The benefits of a growing economy are often reflected in the growing number of well-paid jobs in a country. Consequently, any policy that stimulates the economy to grow, has an impact on job creation and the overall employability of the country’s workforce. India finds itself in a context today where young people are entering the workforce every year. To make the most of the demographic dividend, it is critical to improve the employability of the youth. For this, the newly set up Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship had taken up the task of coordinating all skill development efforts across the country. This includes the removal of the disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower, building a vocational and technical training framework, building new skills and innovative thinking, not only for existing jobs but also jobs that are to be created.
Recent reports on the much-touted skilling scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), indicates that policy is still far from achieving its intended result. According to the report in the Indian Express, data revealed that of the 30.67 lakh candidates who had been trained or were undergoing training across the country in June 2017, only 2.9 lakh had received placement offers.
With increasing political and economic pressure, the Indian government has reportedly decided to create a hefty stimulus package to revive the growth rate of the country’s economy. Amidst the slowdown, how has the Skill India mission fared?
The structure of Skill India mission
The Skill India program was introduced on the 15th of July 2015 along with the creation of the new National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The “demand-driven, reward-based” Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) flagship scheme was set up with a promise to train over two million people in one year – the NSDC had in 2014-15 trained 1.3 million people. Under the mission, the previous target of training 150 million people by 2022 was raised to a much loftier goal of 400 million people by 2022.
The Skill India initiative was to ensure that the millions who enter the job market untrained, receive formal skill-building opportunities. Many hoped to be an improvement over previous skilling and vocational training programs. A much-welcomed move, the policy still seems to be a nascent stage of implementation and as a result, has had a limited impact.
With a roster of schemes under its belt, the Skill India mission has been similar to skill and vocational training programs of the past; big investments but little impact. A government-appointed panel, headed by Sharda Prasad, former head of the Directorate General of Education & Training, raised questions about the efficacy of programs like PMKVY and the short-sighted manner in which National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and India’s Sector Skill Councils (SSC) operated in a report published this May.
The Role of SSCs
The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was set up by the Ministry of Finance back in 2009 in an effort to centralize India’s attempt to skill its growing workforce. Working in Public-Private Partnership model, the NSDC looks at imparting skill and vocational development training through the various Sector Skill Councils (SSCs). These SSCs subsequently are meant to run such training, specific to their respective industries. The SSCs occupy a unique position within India’s skilling ecosystem: they are autonomous industry-led bodies that conduct skill-gap studies, develop the curriculum for the vocational training institutes (through the creation of ‘National Occupational Standards’), and then crucially assess and certify trainees who have been skilled. It is here that the Sharda Panel observes that the gaps within the Skill India mission arise.
“Their [SSC] entire focus seems to have been on the implementation of the PMKVY without regard to whether it will really meet the exact skill needs of the sectoral industry or turn out skilled manpower of global standards or persons that would get placed after the training,” says the report. The Sharda Panel also pointed out how such bodies had not specified the exact role of the industry, government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure accountability. As a conclusion, the Panel report stated that “Most of the SSCs in their quest to achieve the targets, compromised in quality of training, assessment and certification leading to the current situation of mess”.
What can be done?
Though skill training in the country has improved in recent years, the absence of job linkages is only aggravating the problem of unemployment. The newly appointed Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan has echoed a similar concern. “We have to think big way, a lot of technologies are coming, conventional jobs are squeezed, new verticals are emerging, what are they, they have to be informed to employable youths which all big jobs are there.”
Skill development starts with identifying future job prospects and segmenting it according to the need and feasibility of training candidates. The PPP model of operation of SSCs presents a great chance of bringing industry best practices in learning and development into such training modules. Private players can use technology to automate, improve and scale training and certification approach of skill-based training. By creating better linkages between the many stakeholders in the process and establishing key deliverables and a clear chain of accountability would help make such training programs more effective. Working towards increasing the accessibility of such training programs, in parallel, should also be looked at. A recently proposed move of making such training more district centric is a step towards that direction.
As India aims to have one of the strongest economic growth stories in the 21st century, it becomes vital for it ensure it growing workforce is capable to handle the incoming disruptions and find suitable jobs. And a core part of this is to tackle the problem of unskilled labor in India and fix its skilling initiatives, today rather than tomorrow.