India today is in the sweet spot of relishing its demographic dividends with the large swathe of its youthful populace getting ready to reshape the contours of its services-oriented economy. For this to happen without any huge hitch, a modern, vibrant and competitive workforce is a pre-requisite for ensuring productivity of its human factor endowment at a pace that can galvanize and sustain the growth momentum, going forward. The Modi Government ever since it took charge of governance after the 2014 General Elections in May carved out a separate Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with a specific and significant remit to fast-track the imperative need for skill development.
In the backdrop of the paradigm shift in skilling and entrepreneurship ecosystem with the experience gleaned from the implementation of a plethora of skill development programmes as part of the National Skill Development Policy of 2009, the government unfurled a brand new National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in mid-July 2015. The core objective of the policy is to empower the individual, by enabling him/her to realize their full potential through a process of lifelong learning where competencies are accumulated via instruments such as credible certifications, credit accumulation and transfer. The major thrust of the entrepreneurship framework is to coordinate and strengthen factors essential for growth of entrepreneurship across the nation.
As the skill development is evolving by degrees, the States are likely to carry out critical gap analysis in skilling space within their own areas in terms of sectoral and job roles requirements, besides strictly following Common Norms prescribed by the Centre. The National Skill Development Mission (NSDM) is thus likely to impart a robust institutional framework both at the Centre and States for implementation of skilling activities. Based on sector-wise studies made by National Skill Development Commission (NSDC), a unique public-private partnership (PPP) project designed to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational bodies that also extends funding to build scalable, for-profit vocational training initiatives, the additional skill requirement of skilled manpower and the training need, including fresh training and up skilling across 34 sectors, is estimated at 12.68 crore by 2022.
A number of proactive programmes have been lined up by the government to accord a push to skill development. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the flagship scheme of the MSDE, short-term training is being provided through affiliated training partners/centres to help the youth to become employable to earn their livelihood. PMKVY(2016-2020) has been approved with an outlay of Rs 12,000 crore to impart skill training to one crore people over a span of four years.
The key components of the programme encapsulate, among others, short-term training—competency based training of minimum 200 hours, recognition of prior learning—assessment and certification to recognize prior learning, special projects—any innovative/public sector projects that have special requirements and State engagement—25 per cent of PMKVY schemes will be executed by the state governments. Interestingly, there are certain spurs under PMKVY to encourage women participation in the skill training. All women trainees under PMKVY is provided with travelling allowance of Rs 1000/ 1500per trainee per month with a post-placement support of Rs 1450 per month per trainee for special group including women for 2 or 3 months post-training depending on placement within or outside the district of the domicile of the trainee. A dual programme permitting for apprenticeship training within PMKVY ecosystem is in advanced stages of launch.
In yet another significant initiative to move away from an ecosystem of project mandate-driven footloose training centres to an institutional model of relatively permanent training centres, the Pradhan Mantri Kausal Kendras (PMKK) were flagged off. Under PMKK, the government intends to establish a Model Skill Centre in every district for imparting skill training to aspiring youths. So far, about 150 PMKKs are already functional. A total of 452 PMKKs have been awarded to various training providers across the country.
Following a detailed study commissioned by the NSDC covering overseas job opportunities in 20 major countries in four key sectors of manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail and health care, it is also proposed to institute India International Skill Centres. These centres would be focused on ensuring that the blue-collared manpower moving out of the country in quest of employment overseas is skilled enough to facedown competition and thrive in the new milieu.
With a view to ensuring quality outcome of the programmes on the radar of the Ministry for skill development and upgradation, measures are also afoot to establish training centre accreditation. The Ministry has already released model content curriculum for 221 job role. Plans are also under way to make mandatory the programme to train the trainer(ToT) and publication of standardized requirements relating to labs for various job roles.
In parallel with new programmes to get them off the drawing board, the Ministry is also in the midst of undertaking a genuine process reform so that duplication of effort is obviated and synergy in energy achieved through convergence of copious schemes currently run by various other ministries for skill development. Presently more than 22 central ministries have been running various skill development schemes leading to lack of standardization, diffused focus, exorbitant running cost and cannibalization between various skill development schemes. Hence, MSDE has fostered common cost norms to standardize the payout of different schemes for similar courses. In a similar vein, MSDE transferred the Directorate General of Training (DGT), the building blocks for vocational training in the country, under its umbrella as part of consolidation of various skill development schemes. There is also a move to make over polytechnics too under its fold before long.
It is germane to note that the MSDE is actively coordinating with industry for placements of skilled people in various sectors. Sector Skill Councils have been created with industry leadership and line ministries as part of the Governing Council. Amendment was made to the Apprenticeship Act, 1951 in 2014 to enlarge the ambit of apprenticeship outside manufacturing as well.
As skills gap needs to be bridged, the authorities are going the whole hog to ensure that India’s youthful workforce is made industry-ready to contribute its mite in the pathway to progress.
*Formerly Deputy Editor, The Hindu Group, the author now works as independent economic journalist and is based in Delhi.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.