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The 500 Million Challenge
The skilling quest for India is not a simple one. There are challenges ranging from - getting students to join vocational courses, convincing employers to invest in training the talent pool and to pay higher for skilled talent. What is clear is that if India is to achieve its skilling targets, it requires the synchrony of the various stakeholders to create a perfect ecosystem.
India’s educational system further adds to the challenge: while the system is able to produce “higher end” professionals (like engineers and doctors), it leaves an enormous vacuum in the middle as the industry struggles to hire for most entry level jobs. 50 percent of India’s population is under the age of 25 and the country’s working population is expected to account for 30 percent of the global working-age population by 2030. But, just 2% of the total workforce is trained in any vocation. The government’s expectation for the next 5 years is that the industry will generate 98 million incremental jobs and this will mean that 20 million workers will require some form of vocational training annually. Yet another challenge is that the country today has a training capacity of a mere 5.5 million. The existing supply of vocational training is largely inadequate to meet the demand.
The word ‘challenge’ is rapidly moving up to the top of India’s skilling glossary; the government is cognizant of it and to that extent, has doubled the allocation for NSDF, but clearly there is much to be done beyond the government investing more on skilling initiatives.
The biggest challenge still remains as to who pays for skilling. Industry experts agree that there is a market failure in skills; employers are willing to pay for trained entry level hires, but not for training of unskilled candidates. Candidates want jobs but they are not trained to obtain them, and are not willing to pay for training unless a job is guaranteed. Finally, training companies cannot fill the classroom with candidates as nobody is willing to pay for the training. All players, candidates, companies and the government will need to find a way to finance skilling in a way that makes this target feasible.
People Matters has been following this sector very closely for the last three years. The previous cover stories, “India Skilling” and “India’s Skilling Industry: In Need of Synchrony” (2010 & 2011 respectively) dwelt on the complex challenge faced by the $5 billion industry and sought a need of a greater synchrony amongst various players to realize the set target. This cover story, “Is India on track?” is an update on what has been achieved, the ongoing developments, government’s renewed focus and what it means for India Inc. The story assesses where India stands on these initiatives, and how close are we to achieving this ambitious, but absolutely critical objective, of vocationalization of secondary and tertiary education in the country.
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