The simple fact about skill development is that it isn’t an easy business. Not only is it a challenge to get prospective candidates into skill building institutes, industry is yet to be convinced of the benefits of inducting skilled workers at higher wages, but across the board. Yet, there is a consensus that getting the various stakeholders together to create an ecosystem is essential.
For the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), the Rs 2,500-crore public-private-partnership tasked with imparting skills to 150 million people by 2022 , this is the difficult reality it needs to contend with.
“There is no structured data available in India, unlike other countries. No names or addresses, although there are so many projects happening like Aadhaar and other schemes. There are lot of supply-side people, but who are they and where are they? So, it becomes a mammoth task to target them, and to even reach that person becomes very difficult,” says Sanjay Bahl, president of NIIT’s Skill Building Solutions business that aims to train seven million people in 10 years under its partnership with NSDC.
Bahl is going for the massive, young population, who complete their Standard X and XII exams but subsequently drop out of the formal, mainstream education system. “Your typical gross enrolment ratio says 87 per cent of the people fall out after (class) X and XII. So, there is a huge population (waiting to be tapped),” he explains.
On the back of NIIT’s established brand and delivery systems, Bahl hopes to target low-to-mid income families to drive its skills business. But for a number of NSDC’s other partners, who neither have the size, scale or brand name of NIIT, it is going to be an uphill battle to get students into classrooms.
“The challenge in India is that the behaviour of paying yourself to get trained is very low. Here, the tendency of the urban educated is to pay for higher education. Parents will sell their home to send a child to an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). That is the perception about higher education. To monetise vocational skills from an individual is very tough,” says Sanjeev Duggal, chief executive officer (CEO ) and director of Centum Learning, one of NSDC’s biggest partners.
In the rural market, Duggal explains, the paucity of money means that vocational skill development is very low down in the order of priority. Firms, therefore, need to work very deeply with the government and the industry. “If you’re not a large player and you don’t have a history, then large corporates aren’t going to work with you and large dependence on government projects isn’t going to come to you,” he adds.
Then, there is the issue of convincing a seemingly reluctant industry to partner in the skill building mission, to convert the need for a skilled workforce into significant demand that can be harnessed.
“This is again a challenge,” says R C M Reddy, managing director and CEO of IL&FS Education and Technology Services. “Since we don’t have a focus on skilling, the value proposition to hire a skilled worker is limited. And, this is a problem with small as well as large corporates.”
Adds Duggal of Centum Learning: “The industry has demand but it hasn’t reached a point where the individual will line up and pay to get skills developed. The industry is open, it realises that it needs good, trained people, but how much it is willing to spend on that is still unclear.”
Apart from India Inc’s lack of enthusiasm, another challenge is that the sector skill councils haven’t made much headway in fulfilling their core functions such as creating catalogues of skill types, developing sector skill development plans, maintaining skill inventories and drafting skill competency standards and qualifications.