Recognition of Prior Learning: As workers drop out, Centre moves in to tweak norms

By: | Updated: March 29, 2016 9:39 AM

On paper, a novel scheme floated by the Central government for certifying the skills acquired by workers in the unorganised sectors through traditional, non-formal learning channels, makes immense sense, especially in a country where just 2 per cent of the workforce is certified as skilled.

The guidelines of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme rolled out for construction workers are now being revised. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)The guidelines of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme rolled out for construction workers are now being revised. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)

On paper, a novel scheme floated by the Central government for certifying the skills acquired by workers in the unorganised sectors through traditional, non-formal learning channels, makes immense sense, especially in a country where just 2 per cent of the workforce is certified as skilled. After a 15-month rollout across five states, though, the pilot project has run into some headwinds, with a number of selected trainees leaving midway through the certification process, a trend that has forced the implementation agencies to attempt a course-correction.

The guidelines of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme rolled out for construction workers are now being revised to make it mandatory for construction worker to complete the training and appear for final assessment to fulfill the intent of the scheme. The experience during the course of the pilot showed that a large number of construction workers invariably left the designated work site for other sites, either for better wages or due to personal problems, thereby leaving the certification process half-way and not appearing for the final assessment.

Under the RPL Scheme, which has been launched as a pilot in October 2014 across five States — Haryana, Telengana, Delhi, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, data issued by the Ministry of Skill Development revealed that of a total of 507 workers that were pre-assessed and 316 workers recommended for training, 181 workers appeared for final assessment and 174 workers passed. The reasons, furnished by the ministry before a parliamentary panel, for the non-appearance of some of the trainees in final assessment included the trend of construction workers leaving the designated site to other sites, mostly for better wages. This was observed despite the fact that the workers selected for the scheme did not lose out on their wages for the duration of the training, as the wage compensation for the selected workers was being paid by the State Welfare Boards from the cess fund collected for worker welfare.

The tweaking of the guidelines of the RPL scheme, which targets mostly daily-wage workers at construction sites employing more than 200 persons across these states, come at a time when the Ministry of Skill Development is planning to expand the programme beyond these five states and broadening its scope to include sectors other than construction. The Ministry is implementing the scheme with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

Currently, the Scheme concentrates on the big sites where there are more than 200 unskilled and semi-skilled workers across the six trades — masonry, bar-bending, shuttering, carpentry, plumbing, painting and scaffolding. The training is provided at the construction site and designated training providers set up training infrastructure at the construction site. The workers are preassessed at the pre-determined criteria and based on the outcome of this exercise, they are provided skill gap training. The construction workers who are recommended for skill gap training during pre-assessment are provided training and again undergo final assessment. “The guidelines of RPL scheme for Construction Workers are being revised to make it mandatory for construction worker to complete the training and appear for final assessment to fulfill the intent and object of the scheme,” an official said.

The project may be of particular relevance to a country where just 2 per cent of the workforce is certified as skilled, as against skilled workforce levels of 96 per cent in South Korea, 80 per cent in Japan, 75 per cent in Germany and 70 per cent in Britain. The selling point of the schemes such as RPL, which is a subcomponent of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) that was launched by the NDA government on July 15 last year, is the certification and monetary reward for those enlisting for the demand-driven scheme that aims to mobilise the youth to take up skill training and become employable. Within a year, 10 lakh people will be assessed and certified under the RPL, according to NSDC Chairman S Ramadorai.

The poor skill level among India’s workforce is attributed to the dearth of formal vocational educational framework and lack of industry-ready skills. Most deemed to be outside the skilled category in India are those who have typically picked up a skill while on the job, without any formal degree to back this up. Officials involved in the exercise said the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015, is focused on schemes such as RPL for reskilling and upskilling the 298.25 million existing workforce, especially those below 45 years of age. Under the PMKVY, 31 Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) have been allocated a target of taking under their fold 5 lakh persons as part of the RPL scheme. The candidates are essentially assessed by third-party agencies empanelled by Sector Skill Councils. The candidates passing the assessment are then certified by SSCs by issuing skill card and skill certificate.

There are two stand-out features about the RPL scheme — the attempt to involve the industry in firming up the checklist of competencies for trades and trying to standardise skill levels across a sector by empanelling independent certifiers and trainers for skill assessment and training.

“While the official estimate of the percentage of skilled workers in the overall workforce is around 2 per cent, there are lakhs of people who are illiterate or semi-literate but are adept in the art of craftsmanship or skilling for generations. Varanasi or Kancheepuram weavers, gold and jewellery workers of Jaipur, diamond workers of Surat and many more. These people are skilled and working, they need to be certified. The (RPL) programme is an attempt to bring them formally to the skilling list, starting with the construction sector,” a skill development ministry official said.

Officials said the selection of site and for pre-assessing the workers selected for imparting training under the scheme is currently restricted to construction sites having more than 200 workers. Importantly, the workers are pre-assessed on the competencies mentioned in the checklist for various trades prepared in consultation with the construction industry. The training providers being roped in for the scheme, who can be either private sector players or government entities, are being entrusted with the task of charting out the methodology to certify the candidates in both theory and practical training sessions, getting government bodies or industry group’s approval in the vocational skill training and tying-up with corporates to utilise work-site for training.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition