Alongside this heartening development, industry has been lately noticing two types of issues in the skill market which can dampen Indias growth story. The first is that companies have been on a hiring spree that appears to concentrate on numbers and compromises on quality and cost considerations. They are also experiencing increased levels of turnover and migration of skills, which add to the costs directly and indirectly. If the trend continues, the cost and quality advantages between India and competing countries might disappear soon.
The other notable issue is the relative supply-crunch and neglect of skills in a few segments that were relatively dormant for years and have come alive suddenly. For example, there is an unprecedented need for heavy vehicle operators, construction engineers, electricians, plumbers and associated skills in the infrastructure and housing sectors. Also, nurses, physiotherapists and vets are emigrating in droves, even as the healthcare industry expands in India. The shortage of teachers, horticultural assistants, cooks, chefs and eldercare assistants is expected to worsen.
The labour market in India had been characterised by surplus quality and quantity, relative to the demand. The government had resorted to manpower forecasting primarily to assist educational infrastructure and planning that focused on engineers, medical profession and a set of known and unpredictable skills required in a newly industrialising economy. It is fortunate that private enterprise has responded to the demand for new educational courses, and private firms have acted to fulfil their needs. But is there anyone governing the skill-market at the state and national levels
The vision and activities of most of the existing government agencies involved in technical education, manpower forecasts and information dissemination are built on assumptions of the past
They should be able to assess the skill requirements within the country, the supply, and the dynamics of outflow, and then feed this information effectively to user markets. Such information will enable private enterprise to come out with new infrastructure that will help bridge the demand-supply gap. They should be able to motivate standardisation of courses relevant for such skills (such as through competence based training) and make them available for adoption and customisation by those delivering the training. They must indeed take charge, create and motivate the entire supply chain of skills required, dynamicallyand stay ahead of the curve.
It is possible that the pent-up supply of a range of skills in the country had provided the initial steam to propel growth. The depletion of such steam can soon create a vacuum that may retard the momentum, unless the supply chain of skills is governed better at the national policy level.