In his speech on 15th July 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised that skilling, reskilling and up-skilling are the key to Atmanirbhar Bharat.
These words hold more weight in the current context as the fourth industrial revolution has ushered the manufacturing ecosystem into the digital age, where factories are getting smarter and the need for a new set of skills is growing rapidly.
In the automobile industry, this transformation has been happening gradually as robotised paint shops and welding machines started popping up a decade or so ago. However, the transition from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles to Electric Vehicles (EVs) has turned vehicles into computers on wheels. The strong linkages with Information and Communication tools (ICT) have led to rapid technological advancement in the automotive ecosystem. This disruption has a two-fold impact on the entire automotive jobs market.
Given that EVs have far lesser moving parts than the ICE vehicles, there are bound to be losses in certain jobs that are exclusive to the ICE vehicles value chain like manufacturing of fuel injectors, transmission systems, etc. On the positive side, new roles in the realm of Artificial Intelligence and mechatronics will be added based on the requirements of the EV value chain
Re-skilling and training existing and new workers is one way to mitigate the potential job losses occurring as a result of the transition. The technological transformations brought in by the E-mobility transition will require adaptive skill upgradation in professionals across the automotive ecosystem, to overcome redundancy.
To ensure that the EV transition is just, sustainable, and inclusive, it becomes imperative to focus on some key aspects.
Foremost on the list is localisation of jobs in pre-manufacturing and manufacturing processes. Localisation will lead to the elimination of supply-side distortions, and create job opportunities across the skill spectrum, at the local level. In a study conducted by CUTS International at the Jaipur-city level, it was estimated that the net employment generation up to 2030 as a result of the e-mobility transition, will be 32,017 jobs across component manufacturing, vehicle assembly and operations of EVs.
Thus, promoting indigenous EV component manufacturing will be an effective way of countering job losses and encouraging job creation at the city or state level. This can be facilitated by providing adequate financial and policy support for these initiatives at the state level.
Another challenge is the knowledge gap between industry and academia which has led to lack of next generation workforce that are adept in electric mobility. Hence, appropriate skilling and reskilling initiatives need to be mapped out in collaboration with academic institutions, OEMs, government bodies, and training institutes to develop a robust EV industry.
Finally, ensuring a just and inclusive transition also means reducing gender disparities in the automotive ecosystem. The advent of automation in manufacturing and assembly processes may lead to more opportunities for women on the shop floor. However, the first step towards this will be necessary skill training for the women to provide them with a level playing field in the male-dominated sector.
The automotive industry is at the doorstep of a potentially pivotal transformation amid new-age technology and automation. Going forward, the existing workforce transition will need a clear strategy and careful handholding. The automotive industry will have to focus on up-skilling them on basic technology, language, and troubleshooting skills and capability. Hence, it is only through elevation of the workforce that the Indian automobile sector will be able to make the best use of the opportunities put forward by this transition.