Skill India: A story of predicament and success

(This article was first published in (Organiser)

India is a fast emerging economy and trying to attract FDIs and to develop its own set of manufacturing and service industry. To attain this, apart from the capital, infrastructure, ease of doing business, research and development, the most important factor is skilled work force. India is currently facing a severe shortage of well-trained, skilled workers.
It is estimated that only 2.3 % of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 52% in USA, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea. Large sections of the educated workforce have little or no job skills, making them largely unemployable.

India is one of the youngest nations in the world, with more than 54% of the total population below 25 years of age and over 62% of the population in the working age group (15-59 years). The country’s population pyramid is expected to bulge across the 15-59 age group over the next decade. This demographic advantage is predicted to last only until 2040. India therefore has a very narrow time frame to harness its demographic dividend and to overcome its skill shortages.

Although, NSDC was formed in 2013 and few skill development programs were started by government before that, new government formed in 2014 gave it a big boost when a separate ministry was formed for the same. Skill development programmes driven by Government of India are being carried out in India on an unprecedented scale, and the sheer numbers involved in this region make this both high stakes as well as extremely difficult. To boost Skill India Mission Government has spent a hooping amount in last few years. It was more than 17 thousand corer budget for financial year 2017 – 18 only.

To rapidly scale up skill development efforts in India, by creating an end-to-end, outcome-focused implementation framework, which aligns demands of the employers for a well-trained skilled workforce. To fulfil the aspirations of Indian citizens for sustainable livelihoods, Indian Government has launched a massive program that includes several schemes like PMKVY, DDUGKY, HUNAR SE ROZGAR, USTAD and other skill development programs run by state governments and ministries. Everybody knows about the number of young men and women trained, placed and funded to start their own enterprises under these schemes. Those numbers are astonishing and the achievement is praiseworthy. But, still a lot has to be done yet. Still we have not got the success in yielding one hundred percent results from mission skill India.

The feature that makes these schemes golden is PPP model of implementation. Timely and sufficient payment to training partners is another feature that spreads skill India program in every corner of India.

Government is working mainly on these aspects of skilling – (i) Institutional Training, (ii) Infrastructure, (iii) Convergence, (iv) Availability of qualified trainers, (v) Overseas Employment, (vi) Sustainable Livelihoods, (vii) Leveraging Public Infrastructure.

The specific requirement of various regions and difference in industries best suited to each region make the formulation of these programmes an exercise in balancing regional interests with a nation-wide orientation. The success or failure of these programmes depends, in large part, on how these two aspects may be reconciled.

Crucial to understanding the success of these programmes, and its factors is the question of the motivation of trainees. Rit Foundation surveyed the trainees in skill development programmes it implemented in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Delhi (all in north India), trying to understand their aspirations and motivations. These trainees were from both rural and urban areas, and demonstrated great diversity in terms of economic background, caste, gender and religious affiliations. They were from age 18 to 40. The purpose of this study was to use the findings of that survey to draw conclusions about the extent to which there is a correspondence or mismatch between the motivations and aspirations of the target groups of the skill development programmes, and examine them in the context of neoliberal economics, exploring possibilities of resolution and alternatives.
Among other findings, the one that I found most prominent and disturbing in my opinion was the slit between skill gap analyses, need of the hour and aspiration level of trainees.

The most disturbing trend that came out in the survey report was that nobody wanted to go for blue collared job or a real hard core specialised skilled. Most of the respondents were interested in desk jobs, based on soft skills. More than 85 % respondents opted for managerial or sales job as their preference. More than 90% female respondents from rural areas were not interested in other than white collared job. They were not interested even in sales jobs.

Another challenge that came out from this survey was the inclination of trainees towards job, not entrepreneurship. And above all, a large chunk of trainees was not even interested in taking up any job. For them, skilling card or certificate is like any other certificate obtained in school.

And yes, quality of training is another challenge against the success of skilling programs. There is huge gap between the understanding of policy makers and ground realities. Sometimes this makes whole effort somewhat pointless. Most of the times, the difference between international standardisation and international copy pasting in terms of curriculum development blurs. Trained and certified trainer are not available according to training target of government. There is no effective and sufficient system of their training and certification is in place. Frequent changes in policy is another hindrance. Infrastructure related standards are not flexible enough for different regions. And, last but not the least, suffocating grip of bureaucracy makes the job of training partners very difficult.

But, at the same time, we should not forget the mission skill India is in its infancy, systems and infrastructure are being developed, work is in progress and it is maturing with tremendous speed. To implement such huge programs with lasting impacts that are crucial for the growth of a nation, government can not wait for some moment of perfection when everything will be ready. Implementation, perfection, and development of program is an ongoing process. Our government is constantly correcting procedures to make schemes more fruitful. This is the most definitive indicator of the success of skill India.

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