Philantropist and Indophile, Count Christophe de Breza has led the Europe India Foundation for Excellence into becoming a significant player in the domain of skill development in Europe and in India within three years of its creation. In an exclusive interview, he shares his view of how he would like to drive the EIFE ahead and the unique role being played by it in Skill India mission of the Indian government.
As we gather for the IISDS here in New Delhi, could you please tell us what the key objectives of this meeting are?
The New Delhi meeting is the outcome of nearly two years of a lot of hard work with detailed strategy planning and implementation. The objective of the meeting is the raison d’etre of the EIFE. Build a platform where various stakeholders in the world of skill development and training from the European Union and India can come together to identify potential areas of collaboration and then immediately get to working together. We cater to practically all levels of skill development – policymakers, researchers, institutes and institutions involved in skill development, trainers and of course the target group of us all, the students, the youth.
We have spent the last 18 months in studying the terrain and the requirement of India in terms what exactly needs to be done as the government unfolds its ambitious Skill India programme to cater to the challenging number of Indian youth that needs to be adequately skilled as they come into the job market. Then we turned to Europe and saw exactly in which areas could they bring value in contributing to the Indian effort of skill development. We identified some key sectors combining both very basic and very advanced industries and sectors of economy, all of which are the focus areas of India. These include manufacturing, including precision and high-tech manufacturing, food processing, infrastructure development, urbanisation (smart cities for example), transportation, hospitality, healthcare etc. In all of these sectors, we have identified the partners in the EU who can contribute to the entire value chain (from curriculum updation and assessment to bringing in new equipment, training methodologies and training the trainers).
And the third step in our journey has been to bring the key players from India and the EU in these verticals together, which is what will take place in New Delhi on November 21 & 22.
What is the USP of EIFE or IISDS as there are a number of events being organised in skill development?
We have several USPs. First, we are the only player who understands India and Europe nearly perfectly. We know the strengths, the capacities and the requirements very well. We have extensive presence in India and across Europe. We have a very unique set of partner organisations that are working with us. On the global, multilateral level, there is the OECD & UNESCO – which are a goldmine of research and expertise on skills and education. The work done by them is unparalleled and not just the EIFE but all our European and Indian partners have and will continue to benefit from their expertise and work.
Then we have several national champions in India and the EU that are our partners. In Switzerland, it is the National Institute of Technology, Zurich, which has produced 28 Nobel Prize winners including Einstein. In Germany, we have training providers like TUV Rheinland, GSI, Bertelsmann Foundation – all of which are amongst the largest players in their domain. In France, we have UIMM, the association of manufacturing industries that brings together over 43,000 companies including Dassault, Alstom, Renault etc, and which runs over 125 training centres of its own all over France and overseas.
The EU institutions have been selected keeping in mind the requirements of Indian economy, today and tomorrow. We have done a lot of scouting and mapping the terrain in India to understand the requirements of its industry and accordingly, we have lined up those very institutions from the EU who have the capacity and the desire to
work with India and help the Skill India mission.
It is this unparalleled panel of partners which is our key strength and USP. And now we will help the Indian partners – government or private – to reap the benefits of the humungous amount of knowledge and expertise that our partners offer. Our target is to ensure that all our partners find their suitable matches in India and begin work on the ground to contribute in a meaningful manner to the Skill India mission of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
How would you look back at the journey of EIFE so far and the future?
We began in early 2014 and the outcome until now has been beyond our expectation. With participation from institutes from Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium as well as representatives of various Indian states—intellectually everything is very exciting. India is one of the biggest potential future resources of skilled manpower for the more developed countries and gradually I eye almost all the European countries to come forward and participate in this mutually beneficial relationship.
We see the Europeans coming to help in Skill India not only so that the Indian industry and economy can benefit but in the medium term and in the long run, India could become the key supplier of skilled human capital for anywhere in the world and especially the EU which is fighting an increasingly ageing population and dearth of manpower.
Various studies by renowned research institutions forecast that 28 percent of the working age population of the world would be here in India very, very soon and it is now and here that the world needs to come to help in skilling the millions of youth who could then be deployed across the world, depending upon the shortage of adequate manpower.
What kind of challenges could you face in this ambitious journey?
There would be numerous challenges on the road ahead. These could stem from differences in cultures and work ethics as well as starkly different education and training systems between India and the EU as well as different standards of education and skills. But with determination and clearheaded work, we can overcome these barriers and create a win-win partnership for all!
What is your message to the Indian participants at the IISDS?
We look forward to the event in New Delhi. The meetings and exchanges during the Paris event organised by UNESCO and EIFE in Mayhave been carefully audited as that was instrumental in designing the India event. It is a challenge and we are up for it. Nobody has ever tried to broaden the horizon of skill development in India in this manner and it is indeed fascinating.
Keeping in mind the large requirements of Indian businesses, educational institutions as well as the Indian Government, EIFE invites all stakeholders – Indian or European-to become a partner in the EU India skill development initiatives and continue on this long and win-win journey which will not only enhance the skills sector in India but also a once in a life-time business opportunity for all our partners.