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The National Higher Education Commission in its report estimated that by 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. According to the India Labour Report 2012, India adds over 12 million to its workforce annually. Thus, more than half of its 1.3 billion people are young. This is the demographic advantage that India has today. India is growing at 7-8% p.a and is the fastest growing major economy in the world. To keep this momentum going, skilling is recognised as an important strategy to realize the potential of demographic advantage and to achieve growth and prosperity, failing which may prove to be disastrous.

Skill training ensures one to acquire better livelihood. It boosts the prospects of job opportunities and productivity. It helps to increase savings, investments and empowers the community by increasing the purchasing power. It also develops industrial-cum-entrepreneurial skills among the youth and ensures equitable access to resources, effectively contributing to the nation’s growth. 

India aims to become a knowledge economy and a manufacturing hub. It is estimated that India will add over 100 million to its workforce by 2020. However, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) in its Annual Report 2015-16 notes that only 4.69% of the total workforce in India has undergone formal training as compared with 50% in China, 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea. Besides, studies indicate, in India only about 45% of our fresh graduates are employable.

Accordingly, the Government launched the National Skill Development Mission in 2015 with a focus on strengthening institutional training, infrastructure, convergence, training of trainers, overseas employment, sustainable livelihoods and leveraging public infrastructure. It has adopted National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015 which provides an enabling framework to skill and re-skill about 400 million by 2022. The government has also launched Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) in 2015 to enable a large number of Indian youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood. An innovative concept of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is being introduced to provide for the assessments of skills acquired by the individual through experience followed by certification.

Sector Skill Councils (SSC) are autonomous bodies which are envisaged to play a vital role in bridging the gap between what the industry demands and what the skilling requirements ought to be through the National Occupation Standards. A recent Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana  (SPC) report observed that the entire focus of SSCs have been on the implementation of PMKVY and chasing targets, with no regard to the skilling requirements of the sectoral industries, global standards or the placements. In this regard, most of the SSCs compromised on the quality of training, assessment and certification. The report also observed the lack of clear roles of industry, government and other stakeholders to ensure accountability. The report identified ‘inadequate industry interface’ as one of the major issues facing the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in India. Also, a recent parliamentary report on private ITIs brought to the light the mushrooming of private ITIs – approved by the Quality Council of India- which suffers from the failure of regulation, lack of quality training and placements. Further, the industries have been slower in adopting the apprentices under National Apprenticeships Promotion Scheme.

An aspect which can have long-term consequences is that the participation of women in VET is low as compared to men. Further, a survey conducted by the Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD), found that after training, male participants were 13 percentage points more likely to receive a job offer than females. Nearly one-third of females did not receive a job offer compared to 15 per cent of males. There is also a schism between the needs of the industry and the aspirations of the youth.

The role of industries is very significant. SPC notes that the commitment of industry towards training happens only when they contribute and are closely involved. SPC recommends Reimbursable Industry Contribution (RIC) of about 2% of their annual wage bill should be collected from all small, medium and large enterprises employing 10 or more persons. The employers themselves will manage this fund through SSC. With this effort, the enterprises will be able to train youth according to their exact requirement. They can be reimbursed the cost of training incurred on meeting their skill needs depending upon their annual training plan and performance. Further, there is a need for rigorous assessments and audits of the VETs by the third party bodies.      

Skilling will only yield fruits with a solid basic education which should be based on strengthening reading, writing, comprehending and arithmetic skills and the children should be sensitised about the dignity of labour. With technology dictating changes in the nature of jobs, education should also enable the workforce to skill, re-skill, up-skill and adapt. Further, education and skilling should also develop managerial skills, creativity, and enhance comprehensive capabilities. In fact, skilling should become an integral part of the education system as has been in existent in European countries. For instance, Germany’s secondary education is separated into two parts-lower and upper. In the lower, basic general education is taught. The upper secondary education has a vast variety of vocational programs that help individuals earn high skills for a specific profession. This education system is very encouraging to young individuals as they actively see the fruits of their labour. Most of the highly skilled workforce has gone through this well-known dual system. Further, an innovative model of connecting vocational education to higher education could be developed to increase mobility. Learning mode should be comprehensive of online, onsite, on-the-job, on-campus training and apprenticeships. ‘Training the trainer’ model should be an important part of the modules. SPC recommends that a framework for training of trainers should be evolved which should include entry qualifications, pedagogy skills, duration, etc. The trainers should be given at least six months of industry training and should be paid at par with their counterparts in the industry. Further, a system should be explored where the workers and the trainers regularly update their core skills and knowledge.

