Workforce development, Indian style

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A new paper from the Kauffman Foundation talks up the successes of India's approach to workforce development. According to How the Disciple Became the Guru, Indian companies have done such a good job at training their workforce that the U.S. should consider adopting some of India's practices in this regard (thus the title of the article). Or, as the authors of the paper conclude:

Indian companies have learned how to take the output of a weak education system and turn graduates into world-class engineers and scientists. Imagine what could be done with a worker base that has received the high quality of education available in the United States.

Respectfully, I disagree with the authors' conclusion.

The authors talk in glowing terms about the huge outlays of top Indian companies. Here are a few examples:

  • Infosys has spent some US$120 million to construct a training facility in Mysore with 300 full-time faculty.
  • Wipro provides twelve to fourteen weeks of classroom training for its new recruits, supplemented by need-based training afterward.
  • Satyam established a 240,000-square-foot facility with 68 full-time training staff. The facility is complete with a swiming pool, deer park, and all other kinds of amenities.

I don't question the ingenuity of the Indian companies in overcoming a severe obstacle in terms of human capital. I just don't think this approach translates very well to the U.S. context. Despite some shortcomings, the U.S. system of community colleges does an admirable job of exactly what these Indian companies have been forced to do. Replicating these efforts in the U.S. by having company instructional facilities on top of an extensive system of community colleges doesn't make a lot of sense.

The real lesson, I believe, is for companies in other emerging markets that face the same constraint that India has faced - a deficient system of post-secondary education. Russia and Brazil immediately come to mind in this regard.


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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