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Construction : View Point | October 2015 | Source : Infrastructure Today

Mission to skill

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has been making strides in addressing the acute shortage of skilled manpower, but there is still a long way to go.

As India´s demographics grow younger, the issue of sustainable employment raises its ugly head. Despite the emphatic stress laid on education and training in our country, there is a huge shortage of skilled manpower. While addressing this issue, the government is focussed on initiating and achieving formal and informal skill development through education and vocational skill training. This is evident from the exceptional progress India has witnessed, where for the first time ever, there has been the formation of a standalone Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and a new National Mission for Skill Development. Very recently, the cabinet also approved the National Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Policy.

This July, the Government of India launched the much-awaited and much needed ´Skill India¨ campaign. The campaign lays enough emphasis on the need and importance of skill development in the country and this mandate was quite clear since the NDA started campaigning for 2014 elections. Under the aegis of ´Skill India´ campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched four initiatives of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurshipû the National Skill Development Mission, the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, and the Skill Loan Scheme.

The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), with an outlay of Rs 1500 crore, is expected to benefit 24 lakh young Indians by providing financial reward to candidates who successfully complete the training programme and clear the assessment. This demand-driven, reward-based skill training scheme will be implemented by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

At this point in time, the overall wave of skill development looks extremely positive. There is increased participation seen from corporates and PSUs who are coming forward and investing back in the country´s youth by supporting skill development initi¡atives with their CSR funds and through part¡nership in providing infrastructure, recognition of prior learning, adoption of national quali¡fication framework and occupational standards. Organisations like NTPC, Coal India, Ambuja Cements, Essar, and Coke are some of the leading examples. On the other hand, government´s initiatives like PMKVY, Skill Loan Scheme, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Koushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), Nai Manzil, and the Credit Guarantee Fund will certainly enhance access, quality, innovation and institutional credit in the area of skill development.

A re-look on how to best utilise existing infrastructure, like we have explored with the Indian Railways, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Steel and Ministry of Mines, is also a great example of re-imagining and having a strategy for reducing cost and driving skill development across the country.

Innovations in Skill Development
Over the last five years, NSDC has created a strong skill development ecosystem with 37 sectors´ skill councils and 235 training providers operating 3611 training centres spread across 450+ districts in the country. Till date NSDC has trained more than 5.5 million with a placement percentage of nearly 60 per cent. This is being scaled up with speed and quality in order to fill up the huge gap of skilled manpower across industries.

NSDC, in addition to having increased its training partner base from 203 to 235 in the last quarter, is also working on several innovations which could make vocational training more accessible and reduce the overall cost for training across India.

In one such experiment, vehicular containers made of iron and steel (with floor space of 40 ft X 9 ft), which are disposed as scrap in the logistics industry, have been converted into mobile classrooms. These ´classrooms´ are being installed in rural India and impoverished areas within cities to impart vocational training through short-term, government-approved certificate programmes.

The Power to Empower challenge is another unique initiative, which aims to create an investible pipeline of skill development organisations and promote ´skilling´ as an entrepreneurial opportunity in different sectors to meet the demand for trained workforce.

The winners and finalists receive access to expert training, capacity-building support, training facilities, high-profile events and national visibility through traditional and non-traditional media.

Challenges & Opportunities
Access is a challenge in a country like India with its large geography, difficult terrains and widely varying socio-economic conditions, making the implementation of standardised skill-based structures a daunting task. States like Bihar and Jharkhand, for instance, have little access to skills training and the population comprises a large unskilled workforce. There is little industrial activity, which makes it difficult for workers to find jobs. Certain challenges merit closer attention in the years to come.

The management of the Vocational Education and Training System is fragmented and shared between various institutions, especially the National Council for Vocational Training, the Directorate General of Employment and Training and the State Councils for Vocational Training. There is a lot of scope to improve coordination between these entities in order to improve their effectiveness through more functional partnerships. While industry associations and individual employers are beginning to show interest in the development and management of the industrial training institutes (ITIs), their involvement in the vocational training system is still at a nascent stage. The involvement of employers can be greatly increased if the government provides institutions with greater autonomy. However, increased autonomy needs to be accompanied by greater accountability and performance must be measured on the basis of internal or external efficiency indicators. Since funding is largely restricted to publicly provided training, little attention is paid to financing as an innovative means to encourage good-quality public or private or in-service training. Once an institution begins to receive funding, subsequent funds are assured regardless of the institution´s performance. Student fee in ITIs and polytechnics flow into state treasuries; consequently, the training providers have very little financial incentive to improve efficiency. This situation needs correction and a re-look at the funding of all skill development activities.

Apart from these, the most critical of all challenges is to provide enough employment opportunities to the skilled workforce and ensure for respect to the work they do.

The Way Forward
India can achieve its skilled manpower targets provided all the skill development initiatives are suitably and swiftly scaled up, coupled with increased investment in secondary and tertiary education, industrial training institutes, polytechnics and labour market information system. There´s need for a comprehensive, sustainable and flexible skill ecosystem with an independent system to assess quality, comprising all elements of the skill development chain- right from student mobilisation to training and assessment to certification and placement.

The Skill Development Management System (SDMS) created by the NSDC is one such centralised system to manage and monitor the entire ecosystem. This has been made available to all the stakeholders, including training providers, Sector Skill Councils, State Skill Development Mission, etc. It brings citizen-centricity to service delivery, and transparency and accountability to governance. Further, this system aims to integrate the platform, with different ministries undertaking skill development programmes to create a single repository of skilled manpower across the country. This could be integrated further with an employer portal in order the fulfill industry´s requirement of skilled manpower.

Vocational training institutes should be given greater freedom in terms of resource generation by way of sale of production or services or consultancy, and in utilising the proceeds not only for cost recovery, but also to incentivise those who generate revenues.

Finally and importantly, the government´s efforts to provide and finance training needs to be complemented by dissemination of information about the availability and effectiveness of these training programmes. The Employment Exchanges, the National Council for Vocational Training, and the State Councils for Vocational Training can play an important role in sharing information on the nature and quality of training, particularly with respect to enrollment, institutional capacity, completion and graduate follow-up data from all registered vocational institutions. This will enable the government and stakeholders to see if the system is responding to market needs and devise policies accordingly.

This article has been authored by Dilip Chenoy, MD & CEO, National Skill Development Corporation.

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