Lateral mobility

Tags: Knowledge

Changing sectoral contribution has made it critical to promote skills development in new and emerging areas

Lateral mobility
India is at an economic crossroad. One possibility includes a booming economy with ample employment opportunities, a sizeable youth population and the advantage of ‘demographic dividend’ with surplus workforce to support developed economies. The flip side is that while the demand for quality manpower continues unabated, the shortcomings in the quality of available manpower are coming to the fore.

The biggest employer can’t be the only employer. Agriculture continues to be the biggest employer, providing livelihoods to more than half of India’s population. But the changing sectoral contribution to the economic growth, which is skewed against agriculture, makes it critical to promote skills development in new and emerging areas. Life-long learning, with standardised modular curriculum, globally valid competency assessments and certification will not only benefit the persons gaining the new skills, it will also enhance the country’s economic growth.

Standardisation for scale-up of skills development in India is the biggest challenge. Vocational education and training, with nationally valid assessment and certifications, is provided only by two ministries in India — ministry of labour and employment, through industrial training institutes (ITIs), the industrial training centres (ITCs), and industrial apprenticeship training programmes, and the ministry of human resource development, through degree courses, diplomas offered by universities, technical institutions and polytechnics.

The initiatives targeted at the informal sector are mostly under specific ministries, including the ministries of rural development and urban development. Under their poverty alleviation mission, they have targeted skill development interventions for the new and sun-rise sectors of the economy. Various short and long term skills development programmes are run under the different ministries/departments and also through funding from multilateral and bilateral organisations such as UNDP, DFID, World Bank, and USAID.

There is also National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) formed under the ministry of economic affairs through public private partnerships. Besides, there are also private agencies such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations and corporate social responsibility organisations involved in skills development programmes.

The target population for skills development includes all those in the labour force, including those entering the labour market for the first time (approximately 12.8 million annually), those employed in the organised sector (approximately 26 million), and those in the unorganised sector (approximately 433 million). While about 8 per cent of India’s youth are unemployed, around 57 per cent have some kind of skills deficiency. They need some form of skills development or upgrade.

Completion of training cannot be the definition of successful skills development. A common thread across most of the initiatives listed above is that skills development is envisaged to be complete with imparting of training. Apart from the private training agencies, partners of NSDC and the schemes/programmes run by the poverty alleviation missions of ministries of housing and urban poverty alleviation (HUPA) and rural development (MoRD), there are no employment linkages or placement tie-ups for the training programmes.

Skill up-gradation and continuing education needs to be integrated. The programmes allow for only one-time short-term skills development for an entry level job. There are no provisions for furthering growth through skill up-gradation or continuing education.

Sustainable success needs more. An alternative sustainable view might include individual trainee factors such as: sustainable livelihoods, substantial income enhancement, social inclusion, career advancement; as well as programme factors including effective monitoring, standardisation, scale and reach. Once a youth is trained, placed and tracked, there should be opportunities available for skill up-gradation and higher education for him.

Employability is the most desirable outcome of any skill development programme for which employment and the income enhancement are two key metrics. While an immediate assessment and monitoring metric of a programme can be based on the successful employment opportunity gained by the trainee, an important long-term performance metric should also factor in career advancement of its trainees through skill up-gradation.

Lifelong learning through standardised in-service training complete with assessment and certification will not only render vertical and lateral mobility to Indian workforce, but will also enhance national productivity and accelerate economic growth.

(The writer is founder and chairman of Laurus Edutech)

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