Education: Skill Gap, a Problem or Solution?

I am firm believer that India could meet the challenge of Naxalites or Maoists only through quality universal education and good skill training. Can some sociologists do a quick research by asking the young men and women of the country if they wish to get training with guns or on computers and machine/hand tools?

Only 11% of young persons passing class XII go to universities and other institutes for higher education. Can the country train the rest in building some skills that can make them employable in the country or abroad? According to an estimate, by 2020 the world will have a shortage of 46 million working people while India will have a surplus of 47 million working people. And today the persons with skills are in demand all over the world.

The government is alive to the needs. Private sectors are also aware of the challenge that is the sure way to the national priority to insure inclusive growth. There are many companies such as Bosch who are helping in skill building. NGOs and social entrepreneurs are also participating.

Prahalad in his mission ‘India@75’ set a target of 500 million trained manpower in India by 2022. The government accepted his target. And the action plan has started. For example, the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), a 51:49 public-private partnership, is mandated to skill 30 per cent of an overall target of 500 million people by 2022.

This is to answer an estimate that 80 per cent of 12-18 million new entrants to India’s workforce every year have very little opportunity for skills training. The current vocational training infrastructure caters to just about 2.5 million per year.

Many like me have been advocating that every child coming out of school after Class XII examination must be having at least one skill that can help him in getting employed usefully in life, if required.
I say so as the requirement of skill are pretty traditional: farmers, cooks, hairdressers and beauticians, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons, drivers for cars, commercial vehicles including some such as forklifts, and harvesters and other agriculture equipment or tractors. However, with level of technogies going fast, the skill level demanded is also getting higher. A plumber or electrician today must know much more.

For many service sectors too such as retail front-end selling and merchandising, pathology lab technicians, healthcare equipment technicians, administrative and secretarial functions, tourism guides, fitness instructors, and many tasks, the education can have special skill building courses as elective subjects at school level. The skill imparted at institute level may be only the basic, but the institute builds a capability in its student to learn further easily on the job. And the Union government is trying to follow the route with a promise of spending Rs31, 000 crore on skills development through vocationalization of secondary education.

Unfortunately, less than 6 per cent of the country’s huge number of persons joining the workforce receives any form of vocational training. India needs to expand vocational training from the present capacity of a mere two to three million to at least 15 million new entrants to the labour force.

As reported, the government has committed to set up 1,500 ITIs and 50,000 Skill Development Centres in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. Presently, vocational training in India comprises about 5,500 industrial training institutes and about 1,750 polytechnics. China has over 500,000 such institutes. India offers about 175 trade-training programs. The US offers over 1,500 trade-training programmes. So India is to go miles in vocational training.

India will have to go innovative, may be through informal route.

India must go for capacity increase of the vocational training institutes, as it produces six million students every year. I doubt this figure. Even if it is correct, that’s pretty low considering that an estimated 88.5 million people in the 15-29 age group need such training. The quality of the training imparted at these institutes must improve, as according to the industry, less than half of the six million people who have received vocational training are in the employable category.

In the next five years, with a projected average GDP growth of over 7 per cent, India will have the potential to create an additional 75-80 million jobs and of these, almost 75 per cent will require vocational training. Over 31 per cent of employers worldwide are looking for finding qualified and trained manpower, especially those in manual trades.

Can India take the route to prosperity through skill development of its workforce?

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