India has the potential to become a global skills hub if the demographic dividend is invested with quality education and right skills. In 2016, the Government of India formed the Sharada Prasad Committee to rationalise the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) and improve ‘Skill India’.

 

With this vision Skill India Mission was launched in 2015, with dual objectives of –

 

Providing employers with skilled manpower;

 

Preparing workers (young and old) for a decent livelihood.

 

Issues:

 

(i) The government set a target of skilling 400 million persons by 2022, till 2016 it had only skilled 10 million people. At this pace, the 2022 target appears to be a far cry.

 

(ii) India faces a severe shortage of trained workers 2.3% of India’s work force has formal skill training compared to 68% in the UK.

 

(iii) The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have pointed out flaws in the design and operations of the NSDC and National Skill Development Fund which has resulted in falling short of skill development goals.

 

(iv) The Sharada Prasad Committee findings:

 

The NSDC is responsible for poor implementation of the Standard Training Assessment and Reward (STAR) programme. It highlighted that only 8.5% of the persons trained were able to get employment.

 

NSDC has not been able to discharge its responsibilities for setting up sector skill councils (SSCs) owing to lots of instances of serious conflict of interest and unethical practices. SSCs became a hotbed of crony capitalism that have tried to extract maximum benefit from public funds.

 

(v) India has not been able to develop a sound vocational education and training system in the last 70 years. By providing focus on vocational training for only these disadvantaged categories, India has put a stigma on it.

 

(vi) Government is conducting vocational training courses without any connect with the actual industry demand.

 

(vii) Apprenticeship training is not an integral part of Vocational Education/Training (VET) system.

(viii) National Skill Development Fund (NSDF) meets its objectives through NSDC but its governance structure is flawed.

 

Suggestions:

 

  • Indian government needs to conduct surveys, once every five years, through the National Sample Survey Office to collect data on skill providers and skill gaps by sector. Such data can guide evidence-based policy-making.
  • Incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships that ensure skill training programmes are in sync with industry’s requirements.
  • The focus should be in strengthening reading, writing and arithmetic skills. No skill development can succeed if most of the workforce lacks the foundation to pick up skills in a fast-changing world.
  • Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship should become the owner of all National Vocational Education and Training Standards and get them developed though intense industry involvement.
  • Set up state of the art Vocational Education and Training Colleges to impart vocational education and training with a clear objective of meeting the skills needs of the industry and providing employment to youth.
  • In-plant apprenticeship training should be made an integral part of the Vocational Education and Training for all trainees.
  • The industry must come together to contribute towards a National Skill Development Fund
  • There should be one Skill Development Centre (SDC) in a cluster of about 10-12 villages, which would provide skills to the youth so that they can access employment opportunities in the local economy. The state of Gujarat has already set up a good number of such SDCs called Kaushal Vardhan Kendras which are doing excellent work.

 

India can surely become the world’s skill capital but not with what it is doing right now. The reforms suggested by the committee can be a good starting point. Taking advantage of the Indian demographic dividend must be a key part of India’s growth story

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