Over the last 70 years of India’s independence, the definition of freedom has constantly evolved for our country. From making ourselves free from the “British Raj” to a more economically-liberated India, we have continuously made headway in the journey of progress and growth. The country has worked in the areas of privatisation, self-sustainability and globalisation through these years. And in the last two years of governance, India’s role on an international level has dramatically transformed into a global economic power vying for a seat at its highest table.
This accelerated economic growth has increased the demand for skilled workers that has highlighted the shortage of skilled workforce in the country. With a challenge of this scale, what also comes to us now is the opportunity to create a new free India where acquiring professional skills will give you the liberty and freedom to choose a life and respect that one has always aspired for.
The time has come where India has to now fight and bring about the silent revolution through its focus on skill development. While the demographic effect will increase or lower gross domestic product (GDP) by barely one percentage point in 2035, GDP levels can increase by about 3 percentage points in 2035 if India improves significantly on skill training. Skill development is fundamental for improving productivity. And productivity leads to improved living standards and growth. When we talk about improving living standards, it reflects on maximising opportunities for pro-poor employment growth, enabling environment for sustainable enterprise development, an open social dialogue where there is respect for all, and planned investments in basic education, health and physical infrastructure.
Vocational education and training (VET) initiatives, both in the public and private space, have become more focused and outcome-driven, aligned to the needs of industry and linked to jobs and employability. Capacity-building and quality standards have started receiving greater attention. Industry has also been given a bigger role in shaping the skills story through its involvement not just with curriculum development and setting of standards, but also in the assessment and certification processes. Moreover, measures have been taken to increase financial accessibility to skill-training initiatives.
The current target of skill development programme in India in itself is quite an ambitious number. In 2015-16, we trained 1.04 crore youth in the country, which was 37% more than what was achieved in the previous year. The comprehensive reforms in the Apprentice Act can be a game-changer and it can be the most successful skill development scheme. Also, the overhaul in the ITI ecosystem, which was not capitalised on until now, will extend opportunities for all in multiple trades where human resource is required in the country.
But the real analysis or breakup of this number lies in the exercise where we do a district-level mapping — if you take a district, what are the kinds of skills required? You will find there are so many jobs we are yet to include in our skill programme. Similarly, take newer areas such as water, energy, waste management etc. As the economy grows, you will see new kinds of jobs evolving. So there is enough demand and there are means to meet the demand — the only thing we need is to ensure the supply is aligned to the demand. The problem is not as simple as it seems — it has its own complexities and dynamics and it is imperative that we make collective effort to address these incremental human resource requirements right at the local level.
On the other hand, there are a variety of reasons for the youth’s inability to fill jobs that are made available to them, ranging from geographical mobility to low wages which may not help them meet their ends. Overall, it’s a huge task. But we, as citizens of a nation which is building a huge brand for itself in the global market with our initiatives like Make-in-India and Digital India, have to be cognisant of the fact that there is no other way than to skill, re-skill and up-skill ourselves and keep ourselves abreast with the latest around the globe.
A young mind has to not only dream of success, but has to work for it. The youth of our country has to work towards this intellectual freedom, and skills can be his tool to success. All that we have to think after this is:
I can. I will.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy
The author is Union minister of state for skill development