UK’s online education provider expands into India

bksb chairman Tim Clarke, Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar, Dame Asha Khemka and Harvinder Atwal at the centre's official opening in Chandigarh

One of the UK’s leading online education providers has expanded into India to support the country’s ambitious skills agenda.

Mansfield-based bksb – a global supplier of eLearning solutions for English, maths and ICT – has set up a head office and training centre in Chandigarh as part of its vision to improve the English language skills of people across the sub-continent.

bksb chairman Tim Clarke, Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar, Dame Asha Khemka and Harvinder Atwal at the centre's official opening in Chandigarh
bksb chairman Tim Clarke, Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar, Dame Asha Khemka and Harvinder Atwal at the centre’s official opening in Chandigarh

Operating in India as Skills Anytime, the company’s popular online products have been tailored specially for the Indian market to enhance people’s career prospects and opportunities for further study.

Company chiefs say its innovative web-based educational software will contribute to the Indian government’s ambition of training 500 million people by 2022 and realise its aspirations for economic growth.

Equipping more Indian people with good English language skills is considered a key part of achieving this aspiration, as the country – already home to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies – operates in an increasingly global marketplace.

More than 25 million people and thousands of education providers around the world have benefitted from bksb’s easy-to-use online assessments and learning resources since the company was launched almost 20 years ago. In the UK alone, over 80% of colleges and hundreds of schools, training providers, local authorities and employers use its solutions to improve teaching and learning.

Actor and singer Nav Sidhu with Dame Asha Khemka
Actor and singer Nav Sidhu with Dame Asha Khemka

bksb is a subsidiary of the West Nottinghamshire College Group – one of the largest and most successful education and training providers in the UK, which is headed-up by multiple award-winning educationalist, principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka, who is widely-regarded as a leading figure in the world of education and skills.

Skills Anytime’s new HQ and training centre in the Taj Hotel Chandigarh allows the company to showcase its products to the Indian market as it strives to support thousands of people to develop their English language skills in its first year of operation.

To mark its official opening, the company hosted a launch event on Thursday 15 January where esteemed guests saw the products first-hand and met the Chandigarh-based team.

Guest of honour was Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar, Former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir, who joined Dame Asha in unveiling a plaque to officially open the centre. Also attending was the actor and singer Nav Sidhu, who spoke about the benefits of using this type of software and the importance of good English language skills to India’s youth.

Skills Anytime is an internet-based flexible learning tool that allows users to boost their English language skills by finding out where their weaknesses are before working through a series of online tutorials, at their own pace, in order to attain the required level.

Using the software helps people prepare for exams under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the world’s most popular English language test, with more than two million taken each year. The software is suitable for all age groups and is aimed at schools, colleges, employers or individuals who simply want to improve their everyday English.

bksb’s managing director, Harvinder Atwal, believes Skills Anytime has an exciting role to play in upskilling the youth of India. Her family is originally from Jalandhar and she is passionate about this pioneering initiative.

Mrs Atwal said: “It is predicted that by 2025 a quarter of the global workforce will come from India. To make this a reality, India must maintain its focus on providing outstanding education and training, which instills confidence by allowing students and employees to develop and grow as individuals. A good grasp of English is an important part of that. Our proven, tried-and-tested English language solutions will enable people to improve their skills, progress to further education and, ultimately, secure employment.”

As the founding chair of AoC India – an organisation set up to progress links between educational institutions in the UK and India – Dame Asha provides a powerful voice in promoting the contribution that Britain’s Further Education and skills sector can make towards training India’s workforce.

She has worked tirelessly to forge strategic alliances with Indian government ministers, civil servants and business leaders, and accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on their respective three-day trade missions to India in 2013 and 2014 – the latter being the first high-level delegation since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected in May.

Dame Asha said: “It is a very proud moment for me to launch these innovative products to the Indian market. Skills Anytime will make a huge difference to India’s skills development – the potential of these tailored learning packages is enormous.

“I am confident its online learning tools will soon be used by many businesses and education providers – adding real value to the training of their employees and students by honing their speaking, reading and understanding of the English language. This will contribute to a strong and successful skills landscape which will help India realise its potential of providing a global, not just a national, workforce.

“As an Indian, I am immensely proud of the pace of change and the economic growth of our great nation. I feel humbled we have the opportunity to contribute to the ambitious and exciting skills agenda which will underpin India’s continued success.”

Known as the Cordia Skill Development Centre, it will provide high-quality training in masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and painting and decorating to support India’s booming construction industry.

Using its vast experience in the construction sector, West Nottinghamshire College Group will develop the training programmes and specialist courses that will be provided by the new institute, as well as training the tutors that will deliver the curriculum.

Construction of the new facility – which will comprise of modern, well-equipped training workshops – is currently underway and, upon completion, will join the Cordia Group’s existing campus of educational institutes on the Chandigarh-Ludhiana highway.

The launch event saw Dame Asha and Lord Rana lay the foundation stone for the new institute, which is expected to be completed by March 2015 and will be followed by the recruitment of its first-ever students.

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