Fact # 1 – Supply Side
India has 1.2 billion population that’s expected to reach 1.48 billion by 2030. India will be the largest contributor to the global workforce, with working-age population (15-59) likely to swell from 749 million to 962 million over 2010 to 2030. By 2020, the average age in India will be only 29 years, compared with 37 in China and the United States, 45 in Western Europe, and 48 in Japan. Moreover, 70 percent of Indians will be of working age in 2025, up from 61 percent now.
Fact # 2- Demand Side
Industry sectors across the board are facing shortage of skilled talent. Here’s how the demand for skilled workforce looks across few industry sectors: BFSI (5 million), Manufacturing (10 million), Logistics & Supply Chain Management (10 million), Retail (5 million), Hospitality (1.5 Million) Hair & Beauty (1 Million) etc.
To bridge the demand – supply gap, government of India, under the direction of Prime Minister’s Office unveiled the National Skill Development Plan. As per the government’s National Skill Development Plan, various ministries & nodal agencies have been entrusted to skill 500 million people by 2022. NSDC has a skilling target of 150 million, Ministry of Labor & Employment (MoLE) has a skilling target of 100 million, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has a skilling target of 50 million and the remaining target of 200 million has been allocated to 17 other ministries.
The numbers are huge and mind boggling. The task ahead for all of us is unprecedented. We need a paradigm shift in the way we have approached skill building. We cannot fight a war with a business as usual approach.
Just like Rome was not built in a day, vision of developing a skilled & employable India won’t be achieved overnight. It won’t be a cakewalk either. The costs involved in doing it are huge and exponentially huge if we don’t get it right – because the future of nation is at stake.
Collective future of a nation is not built on vision and policies alone. Nor is it built by few organizations who are just trying to plug the gap between ‘talent scarcity’ and ‘skill required’ by offering plethora of skill development programmes.
For a nation to be transformed, mass movement must happen in multiple directions and preferably in a geometric progression. Aspirations of youth must be channelized, cultures need to be amalgamated and societal acceptance to the skilled workforce must eventually happen.
How will this be achieved? How do we address the demand – supply gap so that real skills are acquired and talent scarcity is addressed? Here’s a possible framework:
• Learner First – Skill development programmes should focus more and more on the learner and all other aspects associated with the programme should be secondary. What technology to use, what pedagogy to use, what language, delivery method etc should all be derived keeping learner at the core of the skill development programme.
• Change in Corporate Mindset: Are corporates ready for vocational workforce? Very often we hear stories that corporates have huge manpower requirements and that there is huge skill deficit. However, are corporates really ready for absorbing talent with vocational qualifications? Has the HR department of organizations woken up to the needs of vocationally trained workforce? Have the job descriptions changed. All this will require a change in mindset of corporates which subsequently shall reflect in the hiring practices and policies adapted for recruiting vocationally skilled workforce.
• Industry Integration – Let industry players from different industry sectors become an integral partner in the value chain of skill building. Let’s develop advanced curriculum frameworks which are derived from industry best practices and use them in skill development programmes – so that what is taught, is relevant and people don’t end up acquiring obsolete skills. Setting up of sector skills council is a right step in this direction.
• Making Vocational Qualification Mainstream & Aspirational – While the policy level push for skill development is positive, skill development efforts still need to be made mainstream – so that more and more people come forward and take advantage. Within India, education & skill building are perceived as an activity meant for either intellectuals (pursuing research) or a means to an end (do some reputed course and take up a good job). We as a society have grown up dreaming of becoming an Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer or Civil Servant etc. This need to change and the change should happen really fast.
• Support Ecosystem – Even when vocational qualification becomes mainstream and aspirational, most of these initiatives won’t take off without a parallel support ecosystem. Our work in rural markets indicates that the motivations and drivers of rural youths are not the same as that of urban youths. We have discovered that only 40% of the people are mobile, and 50-60% of those don’t want to move more than 7 km from their home. How do we channelize this population? To do this, a strong parallel support ecosystem is needed: support needed while shifting to new location, relocation process, affordable housing and so on.
• Rigorous Assessment & Certifications – Key competencies across sectors should be mapped and candidates must be assessed, trained and awarded certification against the skill sets acquired after rigorous assessment. Standardization will become a huge bottleneck unless acted upon immediately. Implementation of adequate quality standards at each stage: right from content development to training delivery & certification must be ensured to produce right quality of skilled candidates.
• Glocalize – Success stories of vocational initiatives in western countries like UK, US, Australia etc can be replicated and localized to suit requirements of the Indian market
However, none of these initiatives will succeed in isolation. For nationwide transformation all the stake holders involved: Government, Industry Bodies, Academia, International Agencies, Media, NGOs and society at large need to work cohesively & collaboratively keeping the bigger interest of nation building in mind.
Skills are the currency of future and India needs to unlock the potential of this currency to reap a demographic bounty!