If administrative features improve, SANKALP can definitely make a positive difference in the ever-evolving skilling landscape of the country.
Skill development in India has evolved over the past few decades, from a programme that focused on technical education provision, to an all-encompassing mission that attempts to create employment in various economic sectors.
The 2009-2014 government had divided the responsibility and administration of skilling initiatives among various ministries. The government elected in May 2014 changed this trend and upgraded the training and apprentice division of the Ministry of Labour and Employment to a brand new Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), that would coordinate skilling efforts.
Currently, the skilling landscape has a plethora of agencies under the MSDE, which attempt to coordinate the different aspects of fulfilling the mammoth task of creating 8.1 million jobs per year in order to keep the employment rate constant. The recently announced Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) project, has some remarkable recommendations which showcase the concerted effort being made by the government to reevaluate the lesser performing elements of the previous skilling cycle. However, is it just another cog in the multiple wheels of the skilling machine? Strengthening the current skilling agencies, instead of adding to the bureaucratic network may be a better solution in the long run.
To elaborate, the MSDE today is a labyrinth of governing bodies, each having its own designated functions. Apart from the MSDE, other ministries also run their own skilling programmes, like for example, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) runs the National Urban Livelihoods Programme (NULM). Some of the features of SANKALP, therefore, overlap and override existing structures that might lead to diffusion of responsibility, thereby leading to ineffective administration.
The SANKALP’s funding structure is that of a public-private-partnership, where the World Bank provides INR 3,300 crore, states leverage INR 660 crore, and industry partners leverage INR 4,455 crore. The project falls within the ambit of the MSDE, and the state skill development missions are meant to implement its objectives. However, the SANKALP project also almost completely mirrors the objectives of the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), which is also under the MSDE, as seen in the table below.
|Objectives of SANKALP
|Objectives of NSDA
|Strengthen institutional mechanisms at both national and state levels.
|The NSDA is actively engaged with the various State governments to plan out their skill development action plan, help them develop their skill development policies, and set up suitable administrative mechanisms through Technical Assistance programmes with the Asian Development bank, European Union and Department for International Development.
|Create convergence among all skill training activities at the state level.
|NSDA has worked with the concerned ministries and stakeholders to achieve convergence of norms across the various central schemes for skill development.
|Provide access to skill training opportunities to the disadvantaged sections of society, including improved access to and completion of skills training for female trainees.
|Ensure that the skilling needs of the disadvantaged and marginalised groups like SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, women and differently abled persons are taken care of.
As shown in the table above, most of the objectives that the SANKALP project espouses are already present as part of the NSDA’s ambit. There are two standout components of the SANKALP project that can actually make a difference by strengthening the current NSDA’s effectiveness. SANKALP’s proposal to set up a Unified National Accreditation Board within the NSDA would standardise registration and accreditation criteria for training providers and training centers, and provide quality differentiation through grading and progressing pathways for institutes and centers. This mechanism is undoubtedly required; the corruption of Vocational Training Partners (VTPs), that avail funds without conducting courses appropriately, will be curbed if accreditation is made contingent upon quality course competition. Through the SANKALP proposal, a stringent system of accreditation can be followed where VTPs are given a final level of accreditation only if a certain number of courses have been successfully completed, with students meeting reasonable attendance targets both at the individual and aggregate levels.
The SANKALP’s proposal to set up a National Skills Research Division within the NSDA is also a welcome move, as the research center would be an independent think tank which will analyse labour market trends, undertake impact evaluation of skill development programmes and provide policy inputs to all related bodies in skill development. Currently, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has conducted an extensive district-wise skill gap study, published in 2013, for all states except Bihar. Though the study is wide in its coverage and in its estimation of the industry’s human resource requirements, there are limitations that need to be addressed through a robust Skill Gap Analysis (SGA) conducted periodically by each state, which this independent think tank can take care of. The SGA reports must not only showcase statistics regarding human resource requirements across various employment sectors in urban areas, they must also reveal how many skilled beneficiaries have been employed and absorbed within these sectors. The MoHUA’s NULM has set aside grants for the states’ governing bodies to conduct their own local SGA, which the MSDE can implement using the SANKALP funds.
Additionally, the SANKALP project also aims to strengthen the NSDA’s Labour Market Information System (LMIS). Currently, the LMIS is a national database in a single window displaying data repositories for four central Ministries’ data on skill development. LMIS under SANKALP will be built as an integrated platform with skill development data of more than 20 ministries and all states.
The SANKALP project is explicitly a national program, with a multi-level implementation structure, with the overall program responsibility resting with the MSDE, and responsibilities being divided between the NSDA, NSDC, National Skill Development Fund, and State Skill Development Missions. However, the new, relevant tenets of the project need to be focused upon, as opposed to creating a separate bureaucratic structure for the implementation of similar objectives of existing agencies. For example, in the “Allocation of Work” notification dated 20th August 2019, the administration of the NSDA and SANKALP are in different wings of the Ministry, with the NSDC and SANKALP under the “International Cooperation and Technology” wing, and the NSDA under the “Economic Policy and National Council for Vocational Education and Training” wing.
Lastly, the fund disbursement from the World Bank needs to ensure that funds are used to strengthen the existing frameworks and courses, as opposed to making any separate entities. There is currently already a difference in the amount of funds disbursed for multiple schemes that target employment of the urban poor, which creates unnecessary confusion and disparity in administration and funding. If these administrative overlaps are taken care of, the innovative proposals under the SANKALP project can definitely make a positive difference in the ever-evolving skilling landscape of the country.
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Aditi Ratho was an Associate Fellow at ORFs Mumbai centre. She worked on the broad themes like inclusive development gender issues and urbanisation.Read More +