In the long-run, the strategy should involve skilling the women and persons with disabilities and increasing their share in the workforce. NGOs have been particularly working in increasing inclusivity. Besides, several NGOs can leverage their advantages and can be upgraded to ‘Centres of Skill Development’.

It is imperative to have real-time data monitoring with respect to the new skills, skill constraints, aspirations, outcome measurements of the interventions region-wise. The development of Skill Development Indicators (SDI) would ensure availability of data, tracking the performance, enable healthy competition between various states and also help replicate successful models elsewhere. SDI could broadly be categorized as the following parameters- Access, measuring the capacity and outreach of the programmes; Relevance, measuring the ease of entry to the labour market; Equity, measuring the equal accessibility of the opportunity to all; Quality, measuring the standards of the training imparted and Finance, measuring the cost-effectiveness of the funding.

A Skill Development University offering specialized programmes for advancing skills could be established. Innovative solutions like ‘Skills on Wheels’ model, as existent in Brazil, that would take information and skills-training to the remote and rural areas should be explored. Career counselling windows, portals, job fairs, skill fairs should be carried out at the district-levels. Establishing Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras at the district-level is a right move in this regard. Further, all the initiatives should be decentralized which ensures accountability and scalability. It is crucial to increase the aspirational value of livelihoods by increasing their marketability. Similar steps must also be taken to regularly skilling the skilled workforce to innovate and be relevant. Again, industries play a prominent role in this regard. We also need to create more jobs to ensure employment availability.

Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) is a multi-stakeholder coalition among public sector, the private sector, and civil society actors led by World Bank aims to increase the number of young people engaged in productive work. A similar modelled-body could be established in India. With the government’s stated aim of skilling 400 million people by 2022, only about 25 million youth have been imparted training so far under Skill India by MSDE. Thus, the Skill India Mission needs a comprehensive makeover. There needs to be converged synergies among government, academia, industries and community to create a healthy ecosystem of skilling which would also support a rise in ease of doing business. India can leverage its demographic dividend as a generation’s dreams are at stake. We are at the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, thus with proactive participation from stakeholders and finding innovative ideas in skilling the population, India can become skill-capital of the world.


Kanoria, S. (2018, July 20). Skilling for India’s future: All skilling an up-skilling initiatives must be industry-led. Financial Express. Retrieved from: https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/skilling-for-indias-future-all-skilling-an-up-skilling-initiatives-must-be-industry-led/1251432/

Mehrotra, S. & Pratap, A. (2018, April 6). ‘Skill India’ urgently needs reforms. The Hindu. Retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/skill-india-urgently-needs-reforms/article23447258.ece

MSDE. (2016, December). Report of the committee for rationalization  & optimization of the functioning of the sector skill councils. Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. New Delhi

Mukherjee, D. (2017, October 23). Skill India - What is the impact and what needs to be done? People Matters. Retrieved from: https://www.peoplematters.in/article/skilling/skill-india-what-is-the-impact-and-what-needs-to-be-done-16659

Sanghi, S. & Lakshmi, P. & Khurana, S. (2018, March 28). India needs to Develop Skill Development Indicators. NITI Aayog [Blog]. Retrieved from: http://niti.gov.in/content/india-needs-develop-skill-development-indicators

Sengupta, A. & Chapman, T. (2018, March 21). India needs innovative ways of skilling and educating. Observer Research Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/india-needs-innovative-ways-of-skilling-and-educating/

Image Credit: India Education Diary

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Written By Harish Nalawade

I am an Engineer, observer, and a thinker with a firm belief in research-driven and outcome-oriented approaches for solving the problems in our society.

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