration of $234 a month. The average salary of employed candidates was $146. Around 28 candidates trained by Perambur Cluster in Chennai have formed small self-help groups within themselves and are earning at an average of $156 a month by taking on small jobs. The skill training has therefore helped to change the outlook of trainees.
Descriptive statistics showed that course material was the top-scoring element of training, followed by infrastructure and post-training assistance. A Friedman test revealed the statistically significant attributes of each element of training. With respect to course material, clarity of course structure (theory and practical parts) and periodic monitoring during the course of skill training were the top two ranking attributes of course material. Adequacy and quality of faculty, and quality of infrastructure and tools were the top two attributes pertaining to infrastructure.
This shows that instructors at CSIRCLRI successfully imparted the various nuances involved in each module. Trainees were also satisfied with the timely and orderly payment of their stipends.
The different groups of candidates (in terms of age, gender and educational qualification) did not show any significant difference in their mean scores for the elements of training analysed through feedback.
This is evident from the significance values obtained from an independent sample t-test and an analysis of variance (ANOVA) test.
The study indicates that the CSRI-CLRI has created a skill development model that is able to foster rich societal empowerment. Trainees also revealed that they were satisfied with the quality of training imparted at CSIR-CLRI.
The training included efforts to keep the trainees updated on the dynamic changes in the industry environment and job market.
CSIR-CLRI will use its technical expertise to touch the lives of ordinary people through technological training, thereby enriching a primary-level human resource.