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Technical Skillsets Help You Hit The Ground Running

The resume reflects a Master’s degree, but the professional status still reads the same – educated but unemployed. This is story is common to a burgeoning number of students in the country, they are educated but lack employable skills. The high skew towards theoretical education with little or no exposure to practical skillsets has contributed to this scenario.

15 million youth enter the workforce each year but more than 75 per cent of this number is not employable due to deficient skillsets. India needs 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to meet the demands of a growing economy. This imbalance is due to lack of technical and soft skills and it points towards the urgent, growing need to make young Indians job ready, with a focus on young graduates to augment their employability.

India is a young nation with 62% of our population in the working age group and more than 54% of the total population below 25 years of age. We need to make drastic amends to solve the great Indian talent conundrum. To make the most of this demographic dividend that we possess, the first step we need to take is to celebrate skills and accept their need and importance with an open mind, just like China. For instance, the country currently faces a huge shortage of Sales Associates, Computer Operators, Beauticians, Hair Stylists, Medical Sales representatives, Mobile Repair Engineers, Helper-Plumbers, Helper-Electricians, Sewing Machine Operators, Helper-Masons/Bartenders, Painter – Decorators. Yet the scant regard we have for vocational training and skills development has led to decades of neglect of these crafts.

Once this due regard to skills is given, we need to support the technology growth with investment in skills and knowledge to prepare for the future. Revamping the education system can help bridge the talent gap, especially at the college level that forms the first steps into the professional world. Colleges need to collaborate with industries to chalk out a curriculum that entails integrates technological education and advancements.

Technical Education plays a vital role in the development of the country’s human resource by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. This helps increase the availability of better talent in the job market. Of among the 7 lakh engineering students that graduate annually, merely 7 per cent are fit for core engineering jobs.  What would also help, would be the providing of training in not just technical skills but also soft skills or communication skills, preparing them to transform into capable workers. Most of the institutions do not prepare the candidates for the new working world, making them struggle while facing the competencies of the professional realm. There is an urgent need to make the graduates job ready with basic skills of inter-personal communication, abilities to speak English, work as a team and possess basic computer knowledge.

Recognizing this need, efforts are being made by the government with positive steps such as National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This will also lead to a paradigm shift in employment from being ‘qualification-based’ to ’skill-based’, making educational institutions focus on imparting skills that lead to employability, rather than merely doling out certificates and degrees. Integrating skills with regular main stream education at schools, will truly change the employment landscape at the most fundamental level in our country. A reinvention will need a vast paradigm shift to develop the tools of change needed to survive in the algorithm age. The demographic dividend if not given the treatment of skills may simply turn into a demographic disaster. The imbalance between the too few skilled workers and fewer jobs for the medium and low-skilled workforce is pointing towards the impending disaster.

Mission Skills Heads North East

Article first published in Yojana across all editions

Resonating to the clarion call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of Skilling India, the mission is branching out to all corners of the country. And with the north eastern region receiving renewed attention from the central government, it is imperative that one of the key central missions of the Government of India, the Skill India mission too is looking to establish ground there. The NE region has a great potential to develop not just as a self-sustained economic unit of India but also contribute to the overall economic growth story of the country. The Centre had recently announced to take up its Skill India initiatives in the Northeast in a “big way” by setting up skill development centres and industrial training institutes (ITIs) in new districts. Union Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has urged the industry of the north eastern region to actively participate in skill development of the region and also recommended one member each for all the 40 Sector Skill Councils from Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER). The minister also proposed to restructure National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and include FINER as a member.

The eight north-eastern states–Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim (added in 2002) and Tripura–are growing fast, educating their people at a rate much faster than the rest of India, reducing their dependence on agriculture and inching towards prosperity. But unfortunately the growth is not creating enough jobs and livelihood opportunities, creating a huge mismatch. To address the region’s development challenges, including infrastructure, the Central government created the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region in 2004, allocating Rs 2,362 crore to the ministry in 2015-16.

The region has certain distinct advantages with its strategic location having access to the traditional domestic market of eastern India. Also, with its proximity to major states in the east and adjacent countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar the region has the advantage for being the vantage entry point for the South-East Asian markets. The resource-rich north east with its expanses of fertile farmland and a huge talent pool could turn into one of India’s most prosperous regions.

