7 PM | Barking up the wrong tree | 13th July, 2019

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Context: skill development in India.

Skill development is critical for economic growth and social development. The demographic transition of India makes it imperative to ensure employment opportunities for more than 12 million youths entering working age annually. To enable employment ready workforce in the future, the youth need to be equipped with necessary skills and education.

Need for skill development in India:

  • Demographic transition: India is one of the youngest nations in the world. Over 62 percent of its population is aged between 15 and 59 years. Over 54 percent of the country’s total populace is below 25 years. India’s demographic transition makes it imperative to ensure employment opportunities for millions of youth each year.
  • Global demand: The average age of India’s population by 2020 is projected to be the lowest in the world— around 29 years compared to 37 years in China and the United States of America, 45 years in West Europe, and 48 years in Japan. While the global economy is expected to witness a shortage of young population of around 56 million by 2020, India will be the only country with a youth surplus of 47 million. Developed countries provide opportunities to tap potential of demographic dividend of our country. 
  • Supply side issues: Amongst the formally skilled labour force, 74% have higher secondary or higher education levels, and amongst the labour force with informal skills, 78% of the workforce has completed only middle or lower education. This figures shows lack of combined formal education and skills development in our education system.
  • Training capacities: The number of people who enter the work force age group every year is estimated to be 26 million. With average labour participation rate of 90% for male and 30% for female, at least 16.16 million will enter the workforce and would need to acquire skills.
  • Unemployment among higher education graduates: The Labour Bureau’s survey report for 2013-14 reveals that the proportion of unemployment in labour force with higher education levels is also high. Almost 9% of the graduates and post graduates labour force is currently unemployed as against less than 1% in case of illiterates and semi-literate labour force.
  • Skill requirements by 2022: As per the skill gap study conducted by the National Skill Development Cooperation over 2010 – 2014, there is an additional net requirement of 109.73 million skilled manpower by 2022 across twenty four key sectors. As India strengthens its base as a knowledge economy, there would be additional requirements to the highly skilled workforce in sectors like financial services, IT/ITeS, Biotechnology, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals.

Government initiatives and issues related to skill development:

  • Policy framework: The policy framework governing the skill development ecosystem in India includes the Apprentices Act, 1961, the National Skill Policy and the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). With this framework government trying to ensure skills improvement of country’s labor force.

The apprenticeship act:

  • Apprenticeship programmes in India are governed by The Apprentice Act of 1961 and the Apprenticeship Rules of 1992. The Act regulates programmes of training of apprentices and makes it obligatory for employers in both public and private sector establishments to have training infrastructure.
  • The key issues with the apprentices system in India relate to low participation of workers and employers, low rates of stipend, strict regulatory requirements for employers including penalties for non-compliance, less coverage of trades in services sector and lack of progression into higher qualifications.

The national skill policy:

  • The National Policy on Skill Development was first formulated in 2009 to create a skills ecosystem in India. It acts as a guide to formulate strategies by addressing the different challenges in skill development.
  • The government has introduced a National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015. The policy aims to provide an umbrella framework to all skill related activities carried out within the country, to align them to common standards and link skill activities with demand centers.
  • The sharad Prasad committee added that in its consultations with various stakeholders, “all of them said in one voice that the targets allocated to them were very high and without regard to any sectoral requirement. Everybody was chasing numbers without providing employment to the youth or meeting sectoral industry needs.”

National skills qualification framework:

  • The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF), notified on 27th December 2013, is a competency-based framework that organizes all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude.
  • Under NSQF, the learner can acquire the certification for competency needed at any level through formal, non-formal or informal learning. A foundational problem with this ecosystem is that it is fragmented, and has no uniform standards nor does it allow seamless vertical mobility for students (unlike the general academic system).

Inadequate infrastructure:

  • Small shops, basements, tin sheds and godowns. These are not random workplaces but places where private Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) are running in the country. Disturbing facts such as these come from the report of the Standing Committee on Labour (2017-18) headed by B Kirit Somaiya, on the “Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Skill Development Initiative Scheme” of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
  • The existing infrastructure, both physical and human, is grossly inadequate considering the projected demand for skilled labor. In terms of faculty, too, the training infrastructure is inadequate.

Measure related to skill development in India:

  • Integration:Integration of skill development with formal education system, mobilization of students for skill development by removing misapprehensions and perceptions about vocational trades, investing in creation of new training capacities for students as well as teachers, utilization of idle public infrastructure to provide skill training in remote corners of the country, encouraging industry to actively participate in training through provision of apprenticeship as well as through direct involvement in curriculum design and teachers training, adopting innovative skill development delivery mechanisms are the much-needed steps to meet the skill related challenges today.
  • International collaboration: Germany largely follows a dual-system of vocational education and training (VET). The system is called “dual” because training, under this system, is conducted in two places of learning: in the enterprise and in the vocational school. There is a scope of international collaboration and assistance in India’s skill development initiatives at almost all levels, including for creating awareness and capacities, setting standards, improving quality, as well as providing placement opportunities.
  • Infrastructure: Significant new capacities need to be created for training for different trades across the country. Hence, ideas would have to be developed to utilize the existing infrastructure with government for skill development purpose. The Rajasthan SLDC has been implementing an innovative model of movable training institutions (mobile vans/ buses) for some of its remote geographical pockets. A similar model can be used across India to provide training at village levels and thereby encourage rural population, especially women, to take up training for specific skills and earn a living.
  • Vocational training: Vocational training to be integrated into formal education by introducing vocational education for four years from class 9, in at least 25% of schools. Skill courses will be independent subjects that will also carry qualifying marks for admission to higher levels. Pilot projects have already been running in a few states (e.g. Haryana, Karnataka).

Way forward: The country presently faces a dual challenge of severe paucity of highly-trained, quality labor, as well as non-employability of large sections of the educated workforce that possess little or no job skills. The skill development issue in India is thus pertinent both at the demand and supply level. To meet the demand side challenge, consistent efforts are being made towards expansion of economic activities and creation of large employment opportunities. On the supply side, a simple look at the projected youth population provides a fair reason to believe that India has the strength to cater to this demand. So the government should take care of both supply-demand side issues and laid down a sustainable path for skill development.

Source: https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/skill-india-what-govt-needs-to-do-to-make-it-a-success/1642665/.

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