Need to focus on future employability, pay better for skills
In a recent interview with The Hindu, Tata Steel global CEO & MD and CII president TV Narendran observed that one of the reasons India’s manufacturing sector ails is failure to give “enough importance to vocational skills”. Narendran believes companies need to pay more for skills; also, while we are willing to pay engineers from top colleges a premium, little attention is paid to the training antecedents while “hiring a welder or a fabricator”.
He could not be more correct, much needs to be done to get India’s skilling ecosystem right. The government’s skilling missions from the past and the current flagship scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), have helped. But the scale of effort required is evident from the placement record: 62.7 lakh candidates have been enrolled under PMKVY’s recognition of prior learning segment, of whom 61.38 lakh have been trained, 53.75 assessed and 50.83 certified against one crore targeted—the PMKVY dashboard says only 75% of those certified have been placed so far.
Of the 49.72 lakh enrolled for short-term training, 45.37 lakh have been trained and 37.58 lakh assessed—only 19.75 of this lot have been reported by the training partner as placed. There is a need to factor in falsified placement data, too; a 2018 CAG report revealed just a third of the placement claims related to the Rajasthan skilling programme over 2014-17 was genuine. Bear in mind, India’s the working class is likely to see falling employment opportunities with the pandemic having badly bruised MSMEs.
Also, with continuing tech-leaps across sectors, the skills required today, and for the future, bear little resemblance to those needed even just half a decade ago. So, the skilling effort will also have to be about training people for future employability. Dedicated skills universities, such as the one run by TeamLease, are probably a good idea where, in association with industry organisations, students can get a diploma along with some basic education in, say, management.
It would also be a good idea to encourage existing colleges/universities to branch out into these areas. The government can, wherever possible, provide some kind of stipend since students may need to give up their jobs as well.
The pandemic has also queered the pitch for skilling in other ways. More are likely to seek employment opportunities around their native places than in distant cities. We should heed the suggestions of S Ramadorai, the adviser to the PM in the NSDC, to help people find skills-training opportunities closer home, perhaps through mobile skilling centres.
The PanIIT Alumni Reach for Jharkhand Foundation, a joint venture between the Jharkhand government and the PanIIT Alumni Reach for India Foundation, is doing this in all districts of the state. Another crucial factor to get the skilling ecosystem right would be to have an easy-access electronic platform that matches skills available in villages and small towns to the job opportunities in the nearby cities as well as elsewhere in the country. Companies must play a big role too, either through CSR or through direct involvement in skilling. Else, the country faces an employment problem that could get increasingly challenging with each year of delay.