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BW Businessworld

Need To Make Youth Job Ready

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The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) is targeting five crore jobs in the 12th Five-Year Plan. A collaboration between academic institutions, industry and civil society is a must for upskilling Indian youth. As the new government comes to power, S. Ramadorai, chairman of NSDA and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), emphasises the need for vocational skill training in schools, greater Centre-state interaction on job creation, amendment of the Apprenticeship Act and mechanisms to connect databases in an interview with BW’s Rozelle Laha. Excerpts:

What should the new government do to create more jobs?
Let us take the example of the manufacturing sector. We should know the number of jobs that will be created in the sector across the value chain during the next 5-10 years. We should then channelise the young generation, say in the age group of 14 or 15, towards learning the skill sets required to connect with this value chain. We need to identify their aptitude at an early age; we need to introduce vocational skill training as part of the formal education system.
The same applies to the services sector. Be it construction, hospitality, tourism, transport, information technology or financial services, we will have to prepare young people from a very early stage to be able to take up jobs in specific sectors.

How do you plan on going about this task at the National Skill Development Agency?
As part of the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF), we have already started piloting such a curriculum in some schools in Haryana, Assam and a few other states. But the question is how to scale up such programmes.

It is a Centre-state subject, and interactions between the Centre and states are essential. State board and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curricula have to be rationalised, and made part of the mainstream. Employers should recognise such curricula.

Second, we need to make our sector skill councils, which have been created across multiple sectors of the economy, completely functional.  We will have to re-examine all regulatory and policy impediments. Digitisation hardly exists today.  If I want some real-time information, say, the performance of an ITI (Industrial Training Institute) in any part of the country, I should be able to do so through a digital platform. It should be so transparent that we should be able to figure out what type of employment is created where on a real-time basis.  Lack of real-time information due to lack of digitisation should be addressed.
How would you develop a job market that can absorb the skilled manpower that is created?
The sector skill councils play a very critical role with regard to job specifications and the qualifications required to perform certain jobs.
The sector skill councils have been formed with participation from industry.

People who drive these councils as part of the board or the management team and are funded by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).  The industry’s responsibility is to create jobs. So far, NSDC has created a capacity for about 80 million jobs.

We are deploying tracking mechanisms through third parties to see to it that at least 70 per cent (of the trained workforce) get jobs. The combination of all these is going to work.

Do we have a sufficient number of institutions or teachers in the country to train people? Is this an area that the government needs to look at on priority?
There are pockets where there are good teachers. And again, there are pockets where there is a tremendous shortage. Sector skill councils have the mandate to develop programmes, courses and delivery capabilities even for the teachers.

The shortage in the number of teachers can be handled in multiple ways. Take the example of ‘Teach for India’. Corporates allow their employees to volunteer to go to a number of schools where they teach for a period of one, two or three years.

At the end of two years, volunteers have an option to move back to the corporate world or continue as teachers. The challenge here is that such teachers may not have a degree in education — a bachelor’s in education (BEd). Yet, you have to put a restriction that unless someone has a BEd, he/she cannot be a teacher.

We must work towards modifying such models and address the issue of teacher shortage. Another way of addressing the shortage is through online learning.

You can’t go on complaining about the shortage. It will take us 20 years before you see results.

Public sector organisations are creating fewer jobs compared to the private sector. What role can the government play in reversing the ratio?
The government has definitely contributed by providing seed funding. For instance, NSDC has been funded by the government to fund partners on a debt basis. The government can play a very critical role in providing the infrastructure and any potential funding that is possible through debt mechanisms. In fact, it is committed to the cause as far as I can say.

The private sector wants the Apprenticeship Act, 1961, revisited. In a country like ours, we don’t even have 2.5 to 3 lakh apprentices a year, whereas we need to churn out at least 30 to 40 lakh apprentices a year.

Is there any legislation that the new government needs to bring in to shore up employment?
The Apprenticeship Act, 1961, needs to be changed completely. As part of the school curriculum, the NSQF programmes, cleared by the cabinet, should be introduced across all schools in the country.

Multiple databases such as birth records, NREGA records and others that exist in the country give us an enormous capacity to mobilise jobs. We need to look at mechanisms to connect all the databases.

Like in many developed countries, can we have a database that predicts sector-specific vacancies that are likely to arise in future to help students pursue courses that would assure them jobs?
The sector-wise database is available, but it is not dynamic. For instance, there are skill gap studies done by private organisations across various districts of the country that help specify needs from the demand side. NSDC and the National Sample Survey Organisation have done surveys, too.

Suppose you predict jobs in the agriculture sector, but there is a drought. In that case, some of the jobs may disappear from the sector. We need to reposition people to enable them to do something else. So, another survey on jobs from other sectors, where they can be repositioned, has to be conducted.

We need to make sure that our studies are not a one-time effort where you merely produce a report and it stays on the shelf. 

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(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 16-06-2014) ]]>