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Guest Column

Published on: March 14, 2022, 4:07 p.m.
Making rural youth future-ready
  • AM/NS India signed an MoU with Odisha government for technical skill development

By Dilip Oommen. The author is CEO, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India

As a trusted partner in India’s growth, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India believes that true progress will follow when the world’s youngest population is adequately trained. That means digital skills. But the breathless pace of change in technology demands deep collaboration between government, industry, and corporate citizens. That’s an approach the company not only supports; it also guides the thinking on corporate social responsibility.

The impact of school closure on learning needs no iteration. According to a UN report, over the roughly 82 weeks that schools stayed shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only a privileged few had access to learning on a screen; the majority lost out on even that, what without access to affordable digital devices and technology.

In recognition of this gap, India’s recent budget sought to strengthen digital infrastructure, combined with financial and educational inclusion. This includes a host of initiatives in education and skilling, such as the ‘one class, one TV channel’ programme of the Pradhan Mantri eVidya scheme to expand supplemental educational television channels from 12 to 200; and the establishment of a national digital university for higher education.

These initiatives are in line with our holistic New Education Policy and actively support the much-focussed ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission that seeks to strategically enhance global competitiveness, while giving equal impetus to inclusivity and quality.

For its part, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AM/NS India) – a joint venture between two leading global giants ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel – has concentrated its efforts on extending digital literacy to rural and under-resourced youth by introducing innovative digital infrastructure to complement the existing community and government resources. The aim is to improve the quality of learning and equip students to adapt to rapidly evolving needs in the market.

This has materialised in public and private partnerships with like-minded organisations. For instance, in association with the National Skill Development Corporation, a public-private partnership organisation under the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, AM/NS India has sponsored digital skill training in customer service, tele-calling, and data entry for candidates in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. The company aims to train as many as 5,000 youngsters in the next three years.

The team’s work with the state of Odisha is particularly exciting, as it demonstrates the effectiveness of seamless cooperation between government and business in achieving common objectives. Under ‘Mo School Abhiyan’, the state government’s flagship programme, AM/NS India is providing financial assistance and project management support to equip government high schools with furniture and technology, creating smart classrooms, computer labs, and e-libraries for students in classes IXth and Xth.

Already, we have transformed 133 high schools in 10 districts of Odisha. In tandem are the company’s plans to step up manufacturing in the state, with the commencement of operations at the Ghoraburhani-Sagasahi iron ore mine in Sundargarh district last year.

Similarly, in Gujarat, digital literacy is central to the host of programmes the team has been running for local communities around and beyond our 9 million tonnes per annum steel plant in Hazira. At the Lok Vikas Kendras or skill development centres that have been have established across villages, the computer literacy centre has become a veritable hot spot of activity. 

It has been gratifying to see the enthusiasm with which students have attended the training on basic computer learning and skills, especially when they were not able to go to school. Their response is a testament to the initiative’s value, covering a broad range of skills, from entry-level computer literacy to advanced product-based skilling in critical technologies such as AI and cloud computing. The opportunity to reskill and upskill has resulted in job opportunities in hot sectors for many bright individuals. It has also helped them aspire for more.

It is with this focus that AM/NS India has launched Padhega Bharat, an umbrella name for all the current and future projects in digital education, which is making rural youth and students future-ready. Through strategic partnerships and resource allocation, the company aims to develop digital classrooms pan India, quality e-content in local languages, and multi-mode access to education for all using mobile apps.

As the iconic catch-phrase for India’s twin mission for universal education and development goes, padhega India, tabhi toh badhega India.”

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