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Skilling India’s skewed workforce

The Pioneer (online), 2 October 2017 - OpEd by Sudip Bhattacharyya. Though skill training in the country has improved in recent years, the absence of job linkages is only aggravating the problem of unemployment. The Government must institute better policy initiatives. Long-term solution is essential to endow people with skills.

The Niti Aayog’s three-year action plan notes that “unemployment is the lesser of India’s problems. The more serious problem, instead, is severe underemployment”. Therefore, since large corporations are hiring people, who have a minimum level of relevant competence, skill development appropriate for them must be done in a systematic manner.

The Government has secured Rs 15 lakh crore worth of investment commitment in its ‘Make in India’ programme. If this investment is to employ Indian workforce, skill development to appropriate level is essential. In information and communications technology (software) and information technology-enabled industries too, where most job decline has occurred, skilled people are essentially needed.

A growing trend, as is evident in new and evolving ‘high-tech’ jobs, is demand for workers with a combination of technical training, formal education and ‘soft’ skills. In addition to job-specific knowledge and skills, employers look for a broader set of skills, often called employability skills.

The Conference Board of Canada developed the critical employability skills profile for the Canadian workforce, which is as follows:

Academic: Provides the foundation for good communication skills, a capacity to analyse, evaluate and solve problems, and to learn new assignments and ways of doing the job with technology changes;

Personal management skills: Positive attitude, ability to take responsibility and be accountable, ability to deal with changes in the workplace and be innovative, and respect for others.

Teamwork skills: The skills needed to work with others on a job and to achieve the best results.

In the current scenario, skill-building in India can be viewed as an instrument to improve effectiveness and contribution of labour to the overall production.

The most important task, therefore, is to improve employability of the youth. And for this, the need is of skilling (including upgrading existing skill-sets) of 500 million individuals by 2022. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is responsible for coordination of all skill development efforts across the country, removal of disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower, building vocational and technical training framework, skill upgradation, building new skills, and innovative thinking, not only for existing jobs but also jobs that are to be created.

The World Economic Forum ranked India at 65 out of 130 countries in its development of ‘skill for your future’ index. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), that has been tasked with skilling 150 million youth in partnership with the private sector, has so far skilled a little over 5.1 million people and has managed to get just over 1.5 million placed. According to official data, NSDC trained 557,000 people in 2016-17 under the flagship programme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, but managed to place only 63,000. That’s a success rate of less than 12 per cent against the desired 70 per cent. So much remains to be done.

“Every month, one million youth come into the job market. Our effort will be to coordinate with the State Governments and other agencies to create an ecosystem of skilling for them”, said Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan.

Though skill training in the country has improved in recent years, absence of job linkages is only aggravating the problem of unemployment. Pradhan further said, “We have to think big way, lot of technologies are coming, conventional jobs are squeezed, new verticals are emerging, what are they, they have to be informed to employable youths which all big jobs are there.”

Skill development starts with identifying future job prospects and segmenting it according to the need and feasibility of training candidates. Stakeholders for skill development need to be identified, like Government entities, State Governments, private training institutes, large corporates, small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations etc. Private players can use technology to automate, improve and scale training and certification approach of skill-based training.

Technology is an essential driver which can help scaling up skill development initiatives. If skill segments and streams are identified, then the next step is to define educational content or syllabus, including practicality of training. Technology can help define standard training tools for the candidate and all tutorials, assignments, tests can be conducted using technology.

An investment of Rs 4,000 crore has been made for the ‘Sankalp’ (Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion) programme. This initiative has opened knowledge and training/certification opportunities for Indian private education entities. However, formal education system must be supplemented with affordable and accessible   ‘just-in-time’ learning modules. Such modules can be developed and offered by private players. This has to be linked with the skill development scheme.

The Government should further institute policies that provide appropriate education and vocational training in order to move people out of agriculture and make use of opportunities in the market economy. Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (Mudra bank loan) is available for non-agricultural activities for up to Rs 10 lakh. Activities allied to agriculture, such as dairy, poultry, beekeeping are also covered.

Enterprises need flexibility to adjust their workforce to remain competitive in a dynamic environment. Only then can they employ people in consonance with dynamics. But then, it would need an adequate social security system to provide a safety net to enable appropriate retraining and re-employment of the retrenched workers.

(The writer is a commentator on contemporary issues)


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