Use Skill Programmes to Overcome Education Deficit

TEAM INCLUSION
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Employers bemoan lack of skilled manpower, but trained workers in turn say they are not being paid a higher wage when compared to the unskilled or semi-skilled. Policymakers discuss what ails the system. A report by Team INCLUSION

With a vast majority of the population not educated or at various stages of literacy, employment numbers in India leave a lot to be desired, Can skill training bridge the void caused by the failure to provide education to all its citizens by training people to suit the industrial world?

Dipak Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Labour Resources, and Chief Executive Officer, Bihar Skill Development Mission, said Bihar has been running the Kushal Yuva programme fairly successfully. The programme trains youths in soft skills, basic computer literacy so that they can overcome their educational drawbacks. Being a policymaker on skill development on one hand and the implementer of policies towards skill development on the other, Singh said he has noticed several disconnects in his experience.

There is a disconnect between employer and jobseeker. Wherever industrialists and industry people get together at skill development events, they keep complaining of lack of skilled manpower. On the other hand, when the government undertakes skill development programmes, it finds that trained workforce doesn’t find placements even after being made fit to serve as skilled manpower.

This dichotomy needs to be solved. A similar paradox exists in location. There are places where skilled manpower is needed and places where such manpower is available abundantly. Bihar, which contributes the highest number of migratory workers in the country, has a large manpower base of varying kinds, ranging from skilled to the unskilled but there are no opportunities available. When people are skilled in Bihar, they reject offers to work outside their state since they do not want to leave. Since the skilled don’t move, the employer usually finds unskilled labour, also from Bihar, to do the work and exploits them no end at lower subsistence level wages.

There is also a wage disconnect. When skilled people join enterprises and factories, they don’t get more money or incentives for the simple fact that they have been trained formally. That is, they are not paid more than what the unskilled labour is paid by the entrepreneurs. What’s the point of skilling if there is no change in wage between the skilled and unskilled workers, asked Singh. What will make people join skill development programmes if there is no benefit? Such dichotomies need to be sorted out to bring it in line with the mission to skill people.

Talking of Rajasthan’s shining path of skill development, Krishna Kunal, Commissioner & Special Secretary, Skill, Employment and Entrepreneurship, and Managing Director, RSLDC, Government of Rajasthan, said the state was far ahead of the country on this matter. Rajasthan formulated a skills policy in 2004 while the Government of India (GoI) came up with one only in 2009. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje takes great and active interest in skill development by chairing the Rajasthan Mission of Livelihoods. The state has the second highest number of ITIs after Uttar Pradesh.

Unlike at the central level where 22 departments are involved in skilling programmes, Rajasthan has a common skilling programme and involves all departments. Such convergent work has led to proactive measures to promote entrepreneurship as the flipside of skill development. Since the state government trains 50-70 per cent people, it knows that the remaining 30-40 per cent lack skills and could be groomed for self-employment and entrepreneurship.

In India, skilling has taken second place to formal education unlike in Switzerland and Germany where skill work begins right from Class 1 and is made mandatory from Class 6. That model is appreciated and admired the world over. India has started now by making it mandatory in Class 9. The GoI has also come up with an equivalence platform. Students who pass out of ITIs if they write one exam, can get SSCs; with Class 10 and one English test, they can get ISC and pursue other interests, if they are done with industrial training.

But what after ITIs, there is such a large hole in skill training. Given that situation, the Rajasthan government via its Assembly introduced skill development universities in the state and has instituted advanced diplomas.

Industries should be open to incentivise skilling by paying more to the skilled. This is essential as it would become a sureshot method to ensure people come to skill development centres for training instead of learning on the job.

With inclusive growth in mind, skill development courses should be made available to women, transgenders and the disabled so that they can learn skills to earn their livelihoods with dignity.

Employability is the road to employment and skill development is the road to employability, said Amar Jha, CEO, Jharkhand Skill Development Mission Society (JSDMS). He said Jharkhand, a new state, has dared to dream and think different. He said the state found that after the February 2017 Momentum Jharkhand Summit that it had signed agreements worth hundreds of lakhs with industrialists to set up new plants. But the government realised the shortage of labour immediately afterward and took the visionary decision to hold Skills Summit every year alternating with the Momentum Summit. The starting of the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Kaushal Kendra is evidence that the state government saw to it that it must provide various kinds of labour for industries investing in the state instead of allowing workers from other states to cash in on the employment potential.

That’s why the Jharkhand government has gone to extend skill development programmes in the state by connecting them to their respective industry so that people can be absorbed right there after they finish training. That is also one reason why the standard of the training centres is very high.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call to develop skills has been the motivating factor for states to rise to the occasion, he said.

IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd Chief Executive S C Mittal said demographics favour India going ahead into the 21st century. The average age of an Indian is 29, in the US, it is 40 and it goes up further in Eurozone countries. As a result, the labour force in the industrial world is going down, leaving room for India to supply the world its industrial labour force.

A paradoxical situation exists in India. On one hand, there is unemployment and on the other, industries and their owners say they don’t have skilled manpower. Skills should match industry requirement and all efforts should be made to ensure that it is done soon.

With 93 per cent labour in the unorganised sector, Niti Ayog data says 1.28 crore new jobseekers join the labour force every year. There is capacity to train only 25 per cent of new jobseekers in skills.

Speaking of the IL&FS joint venture with the National Skill Development Corporation set up in 2011, he said the IL&FS Institute of Skills has 300 training institutes now. Over 1.6 million people have been skilled since 2011 and 48 per cent of these are women. Placement is 95 per cent with proactive contact with industrial houses. The institutes aim to train 4 million people by 2020.

(Comments are welcome at info@skoch.in)

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