Opinion

Holistic skilling

B Chandrasekaran | Updated on July 01, 2021

Merge mainstream and vocational

Most innovations are products of human labour, genius and sacrifice. The innovator moves on to work on the intellectual idea, purely based on his/her competence, knowledge, passion and curiosity. Nothing characterises this than the Covid-19 vaccines produced successfully by the medical community, surmounting challenges of time constraints, and knowledge about the new virus.

The success is an interplay of capital, collaboration, regulatory mechanisms and, mostly importantly, the scientific and technological know-how, put simply, skills.

Many initiatives have been undertaken in the skills sector by governments in th last decade. But outcomes are still elusive due to lack of cohesion within policy actions, absence of holistic approach and working in silos. There is an acute need for a stronger institutional framework for imparting skills and a supporting ecosystem.

The piecemeal approach to skilling can be seen in this year’s Budget which has allocated ₹3,000 crore to realign the National Apprenticeship Training scheme but has restricted it to only engineering stream and not to other science and arts streams.

The third version of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, launched to impart skills development to over 8 lakh persons in 2020-21, suffers from excessive reliance on the District Skills Development Committees, chaired by District Collectors, who would not be able to prioritise this role, given their other assignments.

The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), created in 2013 for resolving the inter-ministerial and inter-departmental issues and eliminate duplications of efforts of the Centre, has been now subsumed as part of the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT). This reflects not only discontinuity in policy process, but also some obfuscation among policy makers.

The UNDP’s Human Development Report-2020 says in India only 21.1 per cent of the labour force was skilled in the period 2010-2019. According to a 2019 study by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), 7 crore additional people in the working-age of 15-59 years are expected to enter the labour force by 2023, of which 5.9 crores or 84.3 per cent will be in the age group 15-30 years, half of whom are expected to come from the 15-20 years age cohort.

Entering the workforce

The number of expected entrants is projected to peak to 1.29 crore in 2023 alone. Six States alone (Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka) account for 50 per cent (about 3 crore) of the new youth entrants (15-30 years). Given the sheer magnitude of youth to be skilled, it is paramount that the policy efforts are adequate in all respects.

The New Education Policy emphasises on integration of vocational and formal education both at school and higher education levels and a pilot ‘hub-n-spoke’ model has been implemented in two States “with the conceptual framework of early introduction of VET (vocational education and training) in schools and an ITI becoming a ‘Hub’ for providing VET related training and exposure to students of adjoining 5-7 schools. It is hoped that the artificial separation of the education system into formal and vocational shall end with such enabling frameworks allowing seamless integration.”

Hence, we really need to start working at school level, be it private or government, and create an institutional framework with holistic approach towards of development skills.

To make Bharat Atmanirbhar, all the skilling efforts need to be brought under one platform to eliminate silos and duplications. A sturdy institutional framework with practical and real pathways to change course between mainstream and vocational programmes needs to be put in place.

The writer, a former Consultant to Union Planning Commission, works in public policy

Published on July 01, 2021

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