Mission Skilled India needs holistic planning

India has been a rural dominated country with about 83 per cent of the population living in villages at the time of Independence which has now been reduced to 70 per cent. Village had a character of self sufficiency and sustainability. The needs of rural population were more or less catered to by the local resources, systems and institutions. One such institution, though informal, has been skill development. Every village had a set of artisans who carried forward their legacy generation after generation. The training was in-house and in general an artisan like blacksmith, goldsmith, carpenter, mason, porter etc would pass on his knowledge to his next generation. Training in farm sector was also informal and family driven. Thus the need of a having a formal institute to cater for such training requirement was perhaps not felt.

After Independence, development took a different turn and the character of the village also changed in due course of time. Majority of non agricultural Jobs were available in urban areas and hence the workers had to migrate. Development also gave rise to technology adaptation and new processes. Thus, the natural flow of skill development from older generation to next generation in a family diminished because of the reasons that a) worker would migrate to cities without family accompanying him, b) new technologies and process in workplace required different training methods, c) new sectors opened up job opportunities which could not be catered by traditional artisans etc.

In order to cater to such requirements of skills by Industry and Formal sector a training infrastructure by way of ITIs was created. The quality and quantity of this infrastructure was not adequate to meet the demand of employers thus the dependence on informal training systems like Ustad – Shagirdh continues to exist. This informal training has been prevalent in almost all the places in India, wherein a fresher initially takes up a helpers job with a skilled worker and gradually steps up to become a skilled worker by gaining experience. This system has its shortcomings and limitations which include no scientific pedagogy, no assessment & certification, exploitation of worker etc.

While the country focused on formal education and improved the literacy rate from 12 per cent at the time of Independence to about 74 per cent now, but no effort was made in improving the institutional infrastructure of vocational training. With the result at present the annual enrolment of school education has shot up to 22.5 crore in comparison to 1.53 crore for higher education and vocational training put together.

Keeping in view the growing population, that too when India hosts the largest young population in the world and when regular school and higher education streams have limitations in providing job opportunities to the youth, it was necessary to look at the skill development and vocational training in order to equip the growing young population with skills which could provide them opportunities of employment. It was also observed that the employment segments, be it primary, secondary or tertiary has a huge shortage of skilled manpower and the potential of job opportunities which these sectors can offer at an average growth rate of about 8per cent will be about 347 million jobs by 2022. In order to harness the demographic dividend the Planning Commission of India in the year 2007 embarked upon a target of skilling 500 million youth by 2022.

To achieve this target a Skill Development Policy was announced in year 2009 and a Governance structure was designed. A council with PM as Chairman was constituted to drive the policy. National Skill Development Corporation was setup in 2011 to involve the Private Sector in this initiative and a target to train 150 Million workers was assigned to them. Budgets and targets were allotted to about 17 Ministries. For better coordination among various stake holders a National Skill Development Coordination Board was set up in 2008 under Planning Commission. In order to devise the strategy, chart out the plan, promote skill development, provide guidance to stake holder and implementing agencies a National Skill Development Agency under Ministry of Finance was constituted in December 2013 with Chairman of Cabinet Minister rank.

The National Skill Development Policy also outlined the academic structure by constituting National Skill Qualification Framework which provides for horizontal and vertical entry and exit systems in perusing vocational education. Ten levels were proposed from basic level of skillset to the highest degree of skill in a particular trade. Formation of National Occupational Standards (NOS) was also proposed to determine the minimum skill sets required for a particular job. In order to do this Sector Skill Councils (SSC), a model followed in UK and Australia was introduced so that the industry or stakeholders of any particular sector themselves determine the NOS and form Qualification Packs for each skill. In fact, the responsibility for assessment and certification was also been given to each SSC.