To realise the economic potential the region holds, it is imperative to utilise the demographic advantages and parameters that will lead to market linked skill development. However, owing to its unique challenges the conventional market-based solutions may not work here, given the issues related to poor infrastructure and connectivity, unemployment and low economic development, law and order problems, etc.

Though India has the edge of a young workforce, the quality of skills is still a challenge. A survey conducted in 2014 reveals that around 78 per cent of the surveyed employers said they are concerned with the growing skills gap in India while 57 per cent said they currently have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. Of the 14 million people that enter the workforce every year barely 2 million are formally trained. Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship data reveals that only 4.5 persons out of every 100 are skilled, according to the latest National Sample Survey, with the percentage even lesser in the Northeast. Countries such as Korea with 96 per cent skilled workforce and Japan having 80 per cent skilled manpower are way ahead.

Lack of skilling models that are workable and can be practiced is one of the major factors hindering the skill development practices in the region. It said although many agencies were doing skill development through various approaches, yet most of them lacked innovation and were not scalable.

Skilling Challenges in the North East

A “Skill University” in the Northeast needs to be urgently set up as “engaging” with the aspirations of India’s youth is a “challenge”. Setting up “Migration Support Centres” at big hubs can provide better retention and career opportunities for candidates. This measure will be more essential for trainees coming from the Northeast, hilly states and other difficult areas, including LWE (left-wing extremism)-affected districts.

Employment opportunities can be created swiftly in agarwood plantations in Meghalaya vis-à-vis local resources and livelihood opportunities. The South East Asian countries’ business model based on creating a vertically integrated business from the management of plantations to the inoculation, harvesting, distilling and processing of agarwood inputs into a multitude of agarwood end products, including the highly-prized Oud oil can be replicated.

According to a study on development and employment generation potential of the north-eastern states, between 2011 and 2021, the region will have only 2.6 million jobs. And half of this demand will be in Assam alone, which is about 1,234,357 jobs. As opposed to the low demand, there will also be a supply of 17 million people in 2011-2022, an excess of 14 million job seekers. The region will generate 2.6 million jobs, but the manpower supply will be 16.8 million persons. So there is a need for a twin approach for developing skills for both local employment and for those who seek to migrate.

Another big challenge facing the implementation and execution of any skills development-related scheme is reaching out, educating and motivating youth in the rural and remote parts of the country. With over thirty years of experience in Learning & Development, we have realized that the only way to increase the efficiency of the employees in the corporate sector is through innovative training methodologies which need to be upgraded from time to time.

I have often talked about, on various platforms, about how the Government should make vocational education mandatory for women not pursuing full time education. Jobs and hiring in India needs to shift from being ‘qualification based’ to ‘skill based‘. With ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ and ‘Digital India’ schemes being rolled out by the Government, youth and especially women must be compulsorily taught to use computers and be skilled (in any field). Government also needs to take specific steps for differently-abled people and help create job opportunities for them by building relationships with employer and industry groups. If the Government can get the major chunk of the above target groups in its umbrella, the dream of empowering and transforming lives will be achieved to a great extent.

Building Bridges

There is an urgent need to facilitate introduction of multi-skilling institutes for NE states. Along with this, higher education in the region needs to be connected with apprenticeship. Work based learning will lead the career-pathways. There is also a need to make skilling attractive, relevant and be able to serve the demand to address the major challenge of migration.

There is a need to look at the skilling initiatives in the NE region in a different light. The region’s population comes with a dominant agrarian mindset. There is an opportunity and a requirement to inculcate need based skill development and entrepreneurship promotion in North East Region. The young and growing population is the region’s prized possession and asset and to realize the economic potential the region holds, it is imperative to utilise the demographic advantages and parameters that will lead to market linked skill development.

It is necessary to address the issue of employability and design a roadmap for capacity development and skill upgradation in the North East to keep the local talent reap the best of the opportunities and not migrate for employment. A number of sectors can emerge as important sources of employment in the region and it is crucial to identify the relevant education streams and skill sets that need to be developed among the people to enhance their employability.

