Mission Possible: 500 mn skilled Indians by 2022
What is the goal of the government/NSDC in providing better skills training for young people?
NSDC was formed in the financial year 2008-09 with a single agenda of skilling 150 million people by 2022 by fostering private sector initiative in skill development. This is part of the National Skilling Mission that target to skill 500 million people by 2022. The 350 million outside NSDC scope is being handled by 19 central ministries i.e. Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Rural Development etc. By far, the single largest chunk of the National Mission is currently being handled by NSDC.
Why is it important to the Indian economy to improve skills?
To have the adequate number of skilled people in the country is not just important but essential for the future of India’s economic progress. By 2025 India’s population is expected to exceed that of China, making India the world’s most populous country. Today if you look at the economic growth around the world since the industrial revolution, there is a certain level of parity being achieved in terms of technology and consumption patterns (whether it is cars or detergent soaps). What will make or break a country’s future is the adequate supply of skilled manpower. We have done skill gap studies for 20-odd fast growing sector that are considered crucial for the economic welfare of India. In each of these we are expecting to see massive demand for incremental skill manpower. All three sectors — manufacturing, service and agriculture are likely to feel skills shortage that cannot be addressed overnight.
What has been the problem in the past with the skill levels of India's workers and future workers?
The problems or challenges if you will notice are these. One, there is a serious mismatch between education and employability. This is not just the fault of the academia, as we have some of the best universities and colleges in the world. Where we fell on the wayside was not changing our approach to education as we moved along. Today graduates, even engineers for that matter are not shop floor ready on the day they pass out. They need in-house training before they turn productive. Why can’t we replicate the medical school model where internship is mandatory before they start cutting open people? At NSDC we are doing precisely this.
The formation of Sector Skill Councils and deriving National Occupational Standards from future employers is all about bridging this gap. This also addresses a bigger issue of the quality of skills imparted. Today we have a very scientific approach to addressing the quality of the skills imparted. In the past having a ready pool of skilled work force was not seen as a ‘strategic advantage’ at least in India. Today as we are competing with developed nation for the same market, it has turned paramount that we stay ahead of the game from a skill point of view.
Why has NSDC decided to work with the private sector in developing skills?
NSDC is a very unique model and a new experiment in its own way through which we expect to have a skilled nation. Skilling, in the past has always been the prerogative of the government. Since 2009 we have started to see this from a demand side as well – that is what the industry needs. By forming a public private partnership with majority held by private sector we have managed to create a more sustainable model. This is in a way a virtuous cycle. Good quality skill will always be in demand in the industry and good quality comes with a certain price and the price has to be good enough for the skilling institution to sustain it in the long run. What will spiral this virtuous cycle into whole new sphere is when employers start to see the inherent long term value in hiring skilled people and insist on hiring manpower branded by NSDC.
NSDC has been given the mandate of skilling 150 million people by 2022. What is your take on this? Will you be able to achieve the target?
A target of 150 million is definitely a big challenge. However it is not an impossible task. The first four to five years of our mission that started in 2009 is to build skilling capacity. We at NSDC have taken a very different route by creating sustainable for-profit skilling ecosystem where private entrepreneurs are coming forward to establish skill imparting centres. In that sense we are a fund manager, provide soft loans and in some cases even equity to build this ecosystem. The overarching idea is to provide sufficient financial incentive in the form of a fairly reasonable term loan to entrepreneurs to invest in the skilling business. So far we have skilled over 10 lakh people. Our target for this year is one million which will scale up to 3.3 million next year (2014-15).
Accessibility to skill development programmes continues to be a major hurdle. How are you creating awareness on government programmes?
Our accessibility has three sub-parts to it. One is awareness, two physical accessibility that would not force trainees to travel very far to acquire a new skill and last but not the least is affordability. We are currently running a nation-wide awareness campaign that practically touches every form of media—print, TV, social media, radio etc. These are happening in phases. To give you an example, spread of information on the new STAR scheme that was launched on 16 August by the finance minister P Chidambaram is done on a pan-India basis with a poster campaign. We have a unique number – 088000 55555 – that trainees can call to get information on the scheme. Under this scheme prospective trainees are provided financial help of Rs.10,000 on an average to acquire a new skill. Since STAR’s launch nearly 12,000 people have enrolled under this scheme and by September next year we are hoping to cross 1 million.
Which are the sectors you are imparting training and giving immense priority for providing skill development?
Almost every sector has been covered today. The 28 sector skill councils cover a wide range like gems & jewellery, leather, auto and auto components, textiles, construction, retail, telecom, IT & ITES etc. Most of these are high growth sectors that are also very labour intensive and that need skilled manpower at various levels. Since the NSDC model is a market driven model, the NSDC partners decide on which sectors they would target and in which locations they will operate. As mentioned, we are also in partnership with the state governments district wise skill gap reports. We are in the process of updating the sectoral skill gap studies. Based on progress of the current partners and the skill development efforts in the other parts of the ecosystem, we would review the sectors and state coverage and perhaps look at ways to address the uncovered
sectors and regions.
Please highlight on the latest development in NSDC.
STAR scheme is one of the most important new developments in NSDC. With a financial support of Rs 1,000 crore from the Government through the National Skill Development Fund, We are mandated to cover one million people by mid-September 2014. Other than STAR Scheme, we recently launched the third edition of Power to Empower (P2E 2013), a national skills development challenge organised by National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) and India@75. The P2E 2013 Challenge is aimed at identifying, selecting and rewarding the best solutions bridging the gap between the supply and demand of skilled labour in India. National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF), another recent initiative by NSDC is a quality assurance framework which organises qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. These levels are defined in terms of learning outcomes which the learner must possess regardless of whether they were acquired through formal, non-formal or informal learning.
How far has the ITIs model been successful in meeting the skills shortage? Has the PPP model worked?
The ITI system has been the bed rock of the vocational training system in India. It is still the largest in terms of numbers trained. The curriculum in most ITIs is currently input based, rather than outcome driven. This pattern of training has forced the employers to spend time on re-training the graduates. These graduates are picked not as much for their vocational skills, as for their psychological alignment /inclination to skills training. The system of PPP in ITIs has led to many successful models and improvement of both the quality of infrastructure and the skills possessed by the students who pass out. Yet according to studies by the Bombay Chamber, the CII and the World Bank, there are many suggestions which if implemented could further enhance the outcomes of the ITIs.