This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Supriya Paul. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Future Of Skills: Five Things We Must Focus On

Did you know that India’s average workforce is just 28 years old? In contrast to comparable economies like China and the USA (where the average age is 37), India has the youngest and fastest-growing workforce in the world. However, the India Skill Report 2020 states that the ‘employability’ of India’s youth has remained stagnant for the last three years. This data doesn’t account for the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on employment opportunities in India.

college students in line for admission
Representational image.

Due to the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, the gap between the employer and potential employee, which was already huge, has now become worse.

As the world adapts to the ‘new normal’, the pandemic has forced most organisations, whether big or small, to re-examine the capability and skill set of their workforce. More importantly, it has made every employer and potential employee raise pertinent questions:

“What are the skills required for the new world economy?”

“How do we equip our workforce with the relevant skills?”

“What is the Future of Skills going to look like?”

While multiple individuals and organisations attempt to answer the above-mentioned questions, as an entrepreneur, I often find some aspects amiss from these discussions and suggested solutions. In my opinion, there are some critical factors that we must focus on when examining and solving the issue of ‘skills’ in India.

  1. Accessibility: Just like we all transitioned to work-from-home practically overnight, India is now rapidly moving towards an education and skilling model that relies heavily on online resources. While it was widely acknowledged that the future of learning would be tech-focused, no one expected that the future would be now. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 2 Indians still don’t have access to the internet, which exposes our country’s pervasive Digital Divide. This divide, of course, is deeper in rural areas and impacts women more adversely than men.For any skilling initiative to be effective, it must take into account the issue of internet access in India, particularly in rural areas. Solutions like offline digital learning resources and using familiar technology platforms can make digital skilling more accessible.
  2. Employability: A report in 2016 examined the ‘employability’ quotient of 150,000 engineering students from 650+ engineering colleges across the country. Less than 7% of these students were deemed suitable for core engineering jobs. This, of course, challenges the long-held belief that ‘technical degrees’ or ‘hard skills’ guarantee you a job. It can be safely inferred that in a pandemic-stricken world, most employers are looking for candidates who demonstrate key abilities such as communication, English, digital literacy, arithmetic, financial literacy and problem-solving. These are increasingly being recognised as the new ‘life skills’ or ‘core employability skills’. Equipping youth with skills does not guarantee employment. Employability will increase when the youth is equipped with ‘core’ skills which are universally applicable and easily transferable to different roles.
  3. Aspirations: A study conducted by NSDC found that even though the construction sector in Punjab had significant jobs to offer, there weren’t many takers for these jobs. Most of these jobs were filled by migrant population from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. In another oft-heard scenario, young people who migrate from small towns and villages to cities in search of jobs, are often caught off-guard by the basic requirements for the roles they wish to apply for. While they dream of becoming doctors, engineers, bureaucrats or entrepreneurs – they are ill-informed about the education and skills that these jobs require. This leads to a stark mismatch between the aspirations and reality of India’s youth. When creating solutions to skill India, the skills must match the youth’s aspirations, not just their competencies or industry requirements.

    Representational image.
  4. Language: In the next 3 years, 9 out of 10 internet users in India are supposed to be Indian language users. Most information and courses that are readily available online are in English and do not address the language-specific needs of Indian users. As we build an online infrastructure for skill development which is accessible for all, we must create multilingual solutions which offer valid and reliable information for Indian language users. There is a need to inculcate diverse, multilingual solutions in the skilling ecosystem which can be accessed by the vast multilingual majority of India.
  5. Affordability: The concept of ‘upskilling’ oneself has certainly become a trend, particularly post lockdown. An increasing number of young individuals and job seekers are choosing to invest in opportunities to increase their ‘employability’ quotient. But how many of them can actually afford these courses? Currently, some of the top e-learning platforms in India offer courses at steep prices which are distant from the realities of real India. The unaffordability of such courses can often become a roadblock for many in their journey of skill development. Solutions to skill India must take into account the financial realities of ‘real’ India. The opportunity to ‘upskill’ oneself should not be a privilege for a few but an option available for all.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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