By Srini Srinivasan
The benchmark of success for any nation across the world is a thriving economy strengthened by numerous factors including global trade, a bourgeoning population, and most importantly employability supported by education and skill development. Today, India remains a ‘young country’, home to one-fifth of the world’s youth population and poised to benefit from what is popularly termed the ‘demographic dividend’. The importance of skill development, for this population to remain relevant, future-ready, and agile, has therefore never been as important as it is today.
Rising literacy rate, low skill development
A recent report by Project Management Institute (PMI), in association with Aranca, titled ‘Assessment of General Skills Development Courses in India’, revealed that almost half of India’s youth were shown to be highly employable, with a rising demand for talent in technology-inclined sectors. However, it also highlighted the challenges in skill development, which include lack of practical exposure and vocational skills, absence of capacity and quality in training programmes, as well as a disconnect between industry needs and what is being taught at institutions. India is currently experiencing an acute shortage of skilled, vocationally qualified individuals, but has an oversupply of degree-qualified job seekers. The Government of India has been quite proactive in plugging this gap, launching numerous initiatives including the ‘Skill India’ initiative, creating the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and a number of programmes under the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
The need for a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model to bridge the skilling gap in India was first felt during the early 2000s. The technological evolution that swept the entire corporate sector post the dot com bubble introduced new skills at a rapid pace, and it became essential for industry bodies, government authorities and corporate India to come together to find effective solutions to equip the workforce with the newer skill sets. Today we see digital transformation as the cornerstone of innovation in every industry. While technology has advanced at a breath-taking pace the need to develop capability and skills at the same pace is more pronounced than it was earlier. A tech enabled yet a human centric future is what will define success as we go along. Therefore, models such as this could be a possible way to bridge the gap that exists between technology innovation and the skills required to put it to use in the most effective way that helps better outcome and make the workforce more employable.
A closer look at the Public-Private Partnership model
Implementing a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model has been quite a revelation. For many years, the publicly owned Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Industrial Training Centers (ITCs) had been the principal providers of vocational training in India. However, rapid population growth and increasing diversity in vocations meant that ITIs were not able to meet India’s need for vocationally qualified individuals. A PPP has allowed for an increase in efficiency and effectiveness of solutions, through the resources that the Government can provide, along with the expertise of the private sector to improve the overall skilling infrastructure in the country.
NSDC especially has proven to be a successful collaboration between the government and the private sector. The not-for-profit organisation is one of the foremost institutions to leverage PPP to its benefit – fostering the private sector-led skills business ecosystem; providing finance to private players through loans, equity, or grants; and enhancing the skill development value chain for all ecosystem players. It does so by combining and channelling the efforts of the Ministry of Finance, the Government of India, and private-sector industry associations and business chambers. In fact, the private sector remains a majority stakeholder with business chambers such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) playing a key part in furthering skill development efforts. The joint efforts under the flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) have significantly improved skill training in India. NSDC, which is seen as the pinnacle of the collaborative PPP approach, has successfully trained over 3 crore people over the last decade. A shortened shelf life for skills and a prolonged career means it’s important for educators, the government and the industry to work together to shape jobs training opportunities.
Businesses can only be as successful as their people, and companies will need to invest in developing a sustainable skilling strategy that furthers skill development in tandem with current talent requirements and by offering more practical exposure to the workforce. With an expected surge in the country’s young, working population, a collaborative approach between every stakeholder – the government, private enterprises, and most importantly, the individual themselves could throw up interesting possibilities for India’s long-term future. The resultant labour force would not only have bridged the skill gap, but more importantly, would also hold the potential to drastically improve India’s current status-quo in the world economy.
The author of this article is regional managing director, South Asia, Project Management Institute. Views expressed are personal.