It all started with the vision statement by our Hon. Prime Minister, in 2015, to make India the ‘Skill Capital of the World’. The mission was to train over 40 crore people across the country in wide-ranging skills by 2022.
As most companies get involved in the global value chains, the job profiles will get updated to meet the global standards of quality and efficiency. For a developing country like India, this will be an added challenge over the existing shortage of skilled labor.
Cut to today. Despite more than 40 Skill Development Programmes (SDPs) implemented by 20-odd ministries and departments of the Government of India, the growth chart is not as expected. The pace of development has been thwarted by a series of challenges.
India’s job market has been traditionally hierarchical. The perception that most of the employment options will be in the lowest level of this pyramid, creates a negative image of the entry-level jobs.
Also, with initiatives such as skilling, which require consistent effort and proactivity, the driving force becomes the deciding factor for success. In India, however, many students still perceive skill development as the last resort, instead of as an opportunity to grow. This has created a glass door for potential students thereby holding them back.
Role of a career counsellor
The next big question that crosses the minds of all individuals looking out for a skill development programme is ‘What to choose?’ With a plethora of courses available across ministries and sectors, career counselling becomes an essential component of their skilling journey. Career experts can play an instrumental role here by guiding the students as to which course is a perfect fit for them. Thorough knowledge of the courses and identifying the strengths of the students can help the counsellors suggest the best career choices to the students.
To make skill development programmes more effective, one needs to look beyond the curriculum. Such programmes can only be successful if students have sufficient business exposure where they can put their learnings into practice. Internships are essential to ensure the success of these programmes.
As we move towards a knowledge-based economy, there is a pressing need for developed cognitive skills in the workforce. While technical skills define core competence of an employee, working in a company needs more than that. This is where soft skills come in. The top three qualities that companies look for in their potential candidates are learning agility, adaptability and English language. Our SDPs need to be designed keeping these requirements in mind, to make students more employable.
Lack of women in the workforce
The World Economic Forum has predicted a 27% boost in GDP if gender parity is achieved. However, numbers in India suggest a decrease in the participation of women in the workforce. According to the India Skill Report 2019, the number of women in India Inc. has declined as compared to 2015. These numbers also point to the fact that affirmative action needs to be taken to encourage and inculcate women into the skill development system.
The skilling system is also facing problems such as mobilization of students, standardisation of the syllabi or placement success audits. This said, we should also acknowledge that the scalability of such an initiative will require constant troubleshooting and upgradation, and must be considered an opportunity instead of an inefficacy.
Lack of funding
Economically-weaker students often get discouraged due to the high costs associated with some of the courses. SDPs in India are mostly government funded, unlike in Germany and China where 86% and 85% of the firms, respectively, skill their own workers. Therefore, to address this skill gap in a country like India, a collaborative approach is required and more organizations need to allocate funds and participate in the process. This is slowly being taken care of via skill development loans for students and more companies understanding their role in skill-funding.
Skill Development Initiatives are very difficult to manage and organize as they cut through various organizational and sectoral boundaries and cater to individuals of different intellects and capabilities.
Despite these challenges, the situation is improving at a gradual pace. Hiring revived in 2018 and employability has seen an incremental shift from 33% to 47.38% the last five years. This has been facilitated by various government initiatives and projects promoting skill development. Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY), Skill Loan Scheme (SLS), Rural India Skill (RIS), Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) are working towards making India a more inclusive skilling economy.
As a definitive step, ensuring placements of the certified workers would convince them to take the leap of faith since some skills might need more time engagement than others. These jobs can be created in government projects and tenders or can be aligned with industries in dire need of employees.
Salaries are determined by the quality of employees. However, to avoid exploitation of new entrants in the workforce, salaries must be revised to the levels defined by the National Skills Qualification Framework; which organises different qualifications based on levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. This would assure the decision-makers for minors and dependent individuals. It would also help change perceptions around skill development by instilling fair employment behaviour amongst all stakeholders.
India is all set to be the youngest country by 2020, and by extension, have the largest working population. To keep up with global standards, we will have to contribute to skilling and participate in re-skilling as our jobs deem necessary. It is a continuous process and will require diligence and tenacity to ensure successful execution of these much-needed initiatives.