In Retrospect

Skill India mission is failing to achieve its objective 

ITI training system needs complete overhauling, writes Dr Gyan Pathak

Skill is an indispensable instrument for improving productivity and addressing labour market imbalances. It has been recognised even before independence of India. However, the efforts rendered towards skill development have been highly fragmented and record an appalling figure of 4.69 per cent of the workforce with formal vocational skills in contrast to 60 per cent to 90 per cent in the developed countries. In this backdrop, a new Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) was formed in November 2014.

The National Policy on Skill Development (NPSD) notified in 2009 was 'fine-tuned' to meet the challenges, a new "National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship" (NPSD&E) was released on July 15, 2015, and finally "Skill India" mission was launched with a vision to ensure sustainable livelihoods for all citizens in the country with high speed and standard. However, what is going on in the ministry suggests that the mission may fail in achieving its real objective of skilling. At best it can distribute the required number of certificates and produce beautiful documents and presentations.

It is worth mentioning here that India has 54 per cent of its total population below 25 years of age. Over the next 20 years, the labour force in the industrialised world is expected to decline by 4 per cent, while in India it will increase by 32 per cent who are not sufficiently skilled and employable. A conservative estimated figure shows that 104.62 million fresh entrants to the workforce need to be skilled by 2022 in addition to the 298.25 million working persons needing skill training.

Under the National Skill Development Mission (NSDM) the ministry is supposed to provide the overall institutional framework to train a minimum of 300 million skilled people by the year 2022. The planned funding was started with an outlay of Rs 1500 crore in April 2015 and Training, and Apprenticeship verticals of Directorate General of Employment and Training (DGE&T under Ministry of Labour and Employment) was transferred to MSD&E on April 16, 2015, followed by transfer of National Institute of Small Business Development (NESBUD) and Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Guwahati on 2nd May 2015.

The Mission Directorate is supported by three institutions - National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and Directorate General of Training (DGT). Even though the MSDE is very much committed to achieving the goal within a limited timeframe by 2022, it lacks ground experience and professional manoeuvring. Let's not forget that the skilling process is a different ballgame and it is entirely a performers' world which needs to be handled by competent professionals duly supported by their on-site field experience. It is too short a time to attain both the quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Most of the qualified professionals and consultants engaged in NSDA in operationalising and implementing NSQF and establishing quality assurance framework etc. are fresh management Post-graduates/Doctorates with barely 1 or 2 years of consultative experience. Despite the fact that these professionals are products of premiere educational institutions from India and abroad, and they may have excellent ideas, out of box thinking, expertise in preparation of presentations and documentations with desired scale and speed but problems of skilling are not being addressed and remain to continue. The job calls for field experts in relevant trade areas/occupations with extensive on-site exposure enabling them to make appropriate job analysis and devising proper strategies considering the on-job-problems faced on the shop floors. The lack of understanding of ground realities is probably the biggest bottleneck for qualitative documentation of the major frameworks on which future skilling systems will be driven.

In respect of NSRD's activities i.e. core research, evaluation, data analytics and international partnerships need efficient handling, as a mere collection of raw data on various repositories may not portray the proper insights or serve any purpose. Merely sharing with the international expert or just importing overseas concepts followed in developed nation may not fetch us with any desired goal, but a clear understanding of trends in national economy, demographic parameters, heritage, culture and tradition(region-wise) and aspiration of people and other relevant indicators are essential before correlating the same for formulating new skilling strategies.

There are a number of inherent problems in short-term skilling as the duration is very short whereas skilling requires gradual progression in a sequential manner under the guidance of a highly competent trainer. But due to the paucity of time and large target ahead, NSDC's focus is mostly on quantitative dimension instead of real skilling. Selection of effective training partner with upright integrity is the biggest challenge especially when so much of public fund is involved. Proper skilling is a big question concerning their placements when 7 million have already rolled out of skilling process under PMKVY etc. and certified by SSC. Whether they have actually entered into the labour-market and joined the workforce are to be ascertained.

