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Tuesday, Jul 30, 2002

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Professional education expanding by semester

Preeti Mehra

NEW DELHI, July 29

WITH lessening campus recruitments and MBA courses no longer the sole choice of youngsters, professional education institutes are banking on executive development programmes to increase clientele. Professionals too are making it a point to pursue continuing education so that additional skills throw up diverse job possibilities in the extremely competitive environment. Even companies are realising that the best way to keep ahead of competition is to invest in employee development. They encourage as well as nominate the bright ones to continue education courses.

The bottomline then is that the menu of professional education programmes is expanding by the semester. Universities, business schools, training centres, e-learning companies, dotcoms, even fly-by-night institutions are aggressively marketing their professional education wares. In fact, often, executives have a tough time trying to choose the one that would add the best feather to their cap.

The Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, introduced its executive education programmes late last year. In their case, being a school that was established through a corporate-academia partnership, a natural progression was exposing corporate executives to world class faculty from institutions such as London Business School, Wharton and Kellogg. In a sense, the participating executives would also contribute to global business education by throwing up issues and sharing their experiences of working in the Indian environment. The aim: "To expose the best in management talent to the best in management thinking.''

But ISB cannot be everyone's cup of tea. Some prefer to attain professional education through cheaper and easier means. In fact Macmillan's e-learning wing, e-Macmillan has been showcasing its online executive development programme to private enterprises and PSUs. They too have tied up with the country's big four — IIT Delhi, IIM Calcutta, NID Ahmedabad and MDI Gurgaon. With faculty from these institutions, Macmillan India offers several three and two-month courses including corporate and international finance, graphic and industrial design, CRM etc. "We've already got 600 registrations," informs e-business division head, Mr Raj Sekhar Joshi.

One of the first to lure executives into continuing education was DeakinPrime, one of Australia's well-known providers of industry and business-related training and a corporate arm of Deakin University. The company came to India as early as 2000 and offered customised courses for corporate executives.

From then to now, the professional education market has vastly expanded and in some cases new markets have been created due to the dynamics of globalisation. "While we were conducting corporate training programmes, we realised that there was a great shortage of trained personnel for sales and customer service. While massive opportunities are opening up in these two areas in all sectors — insurance, financial products, retail, IT-enabled services, pharma and FMCG, required expertise hardly exists," said Mr Muralidhar Rao of NIS Sparta Ltd. So the company has started the NIS Academy which offers one-year PG diplomas in these subjects. "Fifty per cent of those joining are already employed and in search of skill upgradation," he added.

In fact, skill upgradation is highly encouraged by corporates. While some foot the employees' bill, others give generous loans for the purpose. For instance, courier major Federal Express' employees in India are entitled to tuition refund of as much as Rs 1.25 lakh per annum for a continuing education course. "The company encourages employees to move to the managerial levels and facilitates this move," says company spokesperson, Mr Birender Ahluwalia.

So, as companies make way for their employees to educate themselves, professional education becomes a must instead of a choice. But are people going in for the certification or is there a hunger for learning? "Both", say industry observers.

"The future lies in the multi-skilled employee."

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