ByÂ Mahitha Kasireddi:
“India is a remarkably young country with an average age of 28 years. 65% of the population is below 35yrs of age. We have a demographic advantage of having 540 million young people which in turn implies that we need dynamic and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the other nations including China are aging”- Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor
The biggest concern of our leaders since the past two five year plans has been ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘sustainable development’. With less that 1000 days left for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals target in attaining ‘poverty alleviation’ merely providing incentives and subsidies will not help; providing training of green skills and employment opportunities in different sectors will. The wide gap between the rich and poor can be well attended by bridging the urban-rural gap. The urban biased education shall be well countered with equal effort in upgrading the skills of labour market from the grass-root level. Demand for skilled workforce in the market is increasing whereas many labourers at rural level are unable to compete due to low and outdated skills. Also the current education system is incapable of meeting the demand requirements of the Industry. The government has announced the invitations of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country which promise at least 10 million jobs. A skill labour force is required to fill the titanic vacuum.
Keeping in mind the demographic trend of our country, i.e. a working population between the age of 15 and 59 years, the government had launched a National Skill Development Mission. A National Skill Development Corporation Board (NSDCB) and Prime Minister’s National Skill Development Council was established. A special budget was allocated in the financial years 2011-12 and 2012-13 setting up a target to shape 500 million labour force by 2022. On 9 May 2013, the government had approved the setting up of an autonomous body called National Skill Development Agency. The National Skill Development Council (NSDC) has recognised around 21 departments to impart training in both organised and unorganised sectors. These include automobiles, electronic hardware, textiles and garments, leather and leather goods, building and construction, food processing, handlooms and handicrafts, media, banking and financial sector etc. The candidates acquiring skills and Industrial Training Institute (ITI) graduates are given certification which is internationally recognised.
The government has invested in bringing in the required machinery and infrastructure for training. In order to implement the mission, the centre has entered into a first ever Public-Private-Private partnership. The funds for training purpose shall be complemented by private funding. Government promotes training and various companies have come forward as an initiative of Corporate Social Responsibility. Examples of private sector companies contributing skill development initiative are Tata Motors, who helped in upgrading technical training institutes, IL&FS education in a joint venture with NSDC to build and manage 100 multi skill schools across India, Bharati-Walmart had launched a training centre in Karnataka which trains 100 candidates every month and make them eligible for employment in retail sector.
The most inclusive form of skill development training is proving a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at every level. The targets group for this program would be school dropouts at village level. By 2012, it was estimated that there are 57 millions school dropouts or illiterates. SC/STs constitute to about 28 per cent of the learners. There are about 68 per cent women learners and male contribute to about 53 per cent of school dropouts.
There are hundreds of vocational training centres per state across the nation each with their set of methods and policies. Gujarat- The Gujarat Skill Development Mission (GSDM) has introduced the procedure of vouchers. Anybody can purchase these vouchers and join training in any sector. After the course ends they will be assessed. In case the candidate fails the test the cost of training shall be refunded. Rajasthan- Gujarat launched a scheme in 2007 to expand the TVET system in lagging areas- Lagging districts, lagging sub-divisions and lagging blocks, Under this scheme the state government provides incentives for private companies to setup technical institutes.
The international associations of vocational and technical training are with International labour organisation, World Bank and European Union which give important advice to the government and provide necessary funds. The World Bank had planned to fund the skill development initiative of India with an initial amount of 480 million dollar.
Investing in skill development helps in attaining socio-economic empowerment of rural women. There is always a limited scope for women and girls in rural areas to develop their skills in a male-dominated industry due to social, economic and cultural constraints and with lower wage payments. Offering women extension services, technical training, stimulating basic education and gender sensitive approaches and support by NGOs and Self help groups can improve their condition.
Despite various investments in shaping a huge labour force there are grave drawbacks the system. Shifting of labour from farm to non-farm sector is a major concern, the number of entrants in the non-farm sector is only increasing every year. Farm based jobs have remained stagnant and there is an uneven growth in skill training provided in sectors such as retail, customer services etc. Meeting the training requirement of such large workforce has remained a challenge. The PPP model adopted by the government only led to delays in decision-making regarding staffing and course fee. The ITIs dominate vocational training centres. There are only 11 ITI centres in the country for women. The government is investing a lot in training costs and infrastructure, but unfortunately this is not yielding in creation of robust workforce for the industry. The under quality of training programme offered and lack of interest by the private partners is a major disadvantage. The local government plays an important role in finding the rightful and needy youth to train. The power of the community in the local government should be integrated to achieve this.
Our education system requires a renovation and restructuring. The curriculum for professional courses such as Engineering and MBA shall be prescribed in a way such that it makes students industry ready. The youth today hold mere degrees but lack the expertise to compete and fit in the industry as per the demand. Vocational training shall be provided right from high school. The CSR initiative companies shall be offered high incentives so that they show enthusiasm in upgrading the skills of the candidates. The best solution is to entirely privatise the skill development program and upgrade the quality of training. Technical skills alone will not fetch opportunities, soft skills training shall also be offered in parallel. Upon addressing these issues India will be ready to produce 500 million skilled labourers at par with global standards eventually helping us realise sustainable growth and development in the economy.