The validity of the present certification for the NSDC's courses in domestic and overseas markets also need to be determined or else so much man hour, fund, etc. will go futile. Handling the Funding process, providing grants, financial incentives and creating strong, viable business model, etc., which are mandated tasks of NSDC, need very dedicated, and proactive individuals with impeccable integrity. But NSDC's task force is mostly on contractual service which calls for strict legal bindings on the individuals to make one answerable if any embezzlement of fund occurs. Selection of competent trainer and equally proficient assessors for the NSDC's training programmes under PMKVY is another biggest challenge.

The foremost challenge for DGT is the functioning of 13355 ITIs under Craftsmen Training Scheme. There are 126 trades covered under CTS, but actually, only Fitter and Electrician trades occupy 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the total seats available in ITIs (i.e. about 17.5 lakh seats out of total 22 lakh seats are only for Fitter & Electrician trades and rest 4.5 lakh seats are for remaining 124 trades). Private ITIs are interested in running Fitter and Electrician trade only for the reason best known to them. It casts doubt on the very existence of ITIs which have dominated Indian skill development system for over six decades. MSDE needs to take strong measures immediately to address this grievous issue.

ITIs' presence in the high employment sectors such as Construction, Apparel, Food Processing, Chemical and Hospitality, etc. is very much negligible and as such even today, these sectors are mostly catered by workforce working in informal/unorganised sectors. Out of about 2200 Government ITIs, the building and equipment and other infrastructure are very old and mostly obsolete. The necessary ambience for productive learning is awfully missing.

Due to no recruitment in most of the State Governments, it is quite common that often one Principal is looking after more than 3 to 4 ITIs. Hence the necessary training administration in ITIs is totally out of gear. No recruitment of instructors and most of the Govt ITIs depend upon contractual trainers who mostly do not possess requisite set of skills. In most cases, the current instructors are not exposed to the latest technology. ITIs, the paucity of the budget for purchase raw materials does not allow the authorities to conduct even basic practical exercises as per curriculum.

It is evident that out of about existing 11,000 affiliated private ITIs, hardly 1500 to 1600 ITIs (about 15 per cent) are conducting regular training on day to day basis. Rests all (more than 80 to 90 per cent) are mostly functioning as certificate selling centres. Neither they have infrastructure nor any trainer, and there is no monitoring from State /Central side. All India Trade Test(yearly twice) is another mockery under the supervision of highly corrupt racket. From mass copying to providing prepared job models from outside at the behest of the so call authorities are very common.
When the country needs about 95,000 Instructors to run the existing ITIs, the yearly capacity for training of trainers is 8600 only. Craft instructor training is to be expanded significantly, and CITS training for instructors should be made compulsory duly linking it with the continuance of affiliation of the respective trade (specifically for private ITIs). Salary structure is very weak specifically in private ITIs to attract the competent instructors. The government might have to bring some enforcement in this regard.

To overcome the challenges, more and more ISDS officers are to be recruited to work in the frontline administration, instead of engaging other services officers who do not possess the technical expertise vis-à-vis industry experience to supervise the skill development process in the country. ISDS service needs to be extended to the State's training directorates also. In NSDA for core research and data analytics job, a collaboration of core experts (from relevant occupations) with statistician and data analysts would probably fetch desirable outcome based on an in-depth understanding of futuristic direction.

ITI system for training under CTS requires complete overhauling and radical change. Cluster-based Skill Training Institutes may be recommended to facilitate more on-job-training under the direct supervision of Master Craftsmen. Retired technical personnel from defence services (average age-35 to 40 years) may be roped in for ITI instructorship and NSDC training centres after giving them some induction training on Principle of teaching. Technical experts from the market (Ustaads) irrespective of their qualification may be inducted in ITIs to supplement the dearth of technical expertise amongst the instructor.

A special scheme should be formulated to pay them higher remuneration so as to attract them to provide practical training to the ITI / NSDC trainees. CII, FICCI and other leading industry associations are to be seriously involved for increasing the participation of private industries in apprenticeship training to facilitate engagement of more and more apprentices. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
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