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India Can Lead Again, If It Acts Now

We need to address each segment differently, and re-energise employers to lead skill development efforts. India could once again leverage this opportunity and be the skill capital of the world

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta

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In the world of skills and work, India has to address two challenges. First, going forward 12-15 million non-agricultural jobs would need to be created annually to absorb the young people entering the workforce. The rate of job growth in relation to the economy has been declining over the past few years. Currently, for every 1 per cent increase in GDP, jobs grow only 0.15 per cent. Therefore a new approach to growth, with a focus on jobs rather than just GDP growth, is required. Second, many firms still find it difficult to get entry-level persons, and others find a large number of existing employees untrainable to meet the needs of future work.

There are three distinct target groups of persons that need to be skilled. Those in school or college; those who have a job or vocation and need reskilling/upskilling; and those not in education, employment or training. The strategy for each of these has to be different.

The government has launched a number of skill development and entrepreneurship development initiatives. While over a crore people were trained last year, the placement numbers were low. Typically, the fault is placed at the door of the training organisations. For all those who are putting in an honest effort and ensuring skills for jobs, there are those who are not. The latter are pulling down the system and there is a huge mistrust in private-sector training organisations. This also has to change. The onerous requirements of compliance may actually result in a number of good training providers rethinking participation in such initiatives.

Despite the large-scale training programmes, many organisations are unable to fill entry-level vacancies. There can be a variety of reasons, apart from the nature and quality of training, due to which firms are unable to find entry-level employees or retain them.

First is the aspiration for a government job. So while a trainee joins a course, he/she can be reluctant to take up a private sector job.

Second, as uncovered by the NSDC state skill gap studies, the aspiration of youth across the country for jobs in high-employment sectors such as textiles, leather, construction and others is low. In addition, in many states, the aspiration for jobs in the sector that the states specialise in is low. For example, chemicals in Maharashtra.

Third, since many have to migrate for jobs, they don’t find entry-level salaries attractive, and hence, seek change. So while many would acquire a skill, they might not retain a job. This is an important signal for the employers. There is an urgent need to improve the attractiveness of working in these sectors. One way is to enable workers get access to low-cost accommodation.There is existing good practice and emerging evidence that it is possible to retain a person by providing support for decent quality living in proximity to the workplace.

In almost all skill development programmes, there is a belief that at least 50-70 per cent of those trained have to be placed. Given the lack of job creation and the large number of youth, as we scale skill development efforts, it is quite possible that the placement percentages would be low. This raises the question, if we should accept lower placement percentages or reduce the number of persons trained. A danger with the latter approach is that we would have a large number of unskilled and unemployable persons.

In terms of high-end, future jobs such as those being driven by big data, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, there is a current shortage of faculty, trainers and infrastructure. This has to change. Training organisations and educational institutions need to be more agile and quick to introduce courses. Just as in the early eighties, when firms trained persons for the IT sector, and India emerged as a source for qualified human resource.

We need to address each segment differently, and re-energise employers to lead skill development efforts. India could once again leverage this opportunity and be the skill capital of the world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 15 April 2017 Skills Development jobs nsdc

Dilip Chenoy

The author is former managing director & CEO of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)

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