Need to redesign structure for skilling India

The govt must introduce skills training in schools and use its existing infrastructure to impart training, and get the industry involved

The union minister of state (independent charge) for skill development, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, recently said that India’s skilled workforce is 2%, compared to over 75% in all major economies. In this backdrop, the government us working on a new skill development policy to address shortcomings of the existing policy. Although skill development can improve “employment-readiness”, a sustainable job creation platform is urgently needed.

The job market is a factor of demand and supply. Demand-supply mismatch here is one of the biggest challenges India faces. A report indicates that there is demand in the job market, but unavailability of the right talent is costing the economy R53,000 crore.

Although India produces lakhs of graduates, the National Employability Report 2014 states that employability is a challenge with only 18.09% of this pool getting jobs. People taking up jobs for which they are overqualified amplifies the demand-supply mismatch.

The lack of skilled people is an overarching challenge, prevalent across industries, be it manufacturing or IT. We need a three-pronged approach to address the demand-supply challenge.

We need a strong vocational education and training system, the foundation of which must be set at the primary school level. We should, perhaps, adopt the German Duales Ausbildungssystem or dual system of vocational education and training (DSVET). In fact, China too has developed its own vocational education is introduced at the primary school with students in the age group of 12-14 years. In India, in addition to specific skills, communication, logical reasoning and, most importantly, cognitive skills must be taught to the students.

The prime minister’s idea of using railway stations for imparting skill development training in rural areas must be lauded. Perhaps, this should be extended and existing infrastructure in government offices like post offices, BSNL, and even colleges and schools should be used for vocational training. The Digital India campaign can help in using ICT as an enabler for skill development, evaluation and monitoring of students. With advancement in ICT, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform can be used effectively to impart vocational training.

Vocational school teachers in China are mandated to spend one month in the industry every year. This is an excellent mechanism to ensure the teachers are up-to-speed in terms of industry and technology. Can we implement this in India across disciplines/courses? This can be achieved only if we have a strong industry-academia relationship. How about getting experienced professionals from different sectors to train the teachers? Perhaps, the companies can utilise their CSR spend to provide experienced manpower for training .

Also, industry bodies should drive the syllabus (both theory and practical training). The government could invite experienced and retired professionals to contribute in developing and updating the syllabus. Introducing mandatory industrial training as part of curriculum will certainly help students’ employability prospects.

The government’s plan to start an university for skilling can wait. There are quite a few disparate skill development efforts carried out in the country. We already have thousands of ITIs, engineering and diploma colleges. In addition, we have the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) addressing some of the skill gaps. There are quite a few NGOs and private players offering skill development/ entrepreneurship training. Instead of creating new organisations/systems, it makes sense to streamline and rationalise existing systems. The autonomous body NSDA (National Skill Development Authority) in the Skill Development ministry should embark on rationalisation drive.

Finally, the government should work with the Industry bodies and identify top 5 sectors and provide the necessary push for implementation. Based on the outcome of these skill development programs, additional sectors can be added. Can the government publish quarterly data on the exact number of people reskilled, job positions filled and a view of the demand for at least 12-18 months?

An AICTE report has identified about 30 different skill areas and possible requirement by 2022. This can be a good starting point to prioritise the areas/sectors where the government’s attention is needed. As per the report, automotive, healthcare, organised retail and IT/electronics are expected to generate millions of jobs.

How about focusing on agriculture for skill development, productivity improvements and innovation? President Obama during his speech in New Delhi highlighted the importance of agricultural productivity and the cascading positive effect on India’s economy.

It is intriguing that 60% of India’s population depends of agriculture, but accounts for only 14% of the GDP. India’s premier technical institutions should be accountable for providing solutions to this sector.

Although prime minister’s Make-in-India initiative can certainly spur new jobs and also in reskilling, we need a balanced approach between manufacturing and agriculture. We don’t want all our farmers to take up non-farm jobs.

Summing up, the success of skill development will be measured based on jobs created. Prioritising sectors for skill development and rationalising existing systems to create a robust demand-supply matching and monitoring system is urgently needed. Although the new skill development policy is welcome, implementation will hold the key.

By G Krishna Kumar

The author is adviser, Centre for Educational and Social Studies, Bangalore. Views are personal

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