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June 7, 2013

Creating an Educational Solution for Tomorrow's World

Posted by Franz - Josef Schuermann (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:47 AM

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Franz-Josef Schuermann, Country Head - Infosys Germany, with Aart de Geus, CEO, Bertelsmann Foundation

It's always encouraging to hear when the private sector offers hands-on solutions to the world's most pressing public problems. Take education. The Germans are well known for the unique way they structure their education system. From the time a student is enrolled in kindergarten, teachers begin assessing a child's intellectual strengths and weaknesses in order to channel them into various tracks.

One track is for the university-bound. These students will someday grow into refined, young adults reading Goethe, studying Nietzsche, and listening to Bach on Germany's ancient college campuses. Some of these college students will go on to graduate schools in various medical, legal, business, and artistic fields. Yet others are channeled into engineering schools, where they'll learn how to design and build the world's next generation of bridges, skyscrapers, and computers.

Some of the other non-university tracks in Germany's educational system are more vocational in nature. Certain students might be identified as possessing the right mindset and temperament to become master tradesmen like carpenters, welders or mechatronics.

This educational system seems to work very well in Germany. So much so that it got two important private entities thinking about how to build upon the concept's successes - and how to carry the concept even further. The Bertelsmann Stiftung - the charitable arm of one of the world's most distinguished media corporations - has teamed up with the Infosys Foundation to adopt the vocational identification and training systems used in Germany for some 500 million laborers in India.

There's a slang term in the corporate world that I enjoy using: "to up-skill." It refers to training and developing people who lack the right skills to face the challenges and demands of a modern world. By all accounts, India has a labor force of a half-billion under-skilled laborers, which, if given the proper training, could fill many unfilled vocational posts within the country. The joint venture between the Infosys and Bertelsmann foundations is notable because it addresses the need for highly skilled workers throughout India's rapidly growing industries. Just think: India's huge workforce ideally trained to meet its local demands for talent.

The reality is that global players in India as well as in the rest of the world are looking for workers with the right vocational skills who can roll up their sleeves and get to work. That's why the Bertelsmann/Infosys partnership is so exciting. Bertelsmann Stiftung brings in deep knowledge in vocational training and education curricula, is familiar with differences in local programs and is aligned with public stakeholders. Infosys is not only maintaining the world largest campus facilities but adds its experience in skilling-up a great workforce in the service and Information Technology sectors. Reflecting this, Bertelsmann and Infosys initiated a conference at the end of this year called "Vocational Education and Training in India: How can companies and public authorities can adequately tackle the skills gap?"

Infosys is inviting Indian clients as well as local subsidiaries of German enterprises maintaining plants and offices in India to the December conference that will take place on the company's Mysore campus. Together with public authorities and program stakeholder they will share their experience. The major goal of the conference is to identify companies volunteering on a pilot where education and work experience is built into one training program. Infosys will also be able to strengthen their relationships to their Indian and German clients and add value to their businesses besides our core services.

Public authorities are getting involved, too. Conference participants will define skills they're looking for in their future employees, to develop curricula around those skillsets. Because Bertelsmann is involved, it can contribute its knowledge of how to structure such programs overall given its past experience working within the German educational system. We're happy because a newly educated workforce will be ready to tackle the pressing needs of our global clients as part of the Indian economic landscape.

Society as a whole benefits from this partnership as well. Newly educated, highly skilled laborers will no doubt direct their knowledge and skills into Indian industry. That's a way of keeping the global economy humming for decades to come.

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