While the government must provide opportunity for growth and development of skills, the private sector must take on the role of the consumer of these skilled workers as well as a sustainer of the talent through reskilling initiatives
India is in the middle of a revolution in terms of growth, technology and innovation. However, these advancements will be redundant if the workforce is not furnished with the appropriate skills to handle such advancements. There is a deficit of skilled workers in every segment. This problem is propelled owing to the fact that skill formation is not given its due diligence in the Indian higher education system.
Tradition has a stronghold in the education system that prevents any change from taking place either in the modus operandi or in the curriculum itself. The Indian education system fails to notice trends and keeps teaching outdated courses that are no longer relevant. With an increasing emphasis on theoretical concepts, students that graduate are not equipped with the tools needed to manage the real-world or to fulfil industry demand. While the world economy was changing rapidly in the mid-1990s, the Indian higher education system remained graduation-focused, paying little attention to skills teaching and similar upgrades. Even the polytechnics—the last hope for recruiting a skilled workforce—did not change as rapidly.
Even though nearly 20,000 colleges and over 8 million students during the period 2000-10 have been added to the Indian education system—making India the third largest education centre in the world—the quality of education so imparted is not adequate for students to be industry-ready. Our education centres do not have global standards of excellence such as Oxford, MIT or Harvard and therefore the quality of graduates that are churned out are below par comparatively.
The change must begin from the grassroot education centres. The curriculum must be altered to suit industry requirements in order to reduce the learning curve during training sessions in companies. Vocation-based training, the missing link between education and employment, has been ignored for long enough. With the launch of initiatives such as Skill India, vocational education will be pushed to the forefront. The best way to ensure that vocational training is given its due diligence is through a public-private partnership. While the government provides the opportunity for growth and development of skills, the private sector must take on the role of the consumer of these skilled workers as well as a sustainer of the talent through reskilling initiatives. This will ensure the longevity of the worker in the organisation.
Another such initiative is the National Policy on Skill Development that has a unique target to aid skills to almost 500 million by 2022. Schemes to set up industrial training institutions have been set up. Several ministries have come together to launch skills upgrade and enhancement programmes, and self-employment and entrepreneurship aiding programmes across the country.
The private sector has a major role to play in expanding the reach and quality of vocational education. It can improve infrastructure, bring in contemporary course curriculum at vocational centres, and train the teachers. The private sector must engage in vocational education as part of corporate social responsibility, in exchange for which it can be given various incentives such as tax concessions, infrastructural benefits, financial aid and funding—it sure is one way of bringing private players into the field.
The private sector can also take a particular centre under its wing to provide a trade-based training. After the training, the onus must partly be on the private sector to absorb these skilled workers into their organisations. At the same time, organisations must ensure that their existing workers are not made redundant because of the influx of new skilled workers. This can be done by conducting seminars and training programmes within their organisations to skill workers, assess and reskill existing workers and sustain that skill in order to maintain a high level of productivity.
The government must be relentless to establish a suitable system and not go back on the progress made with the introduction of these initiatives. Skill-based training should be the backbone of this initiative. India must strive hard to increase the abysmal number of skilled workers in order to compete with other nations. We have the advantage of having a majority of our population in the youth demography. There is a large demographic dividend that our economy is missing out on because of the lack of skills. The central government must take appropriate steps to ensure the on-ground implementation of the facilities that have been announced for skill formation and ensure that it is kept as a high priority by all state governments as well. This is one of the most important ways by which we can hope to achieve a higher economic growth rate.
India is a long way from developing a wholesome skilled population, but it is well on its way. The government and private entities must continue to tread this path in order to sustain this growth not just for the current youth population but for all the future generations to come.
The author is MD & CEO, Aptech Ltd