NE being home to diverse and exotic variety of fruits and other crops could emerge as major centre of food processing industry that can generate huge employment opportunities for the youth in the NE states. Another potential sector with immense opportunities is handlooms that are used for both local consumption as well as for supplies all across the country. Developing skills there with the right kind of technological know-how can add to the overall growth rate of the region whilst preserving the local talent and heritage.

The efforts to promote startup companies and develop entrepreneurship particularly in NE have resulted in favourable changes in the entrepreneurial scenario in the North East. A right ecosystem for the startups has to be created by accessing the right skill, smart capital, networking and exchange, entrepreneurial culture and sound marketing strategies.

Some of the other sectors that could change the face of skilling and employability in the region include hotel and hospitality management, medical and paramedical degrees, agribusiness management, , ITeS, BPO and KPO skills, engineering degrees, business management, vocational skills dealing with automobiles, construction, electronics, plumbing, textiles and apparels etc.

While big-ticket investments may be the overall game changers, what is also important is to empower rural communities to create sustainable institutions so that they manage common activities around microfinance, livelihoods and natural resource management. The need for economic empowerment and partnership development follows close as all these initiatives require a committed effort from both the public and the private sector to make a countable impact.

“Vision 2020’ targets by North Eastern Council (NEC) and the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER):

– Overall GSDP growth at a CAGR of 11.64% between 2007- 09 and 2019-20

– Overall per capita income growth of 12.95% between 2007- 09 and 2019-20

To support ‘Vision 2020’, the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has formulated a strategic plan (2010-16) highlighting:

– Building capacities and competencies in critical sectors in the region

– Preparing a plan of action for building capacities and competencies in critical sectors

– Identifying institutes and organisations for imparting training and building capacities in the region

– Setting up of training institutes in the region in important fields through line Ministries, NEC or states

– Augmenting the capacity of the existing training institutes in the north eastern states

– Using IT as a tool to upgrade skills

Harnessing Skills

The Article First Appeared In Khaleej Times on January 26, 2016

The future of higher education system in India lies in industry-academia-government linkage

In recent years there has been a new trend in India’s higher education system. Instead of setting up centers of excellence or merely sponsoring research, Indian corporate are getting into the educational sector establishing universities. Perhaps, they see this as the only way of creating a skilled workforce.

The obsession of many Indians for textbook education and white collar jobs has created a conundrum of gigantic proportions. Where there will be 13 million youth entering the workforce every year, there are not enough jobs to go around. Yet, look at any of the major sectors – construction, retail, agriculture, transport and logistics – there is a dearth of skilled labour.

Take the south Indian state of Kerala for instance. A labourer will earn Rs350 a day (or Rs10,000 a month), which is six times the national average of Rs50-60 a day. The state is facing a huge shortage of skilled labour since most of its working population prefer migrating outside the state to greener pastures especially in the Gulf. According to government data, half of the 6.5 million people working in the Gulf comprise Malayalis and a large chunk of them are engaged in blue collared jobs.

If India does not build a corpus of skilled labour, the ‘Make in India‘ vision of the government is sure to come to naught. For instance, the country currently faces a huge shortage of painters, masons, electricians and welders among other construction trade workers.

Yet the scant regard most Indians have for vocational training and skills development has led to decades of neglect for these crafts. Worsening the situation, students who finish tertiary education and choose to learn any one of these trades have to depend on the ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), which are poorly managed and outdated.

Skills are not celebrated in India unlike China, where students are steered into vocational training right from their secondary education levels. India’s education system has a big task at hand to bring transition in the role from ‘student’ to ‘worker’ and prepare candidates for the new working world.

Class 12 is too late for a student to pick up employability skills. Instead, from class 7-8 onwards there needs to be a move away from student-oriented to teacher-oriented learning. Besides, the curriculum should be aligned to current industry requirements.

Fortunately, the Indian government has made provisions for upgrading skills under multiple disciplines and even created a separate ministry to achieve its dream of a Skilled India. Positive steps such as the National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) and the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) are in the right direction, which will also lead to a paradigm shift in employment from being ‘qualification-based’ to ‘skill-based.’ This change is sure to result in educational institutions focusing on imparting skills that lead to employability, rather than doling out certificates and degrees.

