After ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’, the government will be launching yet another programme called ‘Skill India’ in March 2015. Like all other programmes, ‘Skill India’ too is a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the work to launch this programme has already begun.
India has one of the youngest populations in the world and a very large pool of young English-speaking people. Thus, it has the potential to meet the skills needs of other countries and also cater to its own demand for skilled manpower. Ironically, most industries in India are struggling with scarcity of skilled labour. Skill India is the government’s answer to bridge this gap by providing training to all sections of our workforce in order to optimise their productivity.
The current education system does not focus on training young people in employable skills that can provide them with employment opportunities, and a large section of India’s labour force has outdated skills. With the expected economic growth, this challenge is going to only increase further, since more than 75% of new job opportunities are expected to be skill-based. The government, thus, is strongly emphasising on upgrading people’s skills by providing vocational education and training to them.
The goal of Skill India is to create opportunities, space and scope for the development of the talent of Indians and identify new sectors for skill development. It aims to provide training and skill development to 500 million youth by 2020. It also aims to set up 1,500 new ITIs and 5,000 skill development centres across the country as well as a National Vocational Qualification Framework for affiliations and accreditation in vocational, educational and training systems. Needless to say, it is a herculean task and requires collaboration with various stakeholders.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can act like the glue that links education and employers and takes them to new heights in a way that neither of them can achieve if working singularly. With a shared goal of tightening the level of communication among educators and employers, PPPs can efficiently implement public policies, funding systems and curriculum frameworks, and help bridge the employability gap. Also, government-run training institutes are often plagued by an array of problems such as faculty shortage and obsolete curriculum due to which most students passing out of educational institutions remain unemployed. These challenges cannot be met alone by government initiatives, and for a strong link between industry and training institutes, private involvement can help by providing funds, better infrastructure and more exposure.
Government budgets, so far, have clearly reflected the focus on enhancing the PPP model in training and skill up-gradation, but through the Skill India initiative, we see it taking a more concrete shape and direction. First, a lot more private organisations that offer trainings in both urban and rural India are being invited to establish a rapport to work with the government as it can make the task of penetrating even into the deepest rural areas easier. Second, a number of voluntary organisations and NGOs are being included to reach out to all corners of the country. Global Success Foundation is one such NGO that is working on creating awareness and training modules in collaboration with the National Skill Development Corporation to provide vocational training in semi-urban and rural areas. These trainings are unique in the way that they equally emphasise on providing soft skills so that the candidates have a holistic development that helps them deliver their best in whatever they do. The organisation has successfully trained and provided employment to 200 villagers in Dholka, in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat, and will reach out to communities in all parts of the country this year. Such initiatives are a positive step towards skilling the untapped potential that can be utilised to make Skill India a reality.
After all these years of trial and error, the government is right in realising that we need to scale up our skilling efforts if we want to include our rural and semi-urban youth (Bharat) into the national development process; remember, they are far greater in numbers than their urban counterpart. The emphasis is now to skill them in a way that they get not only employment but also improve their entrepreneurship skills. Thus, trainings are no longer going to be restricted to vocational ones but also micro-entrepreneurship trainings that can encourage them to start their ventures independently or improvise if they already have any. Tailor-made, need-based programmes—language and communication skills, life and positive thinking skills, personality development skills, management skills, behavioural skills, job and employability skills—have to be initiated for specific age-groups.
We have to design training programmes on the lines of global standards so that the youth of our country can not only meet the domestic demands but also of other countries such as the US, Japan, China, Europe and those in West Asia. This is getting increasingly important with the government’s agenda of turning India into a manufacturing hub for the world. It will take more than cheap labour to pull global companies to use Indian resources and services for their products; it will need good quality manpower that can deliver at par with standards in their nations.
It’s not that we do not have any skill development programmes. The government has always considered skill development as a national priority but earlier the emphasis was on traditional jobs whereas Skill India will focus on all kinds of jobs. Structurally also, the government has made changes; for instance, earlier the responsibility was divided among various ministries but this time these are being clubbed together, only to make the system more efficient and transparent. The course methodology of Skill India is hopefully going to be more innovative, which could include games, group discussions, brainstorming sessions, practical experiences, case studies, etc, to ensure that candidates are job-ready by the time they complete the courses.
According to Modi, 2015 will be when Skill India won’t be just a programme but a movement, embracing youth who are jobless, college and school dropouts, along with the educated ones, giving them a chance to be a part of our workforce and add value to our economy in a more organised and productive manner.
What shape Skill India will take, only time will tell. But with this approach, India can move towards its targeted goal of providing employment to all its citizens. Let’s start by making 2015 the year of skilling.
By Sachin Adhikari
The author is founder & chief mentor, Global Success Foundation