To address the shortage of adequately skilled workers in the country, in 2023, the Government of India released a new version of the national skill development initiative called Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0 (PMKVY 4.0). It is touted as a major upgrade over the previous versions of the scheme and aims to train 100 million people in different skills by 2024. This is expected to have a positive impact on the economy, creating new employment opportunities.
In this article, I shall deliberate on its current relevance in the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Let me start with some of the new features of this scheme and their relevance to the drug industry as I move on.
Some new features and details of the scheme:
As I see it, PMKVY 4.0 includes a number of new features and details over the previous versions, as follows:
- A focus on high-demand skills: The scheme will focus on training people in high-demand skills, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing.
- A greater emphasis on apprenticeships: The scheme will encourage more apprenticeships, which will provide trainees with hands-on experience.
- A focus on women and underrepresented groups: The scheme will make special efforts to train women and underrepresented groups.
- A greater focus on quality: The scheme will have a stronger focus on quality assurance to ensure that trainees are getting the best possible training.
Similarly, the specific details of the scheme include:
- The scheme will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
- The scheme will cover a wide range of skills, including IT, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.
- The training will be provided by a network of training providers, including government institutions, private training institutes, and industry partners.
- The training will be free for all eligible candidates.
- The scheme will also provide financial assistance to trainees to help them cover their living expenses during the training period.
Studies on the lack of a skilled workforce in the Indian pharma industry:
In tandem with the above, the lack of a skilled workforce in the Indian pharmaceutical industry has also emerged as a major concern in 2023. The industry is growing rapidly, creating a high demand for skilled workers.
Unfortunately, a huge shortage of adequately skilled workers keeps increasing. A contemporary study by the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance found that the industry will need an additional 1 million skilled workers by 2025. Moreover, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has also identified the pharmaceutical industry as one of the top 10 industries facing a shortage of skilled workers.
Factors contributing to this shortage:
Several factors have contributed to this shortage, including:
- The rapid growth of the Indian pharmaceutical industry: The Indian pharmaceutical industry is growing at a rate of 10% per year. This rapid growth has created a demand for skilled workers that the industry is struggling to meet.
- The increasing complexity of pharmaceutical manufacturing and marketing: Both are becoming increasingly complex, demanding employees with different skill sets. who have the knowledge and skills to operate complex equipment and follow strict procedures in the manufacturing process. Similarly, pharmaceutical marketing is also becoming increasingly complex due to the increasing number of regulations governing the industry, the growing importance of digital marketing, and the need to target a wider range of patients with varied demands and expectations.
- The lack of adequate training opportunities: There are not enough training opportunities available to meet the demand for skilled workers in the pharmaceutical industry. This is due to a number of factors, including the high cost of training and the lack of qualified trainers.
- Mismatch between salary and expectations: There is often a mismatch between the salary offered and employee expectations. The average salary offered in pharmaceutical marketing is not as high as in other industries, such as technology. This makes it difficult to attract and retain skilled marketing professionals.
The impact of the shortage of adequately skilled workers:
The shortage of skilled workers gives rise to negative consequences for the Indian pharmaceutical industry, such as:
- Reduced productivity: The shortage of skilled workers is leading to reduced productivity in the pharmaceutical industry. This is because unskilled workers may lack the knowledge and skills to perform tasks efficiently.
- Increased costs: The shortage of skilled workers is also leading to increased costs in the pharmaceutical industry. This is because companies have to pay higher salaries to attract and retain skilled workers.
- Quality problems: The shortage of skilled workers can also lead to quality problems in the pharmaceutical industry. This is because unskilled workers may not be able to follow GMP procedures correctly. Also, because unskilled marketing professionals may not be able to develop and implement effective marketing campaigns.
- Compliance issues: The shortage of skilled workers can also lead to compliance issues in the pharmaceutical industry. This is because unskilled workers may not be aware of the regulations that apply to the industry or the consequences of their violations on patients and society.
What the industry is doing today:
Some steps, though not considered enough by many, are being taken by the Indian pharmaceutical industry to address the shortage of skilled workers. Here are some specific recent examples:
- Establishing training institutes: The industry is establishing training institutes to provide training to workers in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA) has established the IDMA Skill Development Institute in Hyderabad. The institute offers courses in pharmaceutical manufacturing, quality control, and regulatory compliance.
- Partnering with educational institutions: The industry is partnering with educational institutions to offer courses in pharmaceutical science and technology. For example, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) has partnered with the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) to offer a diploma in pharmaceutical technology.
- Promoting apprenticeships: The industry is promoting apprenticeships as a way to train workers in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has launched the Apprenticeship Training Scheme for the Pharmaceutical Industry. Under the scheme, apprentices are paid a stipend and receive on-the-job training from experienced professionals.
- Offering scholarships and grants: The industry is offering scholarships and grants to students studying pharmaceutical science and technology. For example, the IPA has launched the IPA Scholarship Scheme for Women in Pharmaceutical Sciences. The scheme provides scholarships to female students studying pharmaceutical sciences at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
- Emphasizing on continuous learning: The industry is emphasizing on continuous learning for its employees. For example, several pharmaceutical companies offer their employees training programs and workshops on new technologies and regulations.
Industry needs to work more closely with the government:
The Indian pharmaceutical industry needs to work more closely with the government to address the shortage of skilled workers. The areas could possibly include:
- Increasing the number of training institutes
- Providing financial assistance to students studying pharmaceutical sciences
- Relaxing the eligibility criteria for apprenticeships
- Recognizing the skills of workers trained in other countries
Where the government should take greater initiatives:
These areas may include the following:
- Funding training programs
- Partnering with educational institutions
- Promoting apprenticeships
The shortage of skilled workers is a major challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. However, the industry is taking steps to address the challenge. There isn’t an iota of doubt in the contemporary pharma business environment that rebalancing the skill sets required, especially for employees in pharma sales and marketing, is more imperative today than ever before. Thus, it is important for the industry to continue to take steps to bridge the skill gap by addressing the shortage of its skilled workforce. This is essential today to maintain India’s position in the global market, at least as the reliable pharmacy of the world.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.