Skilling has come to the center stage of policy formation
In a virtual interaction, The Bridge Advisor, Dr. Manoj K. Dash spoke with Praveen Kumar, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India. The conversation revolved around how the Ministry is planning to contribute to the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat through its skill development initiatives. Excerpts from the insightful tete e tete:
TBI: In July 2015 PM launched ‘Skill India’ campaign, with the aim to train over 40 crore people in different skills in India by 2022. We have covered five years since then. Kindly share a glimpse of the major achievements. What are the major challenges that need to be addressed and could you elaborate
PK: In the last five years because of PM’s initiative, skilling has come to the center place of policy formation. Earlier skilling was done mostly in ITIs and people were not aware that this is also a specific area of learning. Last five years have witnessed vast expansion of the ecosystem in the long term and short term.
In the second part, the industry connect has gone up both in the short term and long term. In the short term, training is driven by industry through 37 Sector Skill Councils. In the long term, the Director General of Training has 40 Sector Committees where industries keep on evaluating the courses offered by ITIs and indicate what changes should be brought in. The third thing is changes initiated in the area of apprenticeship. The Act and rules have been amended and new programmes launched. The apprenticeship number has gone up from 1 lac per annum to 2.5 lac per annum. Fourth, quality has improved over time because I see only one parameter as to who should judge quality. It is the user, i.e. the industry. Placement is a good indicator of quality and it has gone up from 10% to 51 % which is a big jump.
The other thing which has happened is that everyone had started giving random courses such as training courses for plumbers. X and Y offering training courses on plumbers used to have a big gap. In order to standardize, the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) is now in place. This has put common standards across country. Anyone having NSQF qualified course can be reasonably assured that a person having done a course would have certain common competencies all across the country. Anyone trained in Kerala can be hired in UP since we know what are the specific competencies which the trainee has got.
Another new thing is incipient regulatory structure. We have National Center for Vocational Technical Education (NCVT) which is a uniform regulator for the skilling sector. It is in the first year of its existence and forming the guidelines. In next 1 to 2 years its impact will be visible.
In the last five years under the central government ecosystem nearly 5.5 crore people were trained including all central ministries including our ministry. I expect equal number would have been trained by the State Sector. We are far from the 22-crore target but it is a big jump from what used to take place earlier. Twenty–Thirty lacs used to be trained every year in the past. Now we are training almost a crore every year. A lot of lessons have been learnt and a lot of issues are still to be addressed.
TBI: Prime Minister has given a clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. So, what kind of changes you are foreseeing in the Ministry so that there is synergy between the two – skill development and Atmanirbhar Bharat. Further, Atmanirbhar Bharat by its inherent design means more entrepreneurial ability and more entrepreneurial spirit. How skill development will bring about more entrepreneurial spirit in the economy so that we become Atmanirbhar?
PK: I will answer this question into two parts. One, in Atmanirbhar Bharat we are focusing more on shifting from imports to local production and also producing for the world – vocal for local and local for global. For the first part our endeavour will be to ensure that Atmanirbhar Bharat does not get derailed due lack of skilled personnel. We will ensure that skilled persons are available for any venture which is coming as a result of our endeavour so that we become the manufacturing capital and universal supplier for the world. That’s why we are tying up with other Ministries to provide the skilled persons they require. Whatever skills the industry wants for facilitating production, be it telecom, highways or railways, will be provided.
Second part is about addressing entrepreneurial needs. One should realize that majority of skilled people don’t wish to set up big businesses. They usually wish to set up a small beauty parlor or a small grocery shop. If someone wants to set up plumbing agency to provide services in a particular area, the agency can meet the demand or they can join forces with Urban Clap type of platform for offering services.
To address such aspirations, we are bringing a new scheme through which we will do an orientation for them in the final month of their program and find out who are interested in entrepreneurship. Persons showing keen interest in entrepreneurship will be exposed to an intense two month course which we have named as mini MBA. At the end of it they will develop a proper project report with a mentor attached to them and local funding through the banks will be organized so that they can develop their business around that project report. We expect to create 5 lac entrepreneurs based on this model for spurring local business.
TBI: Since NEP has now come into place is there any attempt from Ministry to link the NEP parameters, goals and standards with the NSQF?
PK: What we have suggested to schools and higher education departments is that from class 9 to 12, one vocational course should be made compulsory. The school may not set up separate infrastructure and need not spend money. We will tie them up with our short-term training providers and ITIs. School children can be brought once a day to the ITIs where they will get vocational skills and go back. Now also the optional vocational training courses in the school are NSQF approved. In higher education what we are suggesting is while a person is doing Non-professional courses like BA, BCOM and BSC, there should be a choice-based on credit system. Some of the credits can be opted for skilling which will allow dual certification. They will get a BA/ BSC degree. By the time they finish their three years in BA/B Sc, they will also get a skilling certificate. If they are not able to use the BA degree for employment, they can use the skill training certificate.
TBI: As you have very rightly said this pandemic has created new opportunities for many sectors and because of that we’re going for new ways of managing our work on-line, through technology. You know in this context Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Robotics, Cyber Security – all these are coming up. How the Ministry is planning to transform curricula to trigger a transition to an ecosystem which fosters new age skills and innovative mindset?
