With reference to “India’s quest for skills” by Ajit Balakrishnan (November 21), over the last few years, skill development has enjoyed a substantial mindshare of both the government and non-government actors. The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 aims to meet the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standard (quality) and sustainability. From policy to action on field, various initiatives have already been underway and are in various stages of fruition. A big industry is coming up with incentives announced by the government for skill development.
In this rush to get the requisite skills, we should not lose sight of the fact that skills are not off-the-shelf artefacts which can be purchased. They have to be acquired and for that, many pieces should fit, namely an attentive trainee, an equally, if not more, enthusiastic and competent trainer, and a real-life interaction between them. Many a time, it is seen that the skilling routine, which is stitched in, remains more of a mixture of disparate components than a well-synthesized holistic module. A well-orchestrated feedback loop involving industry and market is a must to get the best out of the ongoing skilling movement. Do we have enough trainers to impart new sets of skills or to help upgrade existing skills? Although fiscal incentives or enabling structures are in place, the challenge remains in attracting trainers and trainees to a common ground. Only when both parties realise the stakes, they would be willing to go the distance.
As rightly pointed out in the article, skilling cannot be done outside of the cultural ecosystem. Without an attitude to excel in whatever we do, we will not be able to harness much from the workforce, howsoever skilled it may be. For example, a plumber or an electrician must display pride in doing a neat job and the society will also have to acknowledge their talent. To achieve this, the society at large will have to shed its prejudices against vocational education and jobs. We must draw up a medium-term plan as part of our schooling system to instil a sense of appreciation in the young minds about the dignity and efforts of all the vocational jobs. Simultaneously, such values and ethos need to be inculcated in their homes also.
The mission of skilling India should not be reduced to a mad rush of delivering impressive statistics alone. The challenges, especially culture and attitude related ones, must be appreciated and some well thought out directions need to be worked out to tackle these.
Santanu Sarma Barua Mumbai
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