— G.P. Chandra Kumar, Co-founder, SkillSonics India Pvt. Ltd
The new government on its campaign trail had talked about the importance of skills development and paying work through jobs and self-employment. It has taken the first step right, creating accountability and focus through a dedicated ministry, writes G.P. Chandra Kumar. Now it requires a huge boost to the existing programmes of district-level and secondary schools skills programmes. With paying work attached to such skills training programmes, the sky, indeed, is the limit, he adds.
In 2009, India made the skill statement – we would train 500 million youth to various vocational competencies over the next decade. It was (and is) required given the demographic bulge we are blessed with. Yes, we have made substantial progress in the last five years; we have got a much better grasp of the elephant now. But the time has also flown, as is its want! We need to play serious catchup – NOW!
Following the setting up of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) by the previous government there has been much action on the skill development front. The NSDC has created a strong foundation for the skilling industry to take off and produce results in the longer term. By encouraging private initiatives in the skilling industry, setting up of Sector Skill Councils with industry involvement and providing starting points for research in skill development, the NSDC has worked towards building a sustainable public-private skilling industry.
However, on the numbers front NSDC is close to reaching out only to two million people and has a long way to go before achieving its 150 million target. The government is also well short of achieving the target of 350 million by 2022.
This slow progress is slowing down industrial growth and widening the gap between skills required and skills available. A concerted and speedy effort of skilling workers and developing the economy is the need of the hour to ensure that we skill our people in terms of quality and quantity.
Firstly, we need a better connect between training and paying work (jobs or self-employment). Because if youth do not see paying work coming out of skills training, there would be no takers, even if the training is free! The new step of independent ministry combining skills development and entrepreneurship is on the nail. If the skilled youth can be provided with easy (micro) finance and entrepreneurship support, lot of paying work can be created. And if this ministry works in tandem with MSME and Finance ministries, skills development can become a people movement, indeed.
Secondly, India needs a local approach of skills development. Each cluster in India is unique in its constituent demographics, potential industries and required skills/entrepreneurship programmes. What we need in Manipur is different from those in Kerala. NSDC and some of the states have done significant analyses at district/taluka level; now we need cluster-level blueprints for skills development. While some of the state NSQF cells have already started on this, we need more accountable action.
Thirdly, we need to proceed upon vocational education in secondary and higher secondary schools with care. We have involved schools, universities, polytechnics and practical training partners so that we can leverage existing infrastructure and scale fast. But we need to keep track of students undergoing such training modules through a robust credit tracking system. We need to ensure that the students go through follow-up modules in the same vocational stream and get closer to certification (and paying work) at each level they qualify.
And finally, we need amendments in the archaic apprenticeship regulations. Industries have by far the largest capacities of training both in terms of equipment as well as trainers with relevant expertise. We need to create millions of apprenticeship positions in the factory floors, shops, warehouses and commercial offices, for quick and on-the-job training seamlessly moving into employment.
The quality of skills imparted is also an important focus area and there is a need for skill providers to benchmark to international skill standards. This will ensure that students entering the job market are in demand not only in local industry but ready to be part of the global workforce too. While working on measures for building the ecosystem the other basic requirement for skill development i.e. the creation of jobs required for skilled workers cannot be neglected. Impetus for job growth should also be on the priority list to provide a vibrant job market to an adequately skilled workforce.
This new government on its campaign trail has talked about the immediate importance of skills development and paying work through jobs and self-employment. It has taken the first step right, creating accountability and focus through a dedicated ministry. Now it requires a huge boost to the existing programmes of district-level and secondary schools skills programmes. With paying work attached to such skills training programmes, the sky indeed is the limit.