How Industry Associations Can Play a Significant Role in Skilling India?

By Dr. Kalyan Goswami – CIMGlobal Head – Association Consulting

This write-up highlights the need of scaling up the concerted efforts to enhance skill development in India, in the context of the country’s transition to a knowledge-based economy, through creating a professional skilled workforce. As the Indian economy grows, a huge number of skilled persons will be required to sustain this growth. Statistics indicate that the net enrolment in vocational courses in India is about 5.5 million per year compared to 90 million in China and 11.3 million in the United States (US). A mere 2-3% of the Indian workers are formally skilled. The 12th Five Year Plan document of Government of India states that there is an urgent need to include skill formation in the formal education system and at the same time innovative approaches required in the informal education system. Although the government’s coordinated action on Skill Development has brought about a paradigm shift in addressing the issues of relevance in skill development. The gaps in skill development are to be identified to achieve the objectives in terms of quantity, quality, and outreach.

India’s transition to a knowledge-based economy demands a new generation of educated and skilled people. Its competitive edge will be determined by the people’s ability to create, share, and use knowledge effectively. A knowledge economy requires India to develop well-trained man force. To achieve this, India needs a flexible education system: basic education to provide the foundation for learning; secondary and tertiary education to develop core capabilities and core technical skills; and further means of achieving lifelong learning. The education system must be attuned to the new global environment by promoting creativity and improving the quality of education and training at all levels. In a globalised economy, a large pool of skilled workers is indispensable for attracting industrial investment including foreign direct investment. Developing skilled workers enhances the efficiency and flexibility of the labour market; reduces skills bottlenecks, enables absorption of skilled workers more easily into the economy, and improves their job mobility. It is crucial to invest in quality secondary and tertiary education and in vocational education and training if the Indian economy is to develop and remain competitive in the world market.

The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 has targeted to meet the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standard (quality), and sustainability. It aims to provide an umbrella framework to all skilling activities being carried out within the country, to align them to common standards and link skilling with demand centres. In addition to laying down the objectives and expected outcomes, the policy also identifies the overall institutional framework which will act as a vehicle to reach the expected outcomes. Skill development is the shared responsibility of the key stakeholders viz the Government, the entire spectrum of the corporate sector, community-based organisations, those outstanding, highly qualified and dedicated individuals who have been working in the skilling and entrepreneurship space for many years, industry and trade organisations, and other stakeholders. The policy links skill development to improved employability and productivity in paving the way forward for inclusive growth in the country.

The following scenario can gauge the magnitude of the task of skilling in India:

  • 12.8 million Indians annually entering the labour market for the first time
  • 72.88 million employed in the organized sector
  • 387.34 million working in the unorganized sector

Recognizing the priority given to skill development, there has been a steady increase in the financial allocations made for this sector over the years. However, it has to be examined whether the allocation can meet the targets, given various challenges. This will have to be further supplemented by other stakeholders given the enormous infrastructure and other requirements to meet the target of skilling 500 million people by 2022. Most of the formal skills-related training in the government apparatus happens through institutions such as the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and the Industrial Training Centres (ITCs) and polytechnics which come under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Many of the ITIs have now been brought under the public-private partnership (PPP) route. Informal skills-related training, including that in the traditional arts and crafts of India, is also supported through different government ministries. All states have set up Skill Development Missions. The National Open School system also runs a number of vocational training programmes. A number of community colleges have been approved by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and by several states. Many companies to conduct training programmes to meet the skilling requirements of their own workforce, or sometimes as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, as also do non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Clearly, there are multiple efforts and the efforts of the private sector are also linked to different schemes.

The vocational education system in the country faces the daunting task of trying to achieve the goals of the National Skill Development and Entrepreneurship policy of 2015. Foremost, the vocational education stream itself has poor visibility due to several reasons like low awareness among the stakeholders, and lack of parity in wage structure between formally qualified and vocationally trained graduates. Further, the public perception on skilling, as the last option meant for those who have not been able to progress or have opted out of the formal academic system, has created a low demand for vocational education. This is due mainly to the tendency of industry to discriminate between skilled and unskilled persons, thereby depriving the skilled workforce of any meaningful economic incentive. This is also compounded by the fact that most of the vocational training programmes are not aligned with the requirements of the industry.

However, all policies and frameworks are only as good as their implementation on the ground. Studies indicate that there is a lack of emphasis on quality in training transaction, curriculum, training infrastructure and a host of other aspects. The challenge is to facilitate these institutions to keep pace with the fast-growing technological demands for industry and the expanding universe of knowledge through a well-designed quality paradigm. Further, such an attempt to enhance the quality of training and training infrastructure through improved design and delivery system would, more importantly, have positive employment outcomes of graduates from the vocational training system especially in the existing industrial and economic scenarios where a considerably high demand for professional technicians exists.

Skill development programmes of the Central Government over the years have been spread across more than 20 ministries/departments without any robust coordination and monitoring mechanism to ensure convergence. The scenario is no different in most of the states except for a few states which have moved towards functional convergence by creating State Missions. This legacy has resulted in the multiplicity of norms, procedures, curricula, certification and the like. Further, many of these skill development initiatives often remain unaligned to demand, thus defeating the entire objective.
The availability of good quality trainers is a major area of concern. There is a lack of focus on the development of trainer training programs, and career progression pathways for trainers have also not been defined. As trainers are critical to enhancing the quality of training imparted, it is highly essential that this aspect is addressed on a priority basis. In this regard, the industry has to play a major role.

Thus, it is evident that financing & proper job-oriented training is vital in skilling India. The government alone cannot meet the total costs of the required infrastructure, trainers’ training and other such expenditure. In this context, the role that CSR can play is enormous. In this regard, the Industry Associations with the Financial support (CSR) from their Members can do a splendid & meaningful job. Which would definitely benefit the Industry & Industry members in turn.

The United Nation (UN) is supporting Government of India in skilling, entrepreneurship development, strengthening the labour market information systems. UN is also helping the States to work out Quality implementation & delivery system. Efforts are concentrated in low-income states and districts and the North-East, and sectors including micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) development, rural labour markets, labour intensive manufacturing, infrastructure development and new sectors such as green industry and affordable housing. International Associations & Societies have got treasure of knowledge, specially in the field of Para medical field, Occupational safety & Industrial hygiene, Mold making and casting process, Making fast food Etc. International Associations & Societies with the support of Indian counterpart can do remarkable job in skilling India.

Willing to know more? Please contact Dr. Kalyan Goswami, Head – Association Management at [email protected] or by phone: +91 124 461 7700.