India’s biggest challenge for growth is talent. It is, in fact, a dual challenge—that of providing skilled resources for organisations to succeed, while creating employment for the youth of the country. The government views this as a critical policy area and supports it by providing budgetary support of more than Rs 10,000 crore annually.
However, in spite of best efforts, the ratio of trained versus employed youth has been far from satisfactory. One key reason is lack of credible demand-side data. As a result, the government struggles to fully support industry needs.
Data and availability of credible information is critical to make any government programme successful. To make this happen, all stakeholders—including industry, policy-makers, sector skill councils and training providers—need to come together on a common platform and collaborate.
So, what really is the issue?
One of the key challenges of skill development has been to get a correct assessment of the exact need of skilled resources from the industry. This is important to calibrate all government policies accordingly. Now, how can industry help and collaborate in this?
Many organisations still struggle to draw a reasonably forward-looking talent forecasting plan. Few follow ad hoc recruitment procedures, as it helps reduce costs. However, this creates havoc with talent suppliers. The worst hit are vocational skill training institutes. Without recruitment forecast data, most of the providers continue to recruit, train and graduate resources, knowing very little of the need from the demand side. This, in turn, leads to an oversupply of talent, with many of them unable to find employment. Organisations can take the first step and share this information early on with sector skill councils which have been set up by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and are entrusted with the task of executing national-level skill initiatives.
Training providers need to train for trades required right now and in the near future. Many a times, since business needs change rapidly, this information is not relayed immediately. This, in turn, creates a lag where training providers continue to train students on skills which either no longer are required by organisations or there is an excess supply of talent. A little bit of crystal-ball gazing and some direction in this regard will help training providers use their limited resources more effectively.
Geographical mapping of talent needs
This is probably the hardest of all data needs. The lack of any data means that training providers spread across the country train students on trades without fully knowing in which location would they be employed. Students enrol for such courses and then discover that the available jobs are far away from their current domicile. This either leads to migration or limited employment. A cluster-based skill development approach can probably address this, but that needs a more detailed and synchronous effort with state governments and other multiple agencies. Migrating talent from one location to another adds costs and also drives up attrition rates subsequently. Additionally, it leads to overcrowding of cities, putting additional pressure of basic civic amenities, healthcare, transportation, housing, etc.
Diversity and inclusion
It is heartening to note that many organisations are today actively promoting diversity and inclusion in their hiring plans. However, to make this effective, can this be made more collaborative? The government has special policies in this regard, but often struggles to ensure that these are executed properly. Given that Parliament has recently passed the disability Bill after extensive debate, data on available job roles for special needs will help ensure higher employment for such candidates and also give a tremendous boost to their morale.
Integrate training programmes to business
Currently, training providers operate in silos and often do not align to business needs. Organisations can develop volunteering programmes under their CSR activities to help strengthen capacities of training providers and others. Volunteers can help vet curricula, check training content, train faculty members, share real-life business challenges, review programme deliveries and provide mentorship. Not only will this help build the ecosystem, it will also ensure that the bridge between academia and industry is narrowed. In addition, participating early in the process will help training providers understand business needs quickly.
Needless to say, unless there is a mechanism created to capture demand-side data and ensure that it is mapped to skill training providers, we, as a country, will struggle to find skilled resources to run our businesses and offer sustainable employment opportunities to the youth. Sector skill councils can act as nodal bodies to collate demand-side data to support the government. The BSE, for example, publishes a daily unemployment index, which captures data from 1,60,000 households across rural and urban locations (see chart). Such data can be useful to integrate with demand-side needs. Successful implementation of a national skill programme is critical and a little step forward from industry members and training providers will help go a long way in this nation-building exercise. For all the stakeholders in the skill ecosystem, it should always be the case that other than God, it is the data that we trust!
The author is MD & CEO, BSE Institute