Look beyond jobs


Building Skilled India

By S Saraswathi


Last fortnight India celebrated the first anniversary the formation of the Ministry for Skill Development which was created on 15 July last year. Happily, the UN declared it as the World Youth Skills Day. Immediately thereafter the National Skills Development Mission (NSDM)was launched.

NSDM)was launched. Undeniably, India, true to its nature, is an enthusiastic partner in this event despite holding a very low place in the international ranking for skilled human power. Yet, it also has a reason to nurture a sense of achievement for having created general awareness about the need for vocational education along-with general education within a short time.Pertinently, the Day is observed to generate greater awareness about the importance of technical and vocational education and training and development of other skills relevant to local and global economies.

Wherein, the need for “marketable skills” is underscored through activities in six focus areas to show the importance of skills for achieving economic growth and personal success. These areas cover many crucial issues which plague present day work comprising promotion of skills, career building, skills competition, education and training, international cooperation, and research.

National statistics show India is currently facing a severe shortage of welltrained skilled workers. And Prime Minister Modi has drawn attention to the fact that hardly 23 per cent of workers undergone formal vocational training. Shockingly, compare this with skill attainment elsewhere —- 68 per cent in UK, Germany 75 per cent, US 52 per cent, Japan 80 per cent and 96 per cent in South Korea. Highlighting that the overwhelming majority of the employed workforce in India has no formal training for any particular work to be certified as qualified and suitable for employment. However, schools and colleges are increasing in number and turning out lakhs of certificate and degree holders. But, a large proportion of the educated are unemployable in the job market for lack of skills and application. Importantly, the situation demands immediate remedial action.

Remember, the National Policy on Skill Development was first adopted in 2009 and revised in 2015. It set an ambitious target of providing skills to 50 crores people by 2022. But reaching this target is no easy task given our very hostile situation where the common education system is not oriented to imparting work skills required for employment.In fact, it is no exaggeration that prejudices rule the entire educational system. Appallingly, they are seen not just in the medium of instruction, popularized subjects, extra-curricular activities or the type of management of institutions. Besides, the vocational stream has all along been associated with manual work and looked down as the road meant for academically weaker students.

Certainly, the new policy has to fight this attitude as also strive to link general education and work skills. Towards that end, the Mission NSDM was intended to create convergence across actors and States vis-à-vis skill training activities. The Ministry was responsible for coordinating all skill development efforts across the country. Along-with removing gaps between demand and supply of skilled manpower; building a vocational and technical training framework; upgrading skills; building new skills for existing jobs and creating new avenues.

Its mission? A “Skilled India”. True, the objects envisaged are lofty and in keeping with Goals 4 and 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals which follow the Millennium Development Goals and have to be achieved by 2030. This is as an international commitment.

Notably, Goal 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Goal 8 is about promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Appreciably, the Government seems to be taking the job of skills development seriously. The National Skill Development Agency, National Skill Development Corporation, National Skill Development Fund, 33 Sector Skill Councils and 187 Training partners registered in the 14 NSDC constitute the functional units of the Ministry.

Moreover, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) launched by the Ministry is designed to enable and mobilize a large number of youth to take up outcome based skill training to become employable and earn their livelihood.Alas, India is far behind many countries in imparting skill learning notwithstanding an established non-formal institution of occupational castes passing on all kinds of skills from generation to generation.

We have successfully destroyed the institution as a relic of an unequal social order with the opportunities of home learning of great many secrets making way for sophisticated arts and crafts.Consider, our traditional pattern of life was so informal that our knowledge produces results without explaining the process scientifically. Thus, knowledge itself becomes unscientific and unacceptable on the international platform. Wherein we are left to build new organizations and develop systematic processes to impart work related learning and training. This is but one part of the story. It is combined with great changes taking place in the industrial and commercial world which have totally altered our life and requirements alongwith creating a demand for new skills.Interestingly, today Creating Skills India is expected to produce a workforce capable of taking full advantage of the technological revolution and global marketing taking place world-wide to attain personal and national growth in all sectors.

Scandalously, presently, only 10 per cent of the country’s total workforce receives skill training although the concept of vocational and technical education is not new to India. Thus, the demographic advantage the country has with a large working age population as against ageing population in many developed countries will become a liability unless the workforce is educated and employable. Studies indicate that by 2020, Western countries will face acute shortage of skilled manpower due to decline in youth population. India must gear up to avail of this opportunity and embark on a massive programme of skill education.

Specially against the backdrop of foreign direct investment (FDI opening for retail trade which is expected to usher tremendous job opportunities. Consequently, for this skilled manpower is imperative. —– INFA (The writer is Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi).