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India’s skill development story a no success story

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July 15 marked the World Skills Day and optics and big events unlike the past two years was missing this time. In a way it was good because in din pomp and show, the reality becomes a victim. There has been a peculiar manner in which country’s central ministers behave. They invoke PM Modi for everything and perhaps assure themselves that by doing that, their job is done and public trust will be won.

The narrative around skills education or rather development since 2009 being the game changer in country’s prosperity is but all over. The shaky foundations and a peripheral approach towards skills development has been exposed. That against 594 lakh jobs that were created between 1999-2004, there has been a nose-diving decline in these numbers thereafter. Last year only 1.35 lakh   jobs were created as per officials data.  That despite such huge investments and NSDC partnering organizations imparting ‘skills’ to millions, the job creation scenario has not improved is clearly a telling on the state of country’s skilling mission.

The mismatch between what skills are in demand and on what people are being skilled is clearly a big gap in skills story. The MSME sector, which contributes about 38% of employment is seeing decline both in investment, sales and employment generation. And an underlying objective of skill mission has been to produce people who can join this sector or set up their own business.

Nobody is looking at the fundamental flaws of the skills education structure and the whole system is serving a rhetoric which among other things is  on invoking pride in our civilization legacy. The argument is India has always been an artisan-based economy for the last 5000 years that sustained livelihoods. We have always had weavers, potters, metallurgy, farmers, gardeners etc and we need to go back to our roots and find our natural skills that will make us more efficient in our work life.

There are three major shortcomings to skill development programs in the country. First, these lack educational component. So, one may pick up a skill, but s/he lacks other creative and literacy skills that would support him to negotiate his place and progress in the real world. Two, the laboratory infrastructure for hands on training is in real mess. There is no corresponding skills laboratory induction in the mission programs and equipment for even the top notch skills labs has not been changed for decades. Three, even though skills universities have been envisaged, but there is not push to operationalize these. Skills teacher training, certification and refresher course programs along with assessment components are not being addressed with the seriousness that these require.

And the moral remains that unless you mainstream skills education and not take it as a 3-month assignment where you have spend a fortune all these years, your skills story will give you more pain. Country is looking at 33 crore unemployment by 2028 if current situation persists.

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