Need of the hour is Centers of Excellence 

To survive tough competition and frenzy struggle for existence organizations these days have to think of transformation, efficiency, synergy, effectiveness, collaboration etc. The expression ‘Centre of Excellence’ (CoE) is becoming a popular these days in both industry and academia, which in fact is a department or section in an organization that focuses attention on problem solving.

Center of Excellence for bigger growth efficiently and effectively 

images-img_centre_excellence-250x250Center of Excellence helps organizations to transform for bigger growth more efficiently and effectively to accomplish their mission. Centre of Excellence means  a place in an organization which is known for doing particular activities very well, and that involves new developments, new style of working etc. The Centre of Excellence may comprise a functional or cross-functional team looking both inside and outside the organization to capture new knowledge and practices. It may be set up as a physical or virtual team, but it will have a permanent rather than just a project status. The defining feature of a Centre of Excellence is research knowledge management.

For example, if a car dealer has ten servicing centers, then nine may be regular and one might operate as a Centre of Excellence. The one which operates as Centre of Excellence will have senior and experienced engineers and technicians along with researchers who will make diagnosis, technical analysis in developing suitable methods and techniques to establish best practice and disseminate this to the other teams/centers. This does not mean that workers in the non Centre of Excellence are someway less worthy, or are offering a sub-standard level of service.

Center of Excellence in the African continent  

map-of-africaThe African continent is far ahead than other emerging economies of the world when it comes to training and developing youth of the nation. African economies are growing much rapidly and employers across the continent are seeking qualified personnel to maintain and pursue their progress. But many young Africans are still turning to northern or western countries for their education and their careers, making it difficult for African employers to hire qualified local workforce. In fact, more than half of African students who study in Europe and America take up employment there, instead of returning home. The African government therefore had to take preventive steps to stop the brain drain. The government and corporate, together are investing in starting centers of excellences to offer internationally recognized curricula and state-of-the-art research facilities. Thus providing a more affordable alternative in a better suited environment where teaching is in tune with the local context. These centers are investing heavily in the quality of education given to the students. These Centre of Excellences are gradually reducing the gap between institutions in the North and those in the South. They are also increasing their capacity to admit more students.

Recently in April, 2014 the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$150 million to finance 19 university-based Centers of Excellence in seven countries in West and Central Africa. These competitively selected centers will receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health. The landmark African Centers of Excellence (ACE) project, which will equip young Africans with new scientific and technical skills, will be financed through IDA (international Development Association of World Bank) to provide higher education, including short-term training, to students, faculty and civil servants. Hats off to them!!

Future of Center of Excellence 

In a latest news article in Hindu, a few colleges in and around Coimbatore have state-of-the-art centers of excellence set up on their campuses. The model works this way: an organization specialized in any sector like automobile, automation, software development, textile engineering ties up with a college to set up a compact model of its work place in a limited area complete with the latest equipment.

With hand-holding from the industry, some trainers are lent to operate the centre, while at the same time some faculty from the related department are selected to undergo hands-on training on the systems under the ‘train-the-trainer’ mode at the industry. For a while the trainers from the company and the trained faculty train the students. After a while, the company hands over the total operation of the centre to the college. From time to time, the equipment and faculty are updated keeping with the latest in technology. The Centers of Excellence are becoming change agents – biggest change has been the transformation of our ‘demographic burden’ into a ‘demographic dividend’!

The centers of excellence in education should extend demand-driven training, striving for international standards and recognition. It should be granted financial and statutory autonomy, flexibility in management and strategic planning to ensure good governance.

Lastly, Centers of Excellence should have the flexibility to respond to emerging needs, by developing new training programs, adapting salary and recruitment policies, and reshaping strategies according to political, economic and social changes.

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  1. The CoE can largely benefit retention of highly experienced and skilled staff as it can give them a new area for development and growth for self as well as the organization. Many of the large corporates have already setup seperate departments focussed on CoE.
    The smaller firms shall however be challenged to implement seperate CoE but nonetheless can always work on the core aspects.

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