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BW Businessworld

'Qualification Packs & Job Roles Being Developed Under The Skill Assesment'

Mradul Sharma, Head (Assessments) of CoCubes Technologies discusses how skill assessment can be the first step towards making India a skilled nation

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In July 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the "National Skill Development Mission" to deal with poverty and unemployement in India. Skill India mission was expected to give a boost to the 'Make In India' initiative because the main objective of the Make In India compaign is to create more and more jobs and skill enhancement. 'Skill India' and 'Make In India', the two initiative of the Modi government, will have far reaching and positive impact on Indian youth in the form of skill development and creation of new jobs. But for this to happen, the two missions should work together, says Mradul Sharma, Head (Assessments) of CoCubes Technologies - an online skill assessment company helping firms ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 hire job-ready candidates.

Sharma spoke to BW Businessworld about the skill level of Indian employees and suggested ways to bridge the skill gap in the country. He also discussed how skill assessment can be the first step towards making India a skilled nation.

1. What is the skill level of youth in India?
We still have a long way to go in terms of getting to the required youth skill level across the country. India is set to become the youngest country with more than one-third of the population (~46 crore people) set to be in the 15-34 age group by 2021.

However, with just about 2-5 per cent of our population (8-12 per cent of the workforce) currently skilled in some area or another and a skilling gap of 70-80 per cent across sectors, we are still far from capitalising the demographic dividend that all of us talk about. To economically compete with developed nations that have around 60-80 per cent of population skilled in a professional area, or even China with around 40-50 per cent skilled workforce on an even larger base, we need to ramp up both the quality and quantity of skilling in our country.

2. Is the government's Skill India mission targeted at solving the skill problem?

Definitely. The Skill India mission aims to provide the required impetus to solving the skill problem by creating a much needed ecosystem that brings together and incentivizes all the necessary stakeholders to achieve the desired outcomes. Also, with the ambitious target of skilling 40 crore people by 2022 set by the government, there is bound to come a sense of urgency which is welcome in this area where we lag significantly.

3. Can skill assessment help in bridging the skill gap in the country?
Yes. For improving anything, the first step required is to measure and quantify it. Thus improvement can be planned and progress can be systematically tracked. The same goes with the skill landscape in our country.

Assessments help create appropriate filters and benchmarks for measuring proficiency across various skills and therefore provide vital inputs to talent managers for controlling skilling quality, planning training to bridge the skill gaps and providing industry/demand specific feedback to the training/education providers. In a way, assessments have to be the cornerstone for achieving meaningful skilling in India.

4. How can skill assessment help in hiring considering the specific requirements of companies in different sectors?

First, the Qualification Packs or Job Roles being developed under this framework by different Sector Skill Councils are designed to distinctly assess both technical and generic skills. Hence, the candidates being certified, apart from possessing the required technical skills are also assessed to have the necessary generic professional skills such as communication, problem solving etc. to be able to adapt to the specific requirement of different companies.

Also, to cater to specific requirements related to local talent, it is being ensured that adaptation to local needs, such as language and infrastructure, is being carried out with respect to assessments, and that such needs are being met without compromising on quality. There is, hence, enough flexibility in the model by design to cater to specific requirements as well - with scope for some improvement here and there.

5. What is the level of interest among companies and education institutions in skill assessment?
Since companies are almost always on the lookout for skilled talent, their interest in skill assessment as a practice is natural, especially in India where skilled talent is scarce. With rapid advances in communication technology and therefore access across geographies and remote areas in the past decade, the reach and standardization of assessments has increased thereby enabling a shift towards a more information centric approach for recruitment/training across the country. Assessments allow companies to not only select candidates that fit the requirement, but help them create a recruitment or training strategy based on insights from the scores and demographics gathered from the exercise.

Educational institutions which are the suppliers of talent, on the other hand, are also rapidly picking up on the fact that skill assessments help them tangibly see and bridge the gap between their current level of education/training and the level required to grasp the opportunities being provided by the market. The ones that have taken the lead are doing well and also showing a way to the remaining lot.

As far as Skill India goes, companies and institutes across sectors are mostly aware of and interested in the developments and the efforts on part of the government to streamline things. While some companies are engaging actively in the process others are following a wait-and-watch policy depending on the maturity of pre-developed skilling infrastructure, talent demand and supply, availability of alternate ways of sourcing, assessment and recruitment etc. in their respective sectors.

Slowly and steadily, if quality and quantity of skilling is kept up as per the defined target and incentives properly aligned for all stakeholders, the results will show and both sides of the talent equation (demand and supply) will turn up good numbers.

6. How can 'Make in India' campaign of Government of India be a success in attracting sustained investments?
'Make in India' and 'Skill India' campaigns have to go hand in hand. One cannot be successful without the other. They are two sides of the same coin. For "Make in India" to be a success, India will have to compete in terms of skilled manpower with countries like China, Brazil etc. which can only happen with high quality of sustained skilling. Companies, while investing, look at the feasibility and cost of employing and skilling talent. As this becomes more and more favorable with a larger population of skilled and certified workers, India will become a favored manufacturing destination as well.