It is not only the incumbent PM who has started forcefully advocating the importance of skill development, but the outgoing PM of India and his Government also talked a lot about this though his words couldn’t get translated into tangible action and the result on ground has not been encouraging. Not much has been achieved out of a target of skilling 500 million youth that too the way National Skill Development Policy had envisaged. The underachievement of target has been due to the various factors including faulty governance and policy structure. The National Skill Development Corporation which should have been part of either the Ministry of Labour & Employment or Ministry of HRD was instead attached to Ministry of Finance. How can we expect a Ministry whose domain strength is Banking, Insurance, Financial Services etc to handle something what MHRD and MLE have been practicing for decades.

Not stopping at this, the Government constituted NSDA in December 2013 and attached this also to the Ministry of Finance. National Skill Development Coordination Board was constituted under Planning Commission which has primarily been an advisory body and has no executive experience. Instead of this the Board should have been attached to the Cabinet Secretariat with the Cabinet Secretary as its Chairman.

The Sector Skill Council concept proposed by National Skill Development Policy is defective in nature. That too when we keep the nature of Indian Industry in view. We expect Indian Industry — which has grown from Inspector Raj to change its character overnight and turn into self regulated and self motivated institution. We expect the industry to develop its own skill standard, course content, assessment mechanism and placement mechanism. Alas! It is too much to expect from Indian Industry. Unlike the West, they still need Government and court intervention to implement social obligations. Had the Industry been responsible, there was no need for Government to include the CSR section in the Corporate Bill.

Somehow, we in India get allured by Western ideas without looking at our ground conditions. We have a functional system developed over the years by HRD and DGET for Technical Education and Higher Education which could have been extended to Skill Development also. Why bring in romantic ideas — that too for a sector which is going to cater to the needs of most deprived of the societies in the country. Was it necessary to reinvent the wheel and set up a new system of SSC instead of copying the NCERT, UGC, AICTE, NCTE, NCVT type system which has been functional on ground? In the recently organised Skill Development Summit in New Delhi, the CEO of NSDC shared his disappointment in the forum that the Industry was not coming forward in shouldering their responsibility through SSC.

About 20 Ministries have been implementing Skill Development programmes and every Ministry has been following its own guidelines. There is no uniformity of trade, training delivery, assessment, and certification and costing. One Ministry implements welder training in one month and another in three months. One Ministry outsources a particular skill, training at Rs 7000 and another Ministry at double or triple the price for the same duration and trade. Most of the training so far has been offered in courses which are easy to implement and are profitable to implementing agencies without looking at the requirement of job markets.

We have lost seven years and nothing has been achieved so far. Now we are left with only eight years and I wonder how this target of skilling 500 million will be achieved, that too when we are still trying to grapple with and manufacture the vehicle which can take us to our destination.

The new Government has spelled out its intention and given a catchy slogan “Skill, Scale & Speed” but I am afraid they may also end up committing similar mistakes. A new Ministry has been constituted and I heard the incumbent Secretary in a recently held conference talking about the role spelled out for the Ministry. He said the Cabinet note defines their role as that of coordinating agency among the implementing ministries. He was right in saying that Coordination is a loose term and lacks the teeth of administration, governance and regulation. Though the NSDA and NSDC have been shifted to this Ministry which is a good move but I wonder how the Chairman of an organization who is of Cabinet Minister Rank will follow instruction of Skill Development Minister who is of MoS rank?

If the Skilled India mission gets restricted to only rhetoric without any solid action to back it up, then we are bound to land in trouble. Instead of harnessing the demographic dividend, we shall have to tackle the demographic burden. The Government has to go into the genesis of it and provide a viable platform for implementation. The Government has also to realise that the majority of training so far has been imparted in skills which cater to the organised sector, providing for only 9 per cent of the jobs. We need to look towards our unorganised sector and improve the skills of workers so that they benefit from this mission. We also need to understand the strength of our villages and forests which cater to half of the job requirements of the country. Unless our farmer improves his skills he will not be able to produce more. We have more than 250 non-timber forest products in our forests which can change the life of a tribal and improve his living conditions. Only if we skill him and provide him with techniques to gather, process, package and market these products will he be able to reap the benefit of this resource.

We need to look at our own systems, resources and practices, improve upon them and then form a policy which has a bottom–up approach, rather than a top-down approach, in order to succeed.

Courtesy Niti Central

 

 

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