Skill India has the right ingredients: ownership at the highest level, a ministry formed to take this up on an exclusive basis, and a demand pull from the industry. As always, execution would be the real game-changer
“India can be the world’s human resource capital,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the first World Youth Skills Day to an audience comprising many of his Cabinet colleagues, chief ministers, senior bureaucrats, industry leaders, representatives from universities, trainers, students and the media.
The Prime Minister went on to suggest how we should “scientifically map the world’s manpower requirements and prepare accordingly.” This is significant since ‘Skill India’ is now looking at the supply side of things. India is going to have close to 700 million youth in the active working age by 2020, going by the Census 2011 data, which is twice the current population of the US. Young Indians need to be prepared for the global workplace, and the Skill India programme can provide them with employability and respect in society.
This is not to undermine the existing programmes which are expected to generate employment in the country in the next few years. Some of the initiatives—such as Make-in-India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Smart Cities, Digital India, Defence Offset, etc—if implemented as envisaged, have the potential to take our incremental manpower requirement to much higher levels than the 110 million by 2022, in our earlier skill gap study. However, many of these initiatives demand new skills: creative jobs such as cyber-security officer, multi-modal transport planner, trending expert, hygiene plumber, social media planner, in addition to the jobs added in the past decade such as cable operator, wedding contractor, mobile retailer, personal dietician, radio jockey, etc. A whole new bunch of skills and professions that are inclusive of the geriatric population also need to be a part of this list. Apart from mapping the world’s requirements, there is also a need to calibrate it on a regular basis. Just as telegrams, spool tapes, picture tubes, alarm clocks, grinding stone and the likewise become redundant, the skills required to make and operate them would also be outdated.
Addressing some of the fundamental issues like access, aspiration and convergence, the mission statement of the National Policy gives clear direction to create a robust framework. The skills minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, underlined his endeavour to provide the manpower required for each ministry to achieve their objectives, and consequently struck a chord with his colleagues. This horizontal approach of the skills ministry is a commendable way to align with industries. The creation and establishment of the Sector Skill Council (SSC) as a de facto agency to approve, assess and certify skills is a good measure. An equally important move would be the smooth and pervasive implementation of the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). A greater emphasis on making states as stakeholders in the Skill India initiative is another positive step.
When the Prime Minister signed off his speech with his personal commitment to skilling the youth and hoping the whole ecosystem will follow his commitment with equal passion, it was evident that the coming days may see an increase in commitment at executing agency levels both at the Centre and states to carry forward the chalked out vision.
Two ambitious schemes were launched by the skills ministry. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) could go a long way in attracting more learners and trainers to come together. This scheme has the potential to reach out to aspirants directly and help in bridging the financial gap in skilling the ecosystem. Just as interesting and far-reaching is the Skill Loan Scheme, which largely helps counter the access and financing issues of the skilling ecosystem. With a target of skilling and recognising of prior learning (RPL) of the workforce, the scheme plans to extend its reach to 24 lakh youth across sectors and geography. On one hand it could give a push to the social welfare agenda of the government, while the larger benefit is the opportunity to skill youth on NSQF-aligned courses and certify the existing workforce by assessing their skill-sets.
Needless to say, execution of these initiatives could be the real game-changer. The government needs to walk the talk while addressing the labour reforms, NSQF-based wages and collaborating with the industry to create apprenticeship opportunities. With more than 96% of the Indian workforce in unorganised sectors and minimal social security benefits, unless archaic labour laws are not amended by creating wider consultation with states, it could be an uphill vision to achieve. The current number of apprenticeship opportunities are dismally low, at 4 lakh, and the government should strive to expand the geographical and sectoral coverage, creating more opportunities for learning at real workplaces. Another critical success factor could be that of strengthening the State Skill Development Missions (SSDMs) considering their huge role in implementing the mission at the grass-root level. While the National Skill Policy clearly mentions setting up SSDMs at each state, and recently many states have done so, however the capacity of these institutions to implement the same still remains a challenge.
On the whole, Skill India seems to have the right ingredients: ownership at the highest level, a ministry formed to take this up on an exclusive basis, and a demand pull from Indian industries and global requirements. We wish it all the success to make India the “human resource capital of the world.”
Narayanan Ramaswamy is partner & head of Education & Skill Development, KPMG in India. Gaurav Kumar is associate director, KPMG in India. Views are personal