The NVEQF seeks to bring parity with formal education by defining various levels (eg, making Level 1 equivalent to Class 9 and so on, continuing till Level 10). Other initiatives such as vertical mobility will allow a student pursuing vocational education to have the flexibility to move into mainstream education and vice versa. The government has also set up a Sector Skills Council in order to bring in industry linkages, which in turn is setting up National Occupational Standards as per industry recommendations.

A nationwide network of affordable community colleges could be set up with courses and diplomas closely tailored to the skills related to the local labour market. Higher education available in the local market will also stop unsustainable migration to cities. Besides, skills development and vocational training will bring about inclusive development and growth for rural areas, where poor children are compelled to drop out of the education system due to several socio-economic constraints. Incorporating vocational training into post-elementary education and using an ICT-based long-term plan that involves the industry will go a long way in addressing skills shortage.

Perhaps, a mandate for major industry bodies in India to work closely with NSDC and NVEQF, along with universities to encourage innovation, help improve skill levels and address employability challenges that may solve the issue of skilled workforce in India. Vocational courses could also be converted into full-fledged ITI/diploma courses.

If the Indian government can make it possible for the industry to embrace Corporate Social Responsibility through an amendment to its Companies Act, why can’t the same be done for something equally, if not more important, skills development and vocational training?

Only through industry-academia-government linkage and close partnership will skills development and vocational training programs become an integral part of the Indian education system. If not, India will lose out on its demographic dividend of having a huge youth population, and one ready to enter the job market soon.

Skilling India is akin to evangelizing: Sanjeev Duggal, Centum Learning

The Interaction first Published on The Financial Express on February 8, 2016 12:20 am 

Sanjeev Duggal, the MD & CEO of Centum Learning, believes that ‘Start-up India’ has to be synergized with ‘Skill India’. “The way things are playing out, the nation’s growth agenda is directly getting aligned to the skills-level of its manpower,” Duggal says. Centum Learning, which is NSDC’s partner, is also making efforts to reach out to the remotest parts of the country. For that, Duggal says, we need to reach ‘media-dark’ states in the country, where TV and print reach only 20% of the population. In an interview with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, he adds that we also have to change the ‘poor country cousin’ image of a skills-based career.


What are your views on the ‘Start-up India, Stand up India’ campaign?
Start-up India is not about only Flipkart, Myntra or any other e-commerce/IT start-up. It’s about a plumber setting up a plumbing business; a carpenter opening a carpentry shop. It’s about encouraging entrepreneurship. The government has realised it is not possible to skill and provide employment to everybody and, at times, not practical. Hence, it is a good idea to skill people to become entrepreneurs on their own terms and conditions.
The other day I was speaking to a friend who said he was impressed by a young man who had set up a grocery portal. We are witnessing this trend all over the country. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), we are helping women get trained in the beauty sector, and making them realise their dreams of being an entrepreneur instead of pursuing jobs in established companies.

What synergies do Start-up India and Skill India share?
There cannot be a more opportune time to consider how closely Start-up India can be synergised with Skill India. The way things are playing out, the nation’s growth agenda is directly getting aligned to the skills-level of its manpower. We are playing a key role in evangelising skilling and making youth job-ready so they, in turn, can make India a manufacturing hub, thus helping fulfil the Make-in-India vision. In fact, Centum Learning is mustering all resources to become a prime catalyst in the delivery and scaling up of the government’s self-employment mission. There are thousands of opportunities to start a thriving business, but there is not enough skilled manpower that can engage in such entrepreneurship.
What all have Centum Learning and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) achieved as a team?
We have been NSDC’s number 1 partner for two consecutive years, having skilled more than 1.2 million people.

Who all form your training and development specialists?
We have created Centum Skill Instructors’ Guild (CSIG), a forum that aims to reward skill instructors in recognition of the crucial role they play in building a skilled and employable India. Through this initiative, we are ensuring that the quality of trainers that train the future of our country are constantly motivated, are looking to enhance their personal skill competencies and realize their direct impact on skillsets of trainees. This platform will serve as a means for us to engage with the skills instructors’ community in the country.

