Skill development is one of the ultimate determining factors in India’s quest for economic growth and as it gears up to mutate itself into an internationally competitive and diverse economy.
In tune with this need of the hour, The Centre for Work and Welfare at Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and Counterview organised an #EmploymentDebate on The State of Skill Development in India: Impact, Policies, and the Way Forward amidst Coronavirus Pandemic as part of The State of Employment and Livelihood series on 12 July, 2021.
The event was commenced by the speaker of the session, Professor Randhir Singh Rathore, Professor of Policy Planning and Research and Registrar, Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Haryana, with a quick reminder of the present status of skill development of the Indian workforce.
Prof Rathore highlighted the statistics of the educational profile of the Indian labour force along with the countries of the South Asian Region and, in that context, provided a very important cautionary note that the young generation will lack such proper skill sets that will be considered paramount in the years to come if this trend continues.
He talked about the sector-wise demand for skilled labourers in the last financial year and mentioned the Indian government’s initiative of sending skilled labourers to countries heavily dependent on the Indian labour force.
He debated the impact that the pandemic will have on the job market and the vast change in the employment sector that is going to follow. As per the visible trends, the post-pandemic world is going to see many sectors of jobs becoming irrelevant and dying out and newer jobs that will require newer skill sets are taking over.
Prof Rathore analysed the future sectoral demand of the workforce and the emerging and redundant job roles in the coming years. To keep pace with the dynamic economy, he highlighted the top skill sets that will be the most solicited in this decade.
He also provided a comprehensive case study of the Indian labour force statistics and simultaneously discussed the complementary role of education and skill development.
In this regard, he also discussed the initiatives undertaken by the Indian government to boost the aspect of skill development.
Given the impressive demographic dividend of the country, there is a need of putting it to the right use through skill-based education, thereby transforming it as a vehicle for overall economic growth.
He concluded the topic by providing detailed decryption of the much-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and skill-based education initiatives under the National Skill Qualification Network.
Mr Sudheesh Venkatesh, Chief Communications Officer and Managing Editor, Azim Premji Foundation, Bangalore, reiterated Prof Rathore’s assertion of the loss of jobs to automation and artificial intelligence.
He provided another dimension to the issue of unemployment by linking it up to the increased threat of social unrest. Following Prof Rathore’s argument, Mr Venkatesh emphasised the need of upgrading his skill set with the changing times. The foundation for its development should be laid at the earliest stages of elementary education.
Apart from the hard skill set, he stressed the development of soft skills like communication, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, etc. He believes the presence of these soft skill sets will be considered necessary in future employments.
Mr Venkatesh also dwelled on the need to close the gap between education and the development of skill sets. He concluded his arguments by emphasising the need for continuous skill set development, not just focusing on one in particular.
Dr G Sridevi, Associate Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad, argued that the use of the terms skilled or unskilled should be done away with. She believed that these terms were derogatory and carried some inherent bias towards certain identities.
She focused her arguments on the disparate character of skill development among identities of caste and gender. On that same line, she highlighted that the negative effects of the pandemic in skill development and education would be more ghastly on these already marginalised communities. She cited the digital divide as a case in point in support of her assertion.
She also mentioned the institutional discrimination against the member of the marginalised groups in big private conglomerates and the private sector. As a way forward, she envisioned the setting up of vocational training centres for the marginalised groups, providing them with certain interest-free loans and incentives to private organisations to hire students and provide job training.
Dr Pabitra Kumar Jena, Assistant Professor, School of Economics, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra, emphasised the need to make the curriculum in India more skill-based rather than being syllabi and marks oriented.
He remarks that the government needs to come forward and strengthen more on demand-side factors so that more employment can be generated through MSMEs. Like Vishwakarma Skill University, each state in India should reserve one such institution solely for the purpose of skill development.
There is a need to formulate a project-based academic curriculum in India, along with traditional academic syllabi.
As he rightly asserts, skill development can flourish with the development of education and to realise that goal. Naturally, the spending on education needs to be immensely increased in India.
In the concluding part of the event, a thorough discussion on the relation between Digital India and its impact on skill development was assessed.
Digital India can play a very important role in skill development in India
Other programs and initiatives like NAPS and self-employment lending schemes that can boost skill development were also debated.
Prof Randhir emphasised improving the skill development part in the country by imparting skill-based education, which will eventually lead to self-employment skill-based jobs.
Talking about the varying degree of scale with Atmanirbhar push, “one district one product” initiative, and job openings in manufacturing sectors, Prof Randhir stressed having collective efforts between educational institutions and industries for better skill imparting.
Mr Sudheesh underlined the importance of imparting soft skills in school education. He further made a point of recognising skill development as a central issue and methodical implementation of the National Education Policy.
Dr Pabitra, as a way forward, advised the government to open at least one skill university in every state to skill more people.
Dr G Sridevi highlighted that the state should play a crucial role in providing access to high-quality education. Also, access to skill development programs should be made equal.
Prof Randhir underlined the importance of reskilling and upskilling to solve the employability problem in the country. He also focussed on having a multidisciplinary approach in universities.
Acknowledgement: Anondeeta Chakraborty is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
Arjun Kumar, Anshula Mehta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Ritika Gupta, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki