Jatinder Singh, PHDCCI, Education, Skill, India Matters, Skill Development, govt
Source: Wiki

Okun's Law correlates GDP growth and unemployment in an overtly distinct manner. Primarily, it states that any government (across the world) cannot sustain a jobless growth for a long period of time – if unemployment rises by 1%, GDP growth rate will be 2% lower than the actual potential of the concerned economy. A step ahead, various studies and incidences have had also pointed out on a direct connection between unemployment and poverty and crime.

The increasing vicious trajectory of crime and endemic poverty one can assume due to unemployment, under-employment and relative deprivation is unassailable. Noticeably, whereas India is sitting on a demographic goldmine with median population age of 27.3 years, compared to 35 years for China and 47 years for Japan, it really awaits a giant leap forward to reap the demographic dividend.

Together, a robust eco-system of education and skill development offer the elixir for employment, entrepreneurship and inclusive growth. While the understanding is common placed, but at top end of policymaking, sadly the sensitivity is not reciprocating well with a grim reality that the Indian education system has some grave flaws and which need to be attended without further delay to stake India’s greater claim in the world. Alas, the emphasis till date has been only on imparting education in general means and without clearly focusing on the life that lies ahead in profession. A sad reminder of truth, our school system has never addressed the issues of skilling, employability, entrepreneurship and equitable work system.

From their own sides, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India (GoI) and State Governments are working on infusing vocational traction to the education, but it has not met the desired goals. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) study of Pratham is an eye opener for the policy framers which clearly reveals through facts, figures and research findings from the ground that children are hardly learning in primary classes. This is worrisome!

On the “Skilling Index” of the World Economic Forum (WEF), India poorly stood at rank 65 out of 130 countries.  The two landmark educational reforms, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Right to Education Act (RTE), have been successful in improving enrolments, nevertheless both could not fully address the serious issues of quality education and employability.

With Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) close to 25% in higher education, 75% school dropouts are left in lurch and without a glimmer of job prospects. These children are left on their own for disarrayed courses/informal training. Students from low income families feel that higher education will not help in fetching a job. Utmost focus is required for the students of this category. The rest 25% who joins the higher education are better equipped to find a job. As the majority of the jobs are concentrated in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), a robust enabling environment for this sector is the key. Government is reciprocating for the needs of job creation, and it should open-up the discourse to facilitate the welcome changes.

Emerging technologies are the key determinants for manufacturing sector, and hence naturally, the skill gap on emerging technologies is increasing day-by-day. Indian Skill Ecosystem which is majorly funded by the Government is creating a supply chain of skilled manpower for the currently available jobs – the futuristic job skills are not its mainstay. A balanced approach is required in this direction and it is a positive sign that the Large Corporates have started making Industry 4.0 Blueprint. Emerging areas like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, mechatronics, robotics, drones, machine language learning, automation, prototype modelling, etc. will change the skilling landscape in the times to come. The specific skills in these areas will be in high demand soon. Government’s proactive missions – ‘Skill India’ and ‘Startup India’ -- are dealing with the disruptions in the job market, but it would be too early at this point of time to relate their positive effects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A consistent reality of our time is ‘technology disruption’ that poses the challenge of finding equilibrium in demand and supply of skilled workers.

To overcome the challenge, the industry will pay a wage premium to the skilled human resources if quality training and assessments are weaved in the fabric of education and skill development and result in productivity.

In most of the intellectual deliberations, the case of skill development starts with finding a prominent mention of electricians and plumbers, not robot programmer or sanitary officer. This exactly shows where the missing link is. The supply side of skilling is entirely the Industry cup of tea. Of late, Sector Skill Councils are created to fill this void, but their desired interventions are yet to be deciphered properly.

Skilling is majorly about practical training, mindsets and practices.  By virtue of their training, the academicians and the management teams at schools can be excellent in teaching and managing students but barring exceptions, they are not aligned with the industry requirements. Unfortunately, the regulatory mechanism restricts private sector ‘for profit’ intervention in education thus leading to loss of opportunity for Public Private Partnership (PPP).

Ideally, there can be a likelihood of medium and large scale enterprises to adopt one school/college. The senior management personnel can be the principal for one day every month, and whatever decisions are made by him/her within the purview of rule book are binding to all. Additionally, large corporate houses can nominate their management personnel for consulting assignments in different departments in MHRD/State Governments for stipulated time period.

I am sure that in their interest to create pipeline of skilled workforce and also for the call of national duty, the industry-at-large will be forthcoming to such arrangement. This innovative model will help accruing maximum value from small but strategic interventions. Our Prime Minster has rightly said that “enabling, rather than regulating” should be the guiding force for regulators. They should heed it.

Industry has to partner in this mission, if the business has to go ahead as usual. With greater connect of education, skill, employability and actual employment opportunities – the synergy will be created to save India to become the ‘Expat Hub’ of the world.

Human resource development can only happen when the youth of the country is not only educated but has employable skills. 90% of the jobs in India are skill-based and only 5% of the youth are vocationally trained. To bridge the gap, we cannot separate general education with vocational education and skill development.

Against this backdrop, formation of a single Ministry of Education and Skill Development is the answer to connect the dots. Present generation studying in schools has larger responsibility in this VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) World. Universally in the 21st Century, the management system demands change and creativity and that calls for a paradigm shift in the education system.

Dr. Jatinder Singh is the Director (Education, Skill Development, Innovation and HR), PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The views expressed in this article are personal. He can be reached on: drjsinghw@gmail.com

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).



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