How to reach out to the remotest parts of the country?
Skilling India is akin to evangelizing. What is required is a disruption in the existing ecosystem to reach ‘media-dark’ areas in the country, where TV and print reach only 20% of the population. To counter this problem, Centum Learning recently launched a massive outreach program through mobile phones to address the ‘awareness gap’. Though the initial scope of the pilot project was restricted to Bihar, it eventually was rolled out to cover nearly 400 million subscribers nationwide.
Under the initiative, telecom providers sent text and voice-based messages to the target audience who were required to give a missed call to a toll-free number. Interested candidates would then be profiled on the basis of their age and location and finally mapped to their nearest enrolment centers. This exercise was quite successful. In less than a week of launch, as many as 3,87,408 candidates were profiled and over 40,000 candidates across 38 districts in Bihar were enrolled under various skilling programs. We take help from Gram Panchayats and other local governing bodies to spread awareness about these mobilization drives.

Where do you train the untrained?
Infrastructure is neither a challenge, nor a constraint. We’ve tied up with CBSE and AICTE to offer vocational training in schools and colleges. We use existing infrastructure like AICTE-approved colleges and private ITIs, rented commercial space, etc, which comply with government regulations, instead of setting up new centres. Most of these centres are already equipped with computers and laboratories to enable smoother implementation of project deliverables. In case of certain hostel-based training centres, Centum provides transportation facilities from the hostel to the training centre. Given the government’s emphasis on skilling, we are even looking at utilising public spaces like railway stations in the What steps are needed to change the perception that skills training is only for those who are not good in academics?

Unlike the West, where a PhD can pursue the vocation of a cab driver and is considered a respected member of society, in India, a father’s heart will skip a beat if his daughter announces her interest to marry anybody less than an engineer or a doctor.
But things are slowly changing and there are discussions in the corridors of power about skilling, bridging the demographic divide, providing employability skills, encouraging rural participation to make the skill movement mainstream. Well-crafted and strategic advertising campaigns are being floated to change the ‘poor country cousin’ image of a skills-based career.
A social ecosystem that respects those skilled in vocational education, a support system that addresses some of the basic necessities of life, a network to share and live with, a decent working atmosphere … all these will go a long way in changing the mindset of people towards skilling.

Have you been able to gainfully transform the lives of women in smaller towns?
We provide training to vulnerable youth in the 18-35 age group, mainly from rural areas, scheduled castes and tribes, backward communities and women. Our ambition is to reach a larger pool of trainees to offer exhaustive skilling opportunities as we believe only scale can bring inclusivity. Our target is to reach more women candidates and, if necessary, provide exclusive female-only hostel facilities, employ female instructors and wardens to ensure safety and comfort of female candidates. Further impetus to attract female trainees is done by counselling parents and providing references from past women trainees, who belong to the same location as potential candidates and who are employed, thus contributing to their family income.

Does your skilling model take care of placements?
The approach towards skill building consists of five steps: Employment Generation, Mobilisation, Skill Training, Certification & Assessment, and Placement. Basically, we cover end-to-end of the skilling cycle. As of date, we have generated 3,81,000 letters of intent from various organisations nationwide in various sectors and trades. Our focus is on conducting placement-linked training programs. As soon as the batch formation process takes place, the placement team starts mapping the profiles of trainees for placements. Each state-level centre has a placement head who coordinates with the placement team to organize on-the-job training and placement for trainees. A prospective employer usually visits the centres to conduct interviews and hire trainees. A majority of our trainees are absorbed within the same organization where they undertook on-the-job training.

What was the need to expand your footprint across countries?
We are the first skilling MNC in India. We forayed into Africa anticipating the similarity in culture, topography and linguistic diversity of Africa with India. The key to unleashing the continent’s potential has always been its talented youth. One critical difference is the larger scale in Africa. It is an opportunity and also a challenge. In the normal course of events, Centum Learning would have probably never gone to Africa. We were happy growing in India and had no plans to go to this emerging market. Similarly, we had not chalked out a ready plan to venture into the global market as we had our hands full in India. But the fact that the skills gap is a global phenomenon has opened the world for us. So now, besides Africa, we have offices in Nepal where we are conducting training programs. We have now trained over 1.2 million youth in India and abroad.

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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