A conscious and focussed effort by the government to impart vocational and employable skills to millions of young people in the country in the last one year has been much talked about. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kausham Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) launched in July last year – which has a separate allocation of Rs. 1,500 crores – a disappointing 5% of the candidates who were imparted with skills actually got job placements.
The scheme, that seeks to impart millions with training and skills, presents a monetary award and a government recognised certificate which is used to secure employment on completion. In May, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship had reported that it had successfully trained more than 2 million youth – 40% of them being woman, but did not mention how many ended up getting jobs.
A report by the Indian Express last week stated that about two million people have been trained by the programme, which roughly translates to 6,600 people trained or upskilled every day during the last ten months. Of these, 81,978 have secured placements, according to official data updated till April 25, 2016. Furthermore, the number of people certified during the same time duration stood at 5.77 lakh. When the daily solicited a response from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, specific details were not provided regarding those who have found placement, and ‘incomplete data’ was named as the primary reason for the low placement numbers.
Additionally, the response also said that the number of certified candidates stood at 11.2 lakh on June 7 – which is an increase by almost 5.5 lakh in a duration of about 45 days. To put things in perspective, an average certification of 12,628 candidates took place per day between April 26 and June 7, as against an average of 2,060 workers being certified per day since the launch of the scheme on July 15, 2015 till April 25, 2016. The ministry reasoned that only candidates who have passed and hold a validated ID as well as bank account, are considered certified. “The remaining candidates are in the process of updating their IDs and bank accounts, after which they would be certified upon successfully passing the assessment conducted,” it said. Another interesting insight from the data was an uneven distribution in the state-wise numbers. According to the data analysed by the report, six states made up for more than 50% of the total youth trained, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
The ministry in its official response to queries sent by The Indian Express said: “Tracking of placements was not a mandatory feature of the scheme which is why most training partners did not capture this data. Only a few training partners have reported placements on the portal, on a voluntary basis. Thus, incomplete data regarding this is the primary reason for low reported placement numbers. However, the MIS for the next phase of the scheme in FY17 accounts for mandatory tracking of placements of candidates. The alignment of the new phase of the scheme to the common norms for skill development programmes also links fund disbursements to a minimum placement achievement”.
On the low placements under the scheme, government officials said that such schemes are not employment generating schemes and an assured placement is never promised under such schemes. “These are skill imparting schemes which increase the employability prospects of a candidate. Under the scheme, the government imparts four types of skills–skilling, reskilling, upskilling and RPL, but a placement is not guaranteed,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, an RTI filed by Hindustan Times last month almost mirrored these findings. Of the 17.07 lakh people who were trained, 82,183 were reported to have secured a job – similar to the 5% figure observed. Jayant Krishna, CEO of National Skill Development Corporation, had said that the data wasn’t accurate, and the numbers were low because the training partners were not ‘mandated to report’ back the same. Back then as well, experts and scholars had pointed to the incorrect nature of the claim, because the PMKVY manual states that the training institutes are responsible for the placement of the candidates and post-training follow-up, and hence, should report back the same.
Another alarming trend observed over the last year was that candidates were abandoning the training mid-way, despite getting monetary incentives, and gaining a certificate on completion. This could also be a possible explanation to the low number of certifications extended. “The experience during the course of the pilot showed that a large number of construction workers invariably left the designated work site for other sites, mostly for better wages or personal problems, thereby leaving the certification process half-way. We are now tweaking the programme to address,” an official said.
All these revelations point to a rather discouraging bigger picture. Training millions of unskilled young people will be pointless, if relevant job opportunities are not provided, and follow-up assistance mechanisms are not in place. Furthermore, the attrition rate is also disturbing, because even the promise of learning a new skill, monetary incentive, and a recognised certificate isn’t lucrative enough for young people to continue with the training, a reassessment of the priorities of the demographic is needed. Empowering an individual, especially with skills and knowledge, is a rather complex and challenging process. Skilling and training programmes existing and operating in isolation from employment generation schemes will never be able to fully build the skills and minds of the people under their purview. Therefore, in the face of numbers that can easily instil a false sense of pride, there is an urgent need to review the schemes that have been implemented in the last year, and strengthen the weaknesses and gaps that are blaring in nature.