Getting our youth a decent job is the final verdict of success of all our skilling initiatives
India’s painful reality is that we have 30 crore kids who shall never sit in the car they clean, or live in the house they build, or read the newspaper they deliver. It represents India’s classic chicken and the egg problem. Therefore, the challenge that lies ahead of us is not only about the opportunities for the young—the 10 lakh who are joining the workforce every month for the next 20 years—but also involves innovations around moving the 30-crore-plus adult workers to higher productivity.
Let’s reflect on the progress that has been made during the year:
(1) Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) has witnessed training being provided to over 50,000 youth through 1,000 centres, 100 job roles and over 25 sectors.
(2) We also heard about the allocation of Rs 1,500 crore for skilling rural youth under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojna (DDU-GKY) and another Rs 1,350 crore allocation for the National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme (STAR Scheme).
(3) The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sent out necessary directives to the skills ministry to strengthen the ITI capacity by adding and operationalising over 7,000 ITIs.
(4) Over 55 lakh youth trained vocationally and 23 lakh placed.
(5) India’s improving performance in the World Skills Competition that was held in New Zealand and Brazil.
Notwithstanding the fact that we have made some progress over the last couple of years, we are faced with abundant challenges:
(1) Estimates suggest that we need to train 7 crore youth every year for the next 5 years to make our existing youth as well those who are getting added to the workforce every year to make them job-ready.
(2) Of the 265 lakh kids who take the class 10th exam, 160 lakh pass; of the 160 lakh who take the class 12th exam, 80 lakh pass; and of these 80 lakh, only 50 lakh go to college. There is barely any skilling corridor available for those who fail at each level.
(3) College is not what it used to be, at least given the fact that soon 100% would be the new cut-off for colleges. Now, in Korea, 60% of the drivers have a college degree; it used to be 5% in 1970. In the US, 32% of retail attendants have college degrees, which was 1% in 1970. In India, nowadays, even 15% of security guards have a college degree!
(4) Finally, India has only 2.5 lakh apprentices; Germany has 3 million (30 lakh), Japan has 10 million (1 crore) and China has 20 million (2 crore). India’s current capacity itself being 4 lakh.
(5) MOOCs, online courses and distance education are yet to attain the legitimacy they deserve, for us to find a scalable model for skilling India.
(6) Skills are yet to win the battle over knowledge when it comes to the social signalling value, and it is getting magnified with inadequate celebration of skills within the country.
In the coming year, as a country, we should focus on three high-impact priorities, among others, to address the current skill crisis.
Issues of skills and jobs are best addressed at the local level. Therefore each state needs to take steps to institutionalise and empower state-specific skill missions with the following clear objectives:
Make each and every willing and able person in the state employable or employed;
Strengthen public delivery and institutional capabilities;
Expand public private partnerships;
Increase geographic spread across state. We can’t take jobs to people in the short run and need to take people to jobs. But we can easily take training to people;
Radically revamp the 3 Es (employment, employability, education);
Innovate at the intersection of employment and employability with projects at three levels: (1) connecting supply to demand; (2) repairing supply for demand; and (3) preparing supply for demand.
In addition, suggest that each state set up a State Apprenticeship Corporation (SAC) as a public-private partnership co-chaired by the chief secretary and the chairman of one of the state’s largest private employer. SACs will anchor programmes on state strengths, such as tourism in Rajasthan, information technology in Karnataka and manufacturing in Tamil Nadu; target employers with different strategies for companies headquartered and those operating in the state; make employers volunteers by simplifying procedures and recognising performance; and create matching infrastructure.
Academic linkage for apprenticeship
While learning by doing improves one’s employability prospects, a degree in India still improves one’s social acceptance prospects. Hence, permitting legitimate academic linkage equivalent to degrees shall make apprenticeship more attractive and can transform the skill landscape. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have to make a radical shift from their traditional view around learning to actualise this. Meanwhile, SACs could facilitate academic credit for apprentices by partnering with universities within and outside the state.
Regulatory unblocking of online learning
There is regulatory blocking of national universities, while international offerings such as Udacity, edX and Coursera operate freely in India. We need a revamp of our distance education framework that allows all Indian universities to operate online courses. Getting to India’s target of 30% gross enrolment ratio for higher education requires combining online learning with apprenticeships. While there is a considerable talk around skills of late, many of the initiatives seem to be working in silos. We have to take a combined view of aligning vocational training, apprenticeships, online learning, syncing with the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and coordination of multiple central and state-specific ministries. We also have to encourage diversity of thought amongst policy-makers to explore innovative delivery models as well as regulatory structures. And amidst it all, pray to one god—employers—as getting our youth a decent job is the final verdict of success of all our skilling initiatives in India.
The author is president, Indian Staffing Federation, and co-founder, TeamLease Services Ltd