India has made substantial economic strides in recent years. The growing economy needs a constant supply of skilled manpower. But our emphasis on a degree rather than skills is a stumbling block in the way of economic growth.
On the one hand, India has a large number of educated unemployed people, and on the other, the industry is desperately short of skilled professionals. The situation is made worse by a near exodus of youth from rural areas to towns and cities in search of employment. The employability gap gets wider every day.
One of the biggest challenges hiring managers face today is finding candidates with the right skill sets. The answer lies in vocational training and skill development - these two need to be a strong component of the curriculum of all placement institutes. Being qualified is one thing, being job-ready quite another. In the wake of the changing economic environment, it is necessary to focus on inculcating and advancing the skill sets of the country's youth.
It has taken India nearly seven decades to realise the importance of skilling people. Vocational training and skill development have not been given due importance by the mainstream education system. Reports indicate that only 10% of the Indian workforce receives any kind of skill training. But things are changing.
The altered demographic profile of the country, with nearly 60% of the population under 25 years of age, the rising aspirations of our youth seeking satisfying, well-paid jobs, the growing requirements of industry for an efficient, well-trained workforce, have all contributed to the shifting focus on skill development.
If India aspires to be a global player, it has to align its growth with the needs of an industry-ready workforce. There is a new emphasis on promoting vocational training and skill development in collaboration with various stakeholders. A separate Ministry for Skills Development & Entrepreneurship has been instituted to streamline skill development initiatives. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with a generous outlay has also been set up.
But the government alone cannot handle the gigantic task. If India is to achieve Prime Minister Modi's target of being home to a skilled workforce of 500 million by 2022, vocational and skill development companies, as stakeholders in the economy, ought to be actively involved in imparting skill and training to people. The way forward lies in taking initiatives to achieve this ambitious target in the right scale and speed.
As a company involved with training and skilling manpower for the industry since 1999 and as an active NSDC partner, ICA Edu Skills looks forward to providing a workforce that can make India the 'skill capital' of the world.
Demography is on our side. A significant portion of this demographic dividend lies in rural areas. Many a time, an organisation needs only 10+2 candidates from a rural background to fill their vacancies. Placement institutes can match the organisation's and the candidate's requirement. Perfect matching is the key to economic growth.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra partners like ICA have set up model training centres and run industry-driven high-quality courses with a focus on employability. They also mobilise rural youth and convince them to move to cities where the jobs are, providing them guidance and counselling training and placement.
Skilling and placement institutes can be the government's big ally. The Centre needs to encourage more multi-stakeholder partnerships to impart relevant and employment-worthy skills. Such partnerships are already generating interest in the vocation training and skill development sector. Perhaps, the Centre could incentivise such efforts with tax concessions and grants.
Private players with good credentials and proven track record could be encouraged to enter the skill development sector. If the government can do this successfully and rope in reputed players, Modi's dream of Skill India can fast become a reality. The provision of fiscal incentives to the private sector for setting up vocational and skill development institutions is encouraging private organisations to give the government a helping hand in this effort.
The biggest challenge in India lies in finding out how to make skilling programmes relevant? Skill and vocational training institutes can show the way.
(The writer is Founder Chairman, ICA Edu Skills)