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Skill India For Growth

Article first published in CFO Connect across all editions

Sanjeev Duggal stresses the need to shift from being ‘qualification based’ to skill based’ for growth

Skill India is a catalyst to bridge demand and supply for a skilled workforce, and gives the youth a chance to live with self-assurance and dignity. This ambitious project seeks to provide the institutional capacity to train and skill a minimum of 300 million people by 2022. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was set up in November 2014 to drive this agenda in ‘mission mode’, by converging existing skill training initiatives and combining scale and quality with speed. It will also serve as a platform for monitoring the performance of existing skill development programmes that run in each state. At a more human level, though, what does ‘Skill India’ really mean?

The current scenario

India has seen rapid growth in recent years, driven by new-age industries. The rise in purchasing power has generated demand for new levels of service quality, but there remains a severe shortage of skilled manpower. In a changing economic environment, it is necessary to focus on inculcating and advancing skillsets for a young population. India lags far behind other countries in this respect. Only about 10 per cent of the total workforce receives some kind of skill training – 2 per cent receive formal and 8 per cent informal training. Further, 80 per cent of entrants to the workforce do not have an opportunity to receive skill training, though this is starting to change.

Clearly, the NDA government is very interested in building skills. Our PM has become a brand ambassador of skilling, and passionately mentions ‘Skilling India’, without fail, in each of his speeches abroad. The government also recognises the disparities in access to formal skilling among India’s youth. Consequently, it has made provisions to upgrade skills in multiple disciplines, and has allocated resources across the length and breadth of the country. The Centre is also working to write legislation that will create a Skill Development University. Further, a separate Ministry for Skills Development & Entrepreneurship has been tasked with coordinating and streamlining multiple skill development initiatives. The Union Cabinet, for instance, recently approved the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), with an outlay of Rs 15 billion.

Being the biggest partner of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) for a second year in a row, we harbour dreams of building a workforce that empowers the youth. We need to quickly act on the reality that the youth is our biggest strength. We also have to entrench the ‘dignity of labour’ in the minds of Indians. As a country, India has a huge working-age (15-50 year olds) population, which help us maintain our growth momentum. A significant part of this ‘demographic dividend’ lies in rural areas, which is our primary area of focus. With presence in 383 districts in India, we are now customising training to industry requirements, thus bridging the current skill gaps.

How we can achieve the Skill India mission

There cannot be a more opportune time to consider how closely a nation’s growth agenda is aligned with the skill-sets of its manpower. Jobs and hiring in India needs to shift from being ‘qualification based’ to ‘skill based’. Partnering large and credible training providers is critical to achieve the end objectives of quality and scale. To scale up, the government should engage pan-India players and also select regional players that operate in niche sectors. Technology also plays a critical role in scaling up, as does leveraging the expertise of the bigger training partners.

It is critical to leverage technology, given that numerous innovations in the education space has shown potential to improve outcomes and narrow the current skill gaps. Technology is growing in every field of life, so there is no reason why it cannot do so in the skilling industry as well, especially given that skill development demands a complete cycle that runs all the way from assessments to training, certification, placement, and monitoring and tracking.

Centum Learning is mustering resources in order to become a prime catalyst in delivering the government’s skilling mission. While there are a myriad opportunities to make in India, the manufacturing sector cannot become a growth driver if a lack of skilled workers continues to get in the way. A 2014 survey reveals that about 78 per cent of employers are concerned with India’s growing skills gap, while 57 per cent say they have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. The government thus needs to pursue a two-pronged approach of creating jobs in the manufacturing sector while encouraging multi-stakeholder partnerships to impart relevant, ‘employment worthy’ skills.

The government should make vocational education mandatory for women who are not pursuing full-time education. Jobs and hiring in India need to shift from being ‘qualification based’ to ‘skill based’. With the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and ‘Digital India’ schemes being rolled out, women and the youth must compulsorily be taught to use computers and to be skilled-up in any one field, in order to get acquire an I-Card, which could perhaps function like a BPL card. The government also needs to take specific steps to create job opportunities for differently-abled people by building relationships with employer and industry groups. If it can get the majority of these target groups under its umbrella, the dream of empowering and transforming lives will be largely achieved.

Bringing the ‘Lion’ to life

The lion – Make in India’s logo – can truly come alive, and India become a manufacturing hub only if the youth, which make up 65 per cent of the population, go from being ‘cubs’ to ‘lions’ through appropriate skilling. Make in India is our collective responsibility, and the first step in that direction is to develop the youth. The government has made visible efforts to promote education and skill development, and thus empower citizens. The Finance Minister correctly believes that the most critical aspect is to better implement the Right to Education Act. Additionally, bigger allocations to the National Skill Development Fund will help build capacity and develop skilled human resources that meet the growing demands of India Inc. Providing incentives to the private sector to set up vocational and skill development institutions will also help bring more players into this space. Raising budgetary allocations to primary education was an overdue demand that has now been met. However, adopting innovative measures to develop the higher education infrastructure using PPP models, and launching a Higher Education Credit Guarantee Authority are also significant steps forward. Together, these factors will enable better access, affordability and quality in vocational education and skill development in India.

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