From traditional systems and outdated infrastructure to the disappointing and often misleading metrics, skill development in India has been left wanting despite the best intentions of successive governments. In order to avoid the risk of a ballooning class of unemployable young adults, we must work on approaching the issues surrounding the current skilling agenda in a multifarious and systematic manner.
To change the landscape of skilling in India, we must reinvent the Government’s role in this grand agenda.
To create a vibrant & self-sustaining Skills Ecosystem, we need to minimize the heavy hand of Government and dependence on CSR. This model needs replication across the skills spectrum. Having created awareness, interest and some foundation, the vision now for the government should be, to no longer fund and manage but to only provide a framework for collaboration between
2) Training partners
3) Career/ placement counsellors
Government must now create a mechanism that encourages percolation through local small and medium players even as large players find their own space. This can be done by facilitating “models” that work, providing incentives like tax breaks and easier loans from the banking system – similar to any other small and medium entrepreneur – rather than directly providing “patient capital” thereby intrinsically defining it as a largely unviable opportunity.
Like the Education sector, the Skilling sector has the potential to have a life of its own. Market demand & supply will naturally determine the flow of skills to where they are most needed, at a price that is viable for all. The early void in IT skills was ably filled by enterprising promoters of companies that went on to grow value creating giants like NIIT, Aptech etc. Along with them a range of small entrepreneurs entered the fray, independently or as franchisees.
The Sector Skills Councils were envisaged to be financially independent PPPs led by industry and this must continue to be the driving goal – giving them the freedom to set their goals rather than just execute government schemes and budgets. This will ensure industry really takes greater ownership than we have yet seen.
Like the Education Ministry, the Skills Ministry can continue to set policy, but autonomous players should set their own agenda within the regulated standards. This will enable more innovation, entrepreneurial drive and excellence with the Skill Providers. The Skills Entrepreneur is central to building a market efficient skills industry. This can be manifest in many forms – from a freelance individual to a promoter of an autonomous private company of any type. The world is witnessing a trend from start-up Unicorns focused on scale to start-up Zebras who focus on social value they create. Attracting younger generation entrepreneurs with the new value systems is critical to unleash the energy here. To create more and more such responsible entrepreneurs, it is critical to evolve viable and prosperous business models for skilling the millions in need.
Currently goals are driven for training individuals. Instead they must be set to approve and recognise Skilling companies and institutes and giving them access to the necessary incentives and networks. Government should be an enabler, not an implementer.
In a world where we are moving towards gig working and encouraging entrepreneurship, these schemes have to be reimagined for skills excellence instead of job placements, measured just like education – by the grades, pass rates, and starting salaries or career prospects. (jobs and livelihoods will automatically follow these)
Most developed nations have procedures to ensure that skilled professionals like electricians, plumbers, agricultural machine operators and other skilled trade workers regularly update their skills and stay updated with new technology. Setting strict licensing standards without the hassle of additional bureaucracy could play the role of a key differentiator for the Indian workforce. Such regulation procedures would also ensure that older populations stay updated with their skills and are not left behind in the skilling agenda.
Apart from reinventing the government’s role in skilling, we must also consider the roles of the other partners in the skilling ecosystem – mainly entrepreneurs and employers. The global pandemic has offered us a chance to invest in our most precious form of resource – human capital. While many urban individuals have woken up to the importance of upskilling and reskilling, it is imperative that this trickles down to all corners of the country, offering the boost that is required to not just the corporate market but also the unorganized sectors.
In the next article of this series, we will explore in depth the role of entrepreneurs and employers in the skills ecosystem of India.
This is the second article in this series. If you missed the first article, you can read here : Reimagining the Skilling Landscape of India