Square pegs in round holes will hit skilling and employment initiatives

Published: November 27, 2017 2:31:14 AM

Skilling courses should be demand-, not supply-driven, to curb educated unemployment

Job creation, India, OECD, NEET, corporate income tax rates, Airbus A380, Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, narendra modi, Skill IndiaThe clear mission in meeting employment generation goals is to ensure industry-relevant skills for India’s unemployed youth.

Debashis Chatterjee

Job creation remains a perennial challenge for governments globally. In India, the employment issue is further complicated by educated unemployment. According to statistics from the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), more than 30% of India’s youth between 15 and 29 years are NEETs (not in employment, education or training). These figures are more than twice the OECD average and almost thrice that of China. Youth not in paid employment and outside formal education or training comprise NEETs. A major cause is the inadequate creation of quality jobs and limited incentives or steep barriers preventing the youth from entering the nation’s education and training systems. Additional reasons include stringent and complex labour laws that still make it difficult to retrench hired hands and corporate income tax rates that discourage labour-intensive jobs.

Matching jobs and talent

In a nutshell, India’s rate of employment is below the rising population of working-age youth. Therefore, in order to resolve the job creation conundrum, clarity is imperative on the core issue and their causes. Without clarity, one will keep going in circles without solving the core problem of inadequate employment generation. We have to ask ourselves why does a nation touted as a global reservoir of talent have millions of educated unemployed? The answer is: mismatch of skills vis-a-vis industry requirements. The central government is aware of the problem and plans to skill millions of youth by 2022, without specifying numbers. As the former minister of skill development acknowledged, skilling needs to be demand driven, not supply driven.
Indeed, simply skilling millions won’t solve the job creation challenge due to the mismatch with industry-relevant skills—it’s akin to driving square pegs into round holes. Or asking pilots trained in flying the Boeing 777 to command an Airbus A380.

The clear mission in meeting employment generation goals is to ensure industry-relevant skills for India’s unemployed youth. What’s needed is clarity in the jobs available and the talent required for them. Success or victory in any task is contingent upon clarity. Victory can only be achieved if a programme begins with clarity. Given clarity, success is actually achieved twice. First, at the outset in its notional form when clarity ensures there is a clear roadmap to achieve programme goals. Second, when the programme is implemented successfully based upon predetermined goals.

Clearly visualising success

This is precisely what legendary archer Arjuna did to win various battles—first by visualising the target in his mind’s eye and then actually striking the eye of the real target. In fact, a mind filled with clarity can transform obstacles into opportunities. Accordingly, the objective of skilling millions of youth should be split into specified numbers being skilled in diverse disciplines as per their aptitude and industry demands. Again, clarity in plans and programmes can drive greater success. For instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana for providing free electricity connections to some 40 million BPL (below poverty line) households across India. The success of this programme will require thousands of electricians—besides other jobs connected to the power and power supply segments.

But skilling millions of youth would require public and private entities joining hands with the central and state governments to meet these goals. Clarity in delegating tasks to specific entities, including public-private partnerships, can make all the difference between final success and failure. According to the 2011 Census, 65% of the population will be under 35 years of age by 2020, making it possible for the demographic dividend dream to come true as India emerges as the world’s ‘youngest’ nation. Yet, unless Skill India goals are linked with Indian industry goals, the demographic dividend will remain a dream only. Converting the dream into reality will call for clarity of conviction and goals. Clarity in visualising end goals is one of the prerequisites for ultimate success. Whatever is lucidly visualised by human minds can then be achieved via concerted human actions. Undoubtedly, clarity brings victory.

The author is Director General, International Management Institute, Delhi

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