National Skills Development Mission Program

State Level Consultation at Y.B. Chavhan Centre, March 29, 2011

With the growth rate on a runaway spree of 9% plus and a burgeoning youth population entering the workforce, India seems to be in an ideal situation today. However the reality we see is different. The gap between the rich and poor and the benefits they accrue from the growing economy, is increasing exponentially. In a situation where jobless growth is the main characteristic of this economic growth, it has become all the more imperative to review the employment opportunities that exist in the market and its convergence with the people being added to the workforce every year.

It is on this background that Bhalchandra Mungekar Foundation, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Social and Economic Change, Navmaharashtra Yuva Abhiyan, Yashvantrao Chavhan Pratishthan and YUVA (Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action) came together to organize a one-day consultation on the 'National Skill Development Program' at the Y. B. Chavhan Centre, Mumbai on 29th March 2011.

The idea was to initiate discussion with policy makers, youth activists, people's movements, NGO's and industry representatives; to take a step forward in understanding the challenges faced in skill development, the opportunities presented, the on-ground problems faced in the current socio-economic context and to develop a road-map for the coming days.

Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar (Member of Parliament), Mr. Rajesh Tope (Ministry of Higher & Technical Education, Government of Maharashtra), Ms. Supriya Sule (Member of Parliament), Mr. Bhutange (Director Technical Education, Government of Maharashtra), Mr. Vivek Sawant (Managing Director MKCL), Mr. Rajesh Thokle (Skill Training Head, Pratham), Mr. Deepak Bhatia (Head Taj Public Service Welfare Trust), Mr. Ashok Shahane (G.M. Corporate Training, L&T) presented their views and experiences in the meeting, attended by over 50 representatives and activists from various NGO's and movements.

In the welcome address Mr. Rajendra Bhise (Program Director, YUVA) emphasized on the fact that while India boasts of the highest percentage of youth population, there is a shortage of requisite skills being offered in the market. There is therefore a need for such interactions on skill development program, and coming up with recommendations which can be shared with the government.

Ms. Supriya Sule spoke on how the ITI's and KVK's are benefiting society giving examples of the support provided by KVK's to surrounding farmers. She pointed out that these institutions are still not sufficiently developed and face problems like paucity of resources which limit their effectiveness; and hence strengthening them is of primary importance.

Dr. Mungekar reiterated that 90% of our labour force is unskilled. Realizing the importance of tackling this statistic, the government has made available Rs. 22,800 crores to the National Skill Development Mission. IIT's and IIM's are the undisputed centres of excellence, but what about those who are not a part of these institutions? The National Skill Development Mission is critical for catering to them. He also pointed out that there needs to be stringent monitoring and evaluation of the ITI's and their modules of development.

Mr. Bhutande said that till now ITI's were the main avenue of skill development for people. They were developed mainly to cater to manufacturing industries. But today the growing sectors are retail, banking, finance, healthcare etc. So there is a disparity in need and supply. Jobs like cashier, sales, front office or back office in retail or hospitality can be done by even those who are not graduates; but the youth need to access the opportunities made available to them to upgrade their skills. There are schemes like the Apprentice Scheme to train them in the industry they might be interested in. There are also Private Public Partnerships which provide certificates with international recognition. But the information has to reach parents and students. It is also necessary to show dreams to the youngsters, to give them an understanding of what can be their trajectory in the next 20 years if they start as a mason for example. ITI's also have facilities to promote entrepreneurship to encourage students to start their own business of providing services like carpentry to housing societies.

In the question answer session, questions were raised regarding the criteria for taking admission in these courses, the support given for entrepreneurial efforts, the processes for disseminating information about the various opportunities and courses, etc. Mr. Bhutande explained that various training courses offered by the ITI's and other schemes of the government can be accessed by anyone above 14 years of age. They are open to all without any reservations and anyone who is interested in learning or upgrading their skills will find a suitable option.

Mr. Rajesh Thokle gave information about the various initiatives of the NGO Pratham in skill training, like their industry specific training in hospitality, agriculture, construction, their employment readiness centres and education for education scheme. Pratham has partnered with Taj to give training in hospitality and F&B sector and L&T in construction. He explained the benefits students accrue in these trainings as a result of this direct connection with industries like subsidized training, certificate of recognition, possibility of absorption within the same company, better facilities, etc. Another important aspect is the dignity being accorded to different types of work. For example L&T supplies helmets, jackets, shoes, proper living conditions, etc. which develop a sense of dignity otherwise missing in the lives of construction workers. He emphasized on the need to pay more attention to the youth who drop out of school by the 7th to 10th standard. He suggested that we should also try to develop cooperatives of the trained youth which can take contracts themselves rather then providing labour to the contractors. Another issue is that most of the students cannot afford fees and it is essential to provide loans and microfinance facilities.

Mr. Deepak Bhatia and Mr. Shahane gave information about the skill development initiatives of the Taj Group and L&T respectively and details of how one can make use of them and its benefits.

The main takeaways from the day were:

  • India has one of the highest numbers of youth entering the workforce every year. However very few among them have formal training, some receive on-job training while almost 90% are unskilled.
  • It is necessary to increase access of marginalized communities to skill development and training opportunities and improve their employability.
  • While jobless growth is a reality, lack of requisite skills is a hindrance in accessing available jobs. So we need to bridge the gap between industry and training institutes to ensure relevant training syllabus and models. Partnership between production units and academic institutes is one option. Newer areas like the service sector – hospitality, health, finance, agro industry – and the unorganized sector which constitutes the majority of employment opportunity have to be studied and catered to.
  • We need to make technology accessible to all. Knowledge oriented e-applications and e-platforms can be used for effective skill upgradation and for increasing quality, productivity and sustainability with profitability. Innovation in traditional occupations like agriculture will bring youth back to them. There is also the need to bring dignity and respect to blue-collared jobs and to showcase the possibilities therein.
  • There is a need for increasing the number of ITI's and skill training institutes and establish mechanisms for their qualitative evaluation. Certification can be done from academic and industry.
  • One further needs to ensure dissemination of relevant information among the people. This can be done through use of media and partnering with NGO's.
  • Scholarships, easy education loans and microfinance need to be made available to those who need it. One should encourage students to turn entrepreneurs or form cooperatives to provide services in the society, and provide the financial and other support required for it.

This consultation was but a beginning. It is now our responsibility to take the work ahead to ensure an increase in the percentage of skilled labour in Indian economy and for a more equitable society.