Is India readying a skilled workforce to support electric mobility?

Is India readying a skilled workforce to support electric mobility?

By Surya P

More than a third of India’s engineering students lack skills that can make them employable in the current scenario that is evolving rapidly. At a time, when electric mobility is witnessing a steady growth in the country, there is a huge requirement for a skilled workforce that can fill up the volume in the domain and aid in sustainable growth for the EV industry in the country. Are the Indian educational sector, policymakers, OEMs, and other stakeholders working towards that goal?

Electric mobility is witnessing steady growth across the world. Governments across the world have been pushing the automobile industry to go fully electric by 2030. The Indian government has set a target of converting 70% commercial cars, 30% private cars, 40% buses, 80% two-wheelers, and three-wheelers to electric by 2030.

In sheer numbers, this will mean- 9 billion buses, 300 million four-wheelers, 2.2 billion two-wheelers, and three-wheelers! To keep these electric vehicles running on the road, India would further require 2.9 billion charging stations and a couple of billion service and repair facilities. 

Despite all the focus on EVs, the skill gap is one aspect that no one is talking about.

For achieving this, India will require an investment of Rs 20,600 crores. Finding that level of investment might not be a problem. The Indian market is so huge that investment has already started flowing into the electric vehicle category. Ola Electric has already raised 300 million dollars and is valued as a billion-dollar company even before manufacturing a single Vehicle. 

For the consumer, of course, electric vehicles will soon become very attractive. High energy efficiency, low running costs mean that consumers will spend just Rs 0.25/km compared to their current cost of Rs 6/km. This can be a huge advantage for heavy usage vehicles like food deliverers, taxi operators, and courier operators. And there is no need to mention the significant environmental benefits of EVs.

From 2022, India would need about 15,000 Engineers a year across the different product stages – right from designing, building, and servicing EVs. 

Despite all the focus on EVs, there is one aspect that no one is talking about: the skill gap. From 2022, India would need about 15,000 Engineers a year across the different product stages – right from designing, building, and servicing EVs. 

We need is a curriculum that is up-to-date, comprehensive, and adapts fast enough for the industry.

The Indian engineering education system is not equipped to address the need even though the intent is there. What engineers learn in their college days is fully theoretical. Our books are 20 years old and are teaching principles that are 100 years old. In these twenty years, the Indian industry has leapfrogged two industrial revolutions. Colleges and universities are not equipped to adapt fast to the changes required by the industry. 

What we need is a curriculum that is up-to-date, comprehensive, and adapts fast enough for the industry. We need a curriculum that teaches engineers the right technology, to understand the electric and hybrid electric vehicle technology and design them. Secondly, we need engineers who can manufacture EVs at scale. Manufacturing at scale also needs a complete ecosystem including raw material procurement, component manufacturing, and supplier companies and integrators. 

Apart from automobile engineering, we also need engineers who understand battery technology well.

Apart from automobile engineering, we also need engineers who understand battery technology well. Motor and battery were developed a long time ago, but it was never integrated into automobiles to replace the engine. We need engineers who know how to optimize the size and cost of the battery to give EVs superior performance and sustain environmental challenges. Furthermore, we need technicians who can serve the aftersales market. Even though EVs don’t need as much servicing as petrol or diesel vehicles, we need technicians who can help in servicing them.

To achieve this, we might need to look beyond traditional engineering education. OEMs should come together with skill development institutions and educators. OEMs should constantly interact with institutions to communicate to them the skills that they need. Experts from the industry should work with institutions to design courses and curriculum. The curriculum should be designed with a focus on project-based learning and practical skill development.

As EV technology is not yet mature, it is highly important for industries and institutions to have an open channel of communication and long-term collaboration.

As EV technology is not yet mature, it is highly important for industries and institutions to have an open channel of communication and long-term collaboration. Institutions should democratize knowledge so that it is available widely and without the usual restrictions of merit and affordability. While it might be a tough ask for colleges and universities muddled by bureaucracy to cater to this, EdTechs are better positioned to collaborate with OEMs and deliver these requirements. 

The policymakers, for their part, are taking multiple initiatives to facilitate this. The government is mulling a 3-year diploma where students can take a break of one or two years for gaining industry experience. While traditional colleges and universities might find it difficult to implement this, EdTech companies are more nimble to pull this off and some are already offering such unique courses. 

If the Indian education system is able to achieve this, India will have a unique advantage not only as the biggest EV market in the world but also as a global EV manufacturing hub. If we miss the opportunity, India might still be a big consumer of EV vehicles, but the major pie would be lost to the Teslas and Toyotas of the world. EdTechs with its deep ties to the industry will play a crucial role in shaping the future of India in the EV industry.

Also Read: Are electric vehicles coming of age: An Indian perspective

(Surya P is the co-founder of Skill-Lync, a Chennai-based EdTech startup.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)

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