India is on track to becoming the nation with the largest work force in the world. More than 50% of our population is below the age of 25 years and more than 65% is below the age of 35 years; and in the future this force will become the spine of our economy. The prospects are huge for the nation. To tap this demographic dividend efficiently and effectively, calls are on by the country’s eminent men and women to emphasize on skill development of the work force. And the Government of India is laying out a massive programme to equip the work force with the requisite skills. Prime Minister Modi has expressed his vision towards this end through his sobriquet of Skill, Scale and Speed or the 3S if you will. The Government is going to unleash a “Skill India” programme to achieve the skilling and training of the future work force. The PM is inviting foreign countries to invest in India, luring them by showing India’s 3Ds : Democracy, Demography and Demand!
Having said that, it is also important to note the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead on road to the successful implementation of this ambitious and unprecedented programme. Having worked in the skill development sector of India myself for a short period of time (8 months), I have witnessed firsthand the challenges in this sector.
- MOBILIZATION: Student mobilization to get trained has been a major concern due to the traditional mindset, low willingness to migrate and low salaries at entry level.
- EMPLOYERS’ BUY-IN: The employer does not distinguish whether an employee has picked up skills on the job or if he has acquired them through formal training.
- CORRUPTION: Many affiliates of NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) have misused the STAR Scheme. In the STAR Scheme, the Government of India provides a fixed sum of money for the student to get trained or skilled at the affiliate’s training centre. The student does not have to pay anything, it is like a scholarship for him by the Government. The affiliate ropes in students for whom this scheme has not been created by the Government, thus resulting in losses of Government money because of the corrupt affiliate’s greed. The affiliate does so because of the first challenge listed above i.e. difficulty in “Mobilization” of the target group. The affiliate instead tries to enroll college students through collaborations with colleges. The money that the GOI (Government of India) provides for each student skilled at the centre goes to the affiliate. The affiliate provides a share to the college/institute with which it has collaborated. Therefore, instead of going the hard way and enrolling village students and the really needy, the affiliate gets bulk enrolments from the colleges and both of them share the dishonestly earned profit. In certain cases, affiliates’ providing a share to the student has also been witnessed.
Even I was asked by my boss to sign MoUs like these with colleges even though college-going students are not the intended target group of the Government. I found this totally unethical and hence I resigned from my job. Tell me why should we spend taxpayer money given by the Government for skilling a B.Tech, B.Com or MBA student for a retail job or an accountancy job or a Pizza Hut salesman position? Just so that the affiliated company can get the funds (read: profits) from the Government for skilling these otherwise well-to-do students who will anyway get a placement/job by themselves! The unethical affiliate knows very well that the student is going to decline such job offers (retail, fast food sales, accountant) as these are below his/her aspirations, still to get in numbers the morally reprehensible sales heads push the centres to enroll such unsuitable candidates, in the process forgetting their duty towards the nation. Shame on them!
- SCALABILITY: Getting the right kind of training partners, effective stakeholder management, till very recently scaling up and alignment of aspirations to current jobs is important.
- MISMATCH BETWEEN YOUTH ASPIRATIONS AND JOBS: Finding students to fill the classroom and getting the people to accept the job has been a difficult task.
- ENSURING MINIMUM WAGES: At present wages are linked with categorization of ‘skilled’, ‘semi-skilled’ or ‘unskilled’, but these have to be aligned with skill levels defined as per NSQF (National SkillsQualification Framework) and recognition of higher level of skills in terms of minimum wages is noted.
Macro and micro policies must be created to encourage workers to get skilled:
- Include a minimum percentage of certified skilled work forces in the tendering process of every manpower intensive project and increase the minimum percentage every year.
- At the local level, the industry could enforce it by ensuring that ancillary service providers like drivers, housekeeping, and security staff obtain skill certification.
- Minimum wages need to be re-looked and aligned to the levels defined in the National Skills Qualification Framework.
- The Government should establish adequate safeguards to check and balance corrupt practices of enrolment by the private partners.