PK: We have already taken steps for moving towards what we call industry 4.0. In 100 ITIs there are eleven IR 4.0 courses being provided now which include things like Internet of Things, Geo Informatics, Drone Pilot, etc. In the short-term, we are providing advanced subjects like cloud computing, data analytics, etc. where a higher level of training is required. A class 10 dropout cannot straightaway do a course in data analytics. It is for people who are already graduates in Mathematics or other people working on such issues. Basic skilling will remain in demand for many years into the future. It wouldn’t go away so soon and based on the requirements wewill keep on expanding to include new curricula. We have tied up with Microsoft, Google, etc to help us offer courses aligned with new-age technology. This is a dynamic process and based on requirements we will keep on expanding.
[Note: PK = Shri Praveen Kumar; TBI = The Bridge]
To access complete video interview please click here.
The call for Atmanirbhar Bharat pushes the country to believe in a narrative wherein it is imperative for India to make a transition from survival to creative strength. This means we need to focus more on skilled workforce and entrepreneurial muscle to turn India into a leading manufacturing hub of the world. Following which imparting skills to meet the demands of post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to build a self-reliant operating-model.
Dr Manoj Dash gets a sight into the remarkable stories of some leading NGOs who have been functioning relentlessly towards turning this dream into reality.
Functional Vocational Training and Research Society (FVTRS):
FVTRS is a non-profit organisation that promotes vocational skill training since 1993. It operates across the country through partner organisations. Its focus groups have been illiterate and school dropout youth from the marginalised families. The organisation supports its partner organisations for implementing vocational skill training projects designed to enhance vocational, technical and livelihood skills of youth from vulnerable communities.
Over the years it has developed focused and innovative interventions around skill development that also promote entrepreneurial capacity.
SCOPE: Skilling Community Owned Promotion and Enhancement (SCOPE) is a community based and community owned approach to skill development also promoted by FVTRS for continuity and sustainability of its interventions. This model is currently getting experimented in collaboration with six partners in different parts of the country. It has evolved with the perspective that skill training is not necessarily a one-time activity but a continuous process. In this approach participation of the community is encouraged in selecting trade, trainees, training, organising training, forming and mentoring collectives of trainees, employment, continuous education and enhancement of skills and livelihoods.
EDP Centre: Anchored by FVTRS, Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) Centre is a team of master trainers who train trainers on entrepreneurship development. It facilitates and ensures regular EDP training for the trainees of vocational skill during and even after skill training in order to encourage as well as enable trainees to go for entrepreneurial initiatives rather than just seeking jobs.
Magic Bus works with children and young people, living in poverty. It equips children and young people in the age group of 12 to 18 with the skills and knowledge they need to grow up and move out of poverty. It builds their employability skills and maps job potential based on individual strengths and mobility.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Magic Bus adapted its programme and introduced innovative solutions to engage with youth to ensure life and employability skilling continues. As lockdowns were imposed the livelihood centres closed, engagement was shifted to the virtual mode. A quick survey was conducted among the youth connected to its initiatives and it revealed that 60% of them had access to Smartphones. To address this, an interim curriculum was released, to address the training needs of both, those with and without Smartphones.
New batches were also mobilised with the help of its strong alumni network. It was ensured that the newly enrolled youth had access to a Smartphone. Various virtual platforms were tested to host training programmes and capacity of trainers were strengthened in the use of these platforms to deliver training sessions. The training content was customised to include assignments, learning confirmations, case stories, scenarios and video links so as to be able to suit the needs of the online delivery. Currently all its batches are enrolled on an App and the delivery of the sessions happen virtually.
The organisation also launched a new programme, the Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) to support existing micro-businesses and help struggling/stagnant enterprises to survive/grow and become job creators in the near future. Sixty aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the programme and the first cohort received seed money to start their businesses.
Building further on its success, the organisation plans to create 1,000 micro-entrepreneurs in the next three years. This includes identification of aspiring entrepreneurs from the marginalised sections of peri-urban & rural areas, running ideation boot camps, training them on necessary life skills as well as technical entrepreneurship training, business plan creation, seed money support, business set up support, further support to access to capital and market linkages as well as mentoring and handholding support.
Through its digitally run employment exchange programme, the organisation connects thousands of job seekers – both fresh as well as those who lost jobs during the pandemic – with confirmed job opportunities available locally with the organised sector including the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs with skilled manpower will receive focused support as a lot of them got impacted due to the reverse migration of workers.
Rajputana Society of Natural History (RSNH):
Imparting qualitative value-based skill learning for everyone has been one of the primary focus of RSNH. It has established Rajputana Rural Enviropreneurship Development Centre (RREDC) in Bharatpur of Rajasthan for skill development, capacity building and sustainability of the grassroot level workers. The centre offers basic and fundamental courses such as Stitching, Sewing, etc. for women’s empowerment and personality development, spoken English, computer literacy, ornithology and leadership in conservation courses for building capacity in trainees to drive them into entrepreneurial ventures that value preservation and conservation of environment and nature apart from taking care of their livelihoods needs.
The organisation has been implementing a programme since 2014 that seeks economic empowerment of rural women and conservation of traditional art and nature through which one thousand women and their families have been empowered in Sewar and Uchhain Blocks of Bharatpur through entrepreneurial ventures at the village level. This has helped create a consortium of the participant rural women to push women in the local nomadic communities to pursue entrepreneurship and have greater control over their lives while contributing towards improving the local economy.