Skill development most necessary for growth

Inclusive Growth


India has, in the recent years, seen dramatic growth which has been driven by the growth in new age industries.  However, the growth can by no means be said to be inclusive.  While on one side, the increased purchasing power has created demand for new level of quality of service,  on the other side, there is an immense shortage of skilled manpower in the country specifically with regard to vocational skills. 

Even the most conservative estimates put the overall skills gap in the country at over 10 million and growing. India add about 12.8 million workers per year out of which 40 per cent are illiterate, about 25 per cent have primary education,  and only 35 per cent have middle or high school education.  Further, the lack of learning opportunities through the lifecycle not only means that we have a workforce with lower productivity but also a workforce that will not grow through the years. While the Government is taking proactive steps to bridge the skills gap, with the setting up of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), the new programmes executed under the PPP model such as the ITIs is the need of the hour. At Ficci, we are committed to partnering the government in this endeavor.

Ficci will bridge our National Skill Gap by 50 per cent by focusing and mobilising efforts towards the deployment of a viable and sustainable framework for skills development. 

We are doing this through an eight pronged strategy.

* Building awareness:  Current challenges in the informal sector include lack of respect from the society for vocational jobs, limited information being available about job opportunities, limited thrust from the current educational system in India.  Our shared endeavor is to take the awareness about vocational training to the level of successful campaigns such as the ITC E-Choupal, Pulse Polio, Jagore.com, Teach India, China-English dissemination programme etc.   Further, we would commission Regional Profiling Studies to identify region specific skills demand of industries and develop a communication plan which is delivered by local brand ambassadors to drive a greater sense for dignity of labour.

* Mobilise funds: Inadequate credit profile of those in the informal sector means that they have to borrow money at exorbitant interest rates which leads to a credit spiral.  Lack of sustainable sources of funds is another issue. Our ITIs need investments and fresh funding to move on the level where excellence is nurtured.

Skills development is a national agenda and therefore, the society needs to contribute generously to take India to the next level.  At Ficci, we believe that the solution lies in creating a framework for sustainable sources of funds. A National Skills Loan Guarantee Fund developed in conjunction with Government, FIs and Aid agencies to incent banks to deliver loans consistently will go a long way in creating a structure to support inclusive growth. The fund should facilitate Micro-Credit with flexible repayment schemes and the Government should create funding business models premised on engagement, sustainability and reliability.

* Creating new infrastructure:  Most of our ITIs  have been built in tier1 and tier 2 townships. We need to take these training centers closer to the people and remove inconsistencies in terms of number of such institutions in different regions. The overall capacity of ITIs is about 3.4 million people vs the current demand of over 10 million people. The additional capacity can only be created by enabling private enterprises to enter the field and create standardised facilities and processes. Further, by building alternate mechanisms such as e-learning, distance learning, Mobile classrooms etc, we can reduce the costs involved and improve the reach.

* Standards: How does one ensure that the products of the vocational/skills development programmes are of a high level of quality and consistent across centres.

The answer lies in developing standards for the curriculum, facilities trainers and students.  Standardised assessment and certification processes will remove regional imbalances, spur geographic mobility by ensuring consistent product despite inconsistent inputs, and create an increased industry acceptance of candidates coming out of this standardised system.  Further, we should create a framework that helps in evolving these standard with the changes in the industry.  Ficci is currently engaged in developing these standard to ensure that the skills development programmes deliver a high quality product consistently.

* Vocational training framework: People in the informal sector have varied educational levels and different experiences, which creates several challenges in the development of a vocational training framework including managing the diversity of input skills, lack of gradation in the courseware, misalignment of courses with input skills, and lack of certification processes.  Our vision at Ficci is to create a competence based framework that normalises the diversity of inputs to deliver consistent normalised output.  The framework includes training and certification for people as well as trainers and creates better coordination between the higher secondary, diploma and engineering systems.

*Employment: Lack of credible employment opportunities for people with vocational skills quite often pushes workers into grey and black markets. Currently, there are no bodies that can ensure effective matching between skilled resources and employers. Ficci will act as the clearing house for placement of skilled resources to match employers and skilled resources by creating online portals, referral programmes, alumni associations, assured training placement programmes etc.  We will endeavor to get industry buy-in and acceptance for candidates coming out of this standardised system to ensure meaningful career opportunities are available to skilled resources.

* Career progression: Our vision is to develop roadmap for career progression from blue collar to white collar jobs by creating support processes and development plans to ensure holistic development through the life cycle.  This will be done through a nationally consistent yet flexible progressively tiered framework that is facilitated by the industy  for all qualifications by providing continual learning opportunities.

* Nonlinear growth: By infusing new technologies across the above seven points, we are confident of accelerating our progress in pursuit of our national skills development agenda.

Ficci is  partnering the Government in creating a draft framework for skills development and will shortly be working on a  national campaign to promote benefits of vocational education to the people. Further, we will help build a National Skills Loan Guarantee Fund in conjunction with Government, FIs and Aid agencies to incent banks to deliver loans. On one side, Ficci  will work with the industry to pilot public-private partnership models for skills development and on the other side, we will develop standards that consistently deliver high quality normalised product despite inconsistent input skills.
 
We will act as the clearinghouse for  placement of skilled resources by matching employers and resources. Further, Ficci Ficci will engage itself in developing skills through the lifecycle of trained resources to ensure meaningful career opportunities and transition from blue collar to white collar. Being an industry body it gives us a strong understanding of industry needs as we continue to understand and align with industry requirements.

The writer is the President for Perot Systems’ Applications Solution (AS) and Insurance and Business Process Solutions (IBPS) group. He is also the Chairman, National Skills Development Forum at Ficci.

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