Karnataka: Huge skill gap could hamper industry revival

Karnataka: Huge skill gap could hamper industry revival

Experts, particularly those in the MSME sector, believe that the government must up its skilling game to be able to tap into the market opportunities. (DH Photo)

With Covid-19 changing the business scenario across the world, experts believe that a skilled workforce is crucial to rebuild the economy. In Karnataka, the government’s skill development initiatives have become all-the-more relevant now, when industry leaders are preparing themselves to meet post-Covid market requirements. Experts, particularly those in the MSME sector, believe that the government must up its skilling game to be able to tap into the market opportunities.

“Post the Covid-19 crisis, the government should look at rapidly expanding MSMEs, as there will be a lot of demand for Indian companies. Quality and delivery schedules can be maintained only if there is skilled workforce. Hence, skilling is an important aspect to convert the anticipated demand into a national opportunity. Moreover, Karnataka is the machine tool capital of India and has huge potential for employment generation. The government should tap into it,” said Prithvi Raj, former president, Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association (KASSIA).

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However, more than three years into the state government’s ‘Chief Minister’s Kaushalya Karnataka Yojane’, which envisaged to skill five lakh youth annually, a glimpse into the implementation of the programme leaves much to be desired.

Following the Chief Minister’s budget speech in 2016-17, the state government created the Department of Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Livelihood (SDEL) and initiated the Chief Minister’s Kaushalya Karnataka Yojane (CMKKY).

Subsequently, the government also brought out the Skill Development Policy (2017-2030), with an aim to “increase the number of youth and adults having relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills for employment, in decent jobs and entrepreneurship by 2030.” The new policy was pitched as an improvement over the previous State Policy on Skill Development (2008), which sought to skill youth in Karnataka through Karnataka Vocational Training and Skill Development Corporation.

As per what the government itself acknowledged in its new skill development framework, the 2008 policy lacked monitoring and evaluation. The government also identified that there was a need for real-time information on the labour market and strong career guidance and placement capability, to effectively implement the programme.

As per procedure, a Training Provider must register with the government. The registration will be accepted if the Training Provider/ Training Centre meets the requisite criteria. Once they register, they can access the list of applicants seeking training from the government website and reach out to the applicants seeking their willingness. Once the government officially allots a set of candidates to a particular centre, the government will physically inspect the training centre to ensure adequate infrastructure, including CCTV for monitoring classes and biometric system for transparency in attendance. The government sanctions 50% of the funding at this stage, while it will disburse another 30% once the candidates successfully complete the training and the rest 20% once they get employment. The centres are expected to ensure placement of at least 70% of candidates.

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However, there is a huge gap between the desired outcome and the ground reality. The government’s ambitious target of reaching out to five lakh youth has remained an aspiration on paper. According to sources in the Skill Development department, when the scheme was launched, district officials aggressively pursued a grassroots campaign for enrolment of youth into the programme, which led to several dummy enrolments.

While the campaign was able to register names of lakhs of youth as potential candidates for the programme, only a fraction of them were eventually interested in pursuing the training. Ever since, the department has had to strike off several names, trying to maintain a list of only genuine candidates.

As against the aspirational number, according to official data, in 2019-20, the government had skilled 32,289 candidates, with another 14,832 ongoing training, by the end of February 2020.

Albeit its endeavour for a complete overhaul of the 2008 policy, some of the earlier problems still persist: Not all skill centres are clued into the market needs of the region in which they operate and in many instances, the candidates who find employment, are found lacking in skills needed for the job.

Reflecting on the current situation, KASSIA’s Prithvi Raj said there was a wide gap between the training imparted in the skill development centres and the market demand. “There’s no doubt that the candidates are coming with certificates. But there is a lot to be desired when it comes to their skills. Either the training was not imparted well or the candidate did not focus properly in class. Often, we find that there is no sense of ownership in such training.”

According to official data, there are a total of 480 government-recognised skill training centres across Karnataka, of which 422 are dedicated for training pertaining to CMKKY and 58 for Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).



Another prominent issue raised by those in the industry was that skill training was heavily focused on one or two sectors, failing to tap into diverse market requirements. “Initially, there was a heavy focus on the garment industry. Hence, on various counts, the programme was unable to meet the larger industry demand. We have to look at future skills such as robotics, data analytics and the like, to tap into the demand,” according to a government official, who sought anonymity.

Add to it, several skill centres offered training without understanding the demography and geography of the region, experts said. According to a recent research publication ‘India’s Changing Cityscapes: Work, Migration and Livelihoods’ collaborated by Supriya RoyChowdhury (Institute for Social and Economic Change) and Carol Upadhya (National Institute of Advanced Studies), skill training had to a large extent become a numbers game, wherein training centres were required to produce the requisite quantum of graduates and placements to meet the requirements of their funders (government agencies or corporate social responsibility initiatives). “However, there is little effort on the part of sponsors, the state or the institutions themselves to determine the effectiveness of the training in producing sustainable employment…” according to the report.

In Raichur, for example, several training centres were engaged in imparting skills like tailoring and sales management in a place where there were no garment factories in which tailors could be employed and no malls offering retail jobs, the researchers have observed. “This shows that a local employment market analysis, which should be a prerequisite for designing skill training programmes, had not been undertaken…” their report stated.

Such an approach posed practical difficulty, making employment sustainability a big issue, pointed out Shashidhar, who runs Bharani Foundation, a skill development centre in Mysuru, recognised by PMKVY. “For instance, if one were to give training for the garment industry in Mandya or Maddur, candidates will not get jobs locally. They will have to come to Bengaluru for jobs, which leaves them commuting every day from their home town,” he explained. Instead, he felt that the skill centres needed to focus on local needs. Taking the example of Mandya again, skills such as organic seed production, solar roof technicians, electrical hardware work and the like, would go a long way in generating employment, he said. According to him, diversifying the areas of skill training also required public awareness about potential opportunities in lesser-known areas of work.

While market relevance is one big aspect, another area where the government had to stringently monitor was the authenticity of the training imparted. Even though the government had established a stringent monitoring system, not all centres were fulfilling the training requirement.

“To a large extent, the existing skill development scheme has turned out to be a certification programme, more than employment generation. Several educational institutions are taking undue advantage of the government schemes, without ensuring appropriate jobs for those who take up these training programmes. The government needs to overhaul the system, especially when, in a post-Covid scenario, India is expected to attract huge outsourced business from Western nations. We need to improve the capability of MSMEs, for which, we need to improve the quality of skilling,” observed Business Coach and Entrepreneur Karan Kumar.

Concurring with the industry experts on the need for making skill development schemes more diverse and demand-oriented, MLA of Krishnaraja Constituency S A Ramdas, opined that the government should look towards diploma colleges and training institutes such as Industrial Training Institute and Government Toolroom and Training Centre to take the skill training to grassroot level. Ramdas, who leads Bharath Informal Workers’ Initiative, works on the issue of labour and skilling.

“The training should provide links with prospective employers. For instance, were the government to tie up with the builders’ association, they can give onsite training to aspirants. The government can think of giving stipends to candidates during the training period. This will ensure that the skilling will lead to employment,” he said.

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