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Sixty-six years have been lost. We never thought about skills: Rajiv Pratap Rudy

Interview with MoS for skill development & entrepreneurship

Surabhi Agarwal & Rahul Jacob 

Rajiv Pratap Rudy

In line with the National Democratic Alliance government's thrust on promoting innovation and job creation, it founded a new ministry for skill development and entrepreneurship soon after coming to power. Fifty-three-year-old Rajiv Pratap Rudy, also a trained commercial pilot, was chosen to steer the new ministry. In his first interview after taking charge, Rudy talks to Surabhi Agarwal and Rahul Jacob about the 'very daunting' task at hand, which involves skilling 300 million Indians in five years. Edited excerpts:

What is your overall vision for the ministry?

If we look at where we stand today, India has only two per cent of the workforce which is skilled, compared with 96 per cent in South Korea, 45 per cent in China, 50-55 per cent in the US and 74 per cent in Germany. The focus all these years has been on education or degrees. Sixty-six years have been lost. We never thought about skills. We only thought about education, and the outcome is for all to see. The national skill development policy (announced by the United Progressive Alliance government) in 2012 talked about 500 million people to be trained. The target was to train 50 million people in the first five years and 450 million in the next five, which did not even take off. There are 24 ministries with 70-odd schemes, being run with the partnership of states, spending Rs 6,000-7,000 crore. However, the outcome has never been discussed; even if training was discussed, the outcome was never discussed. A World Bank report said out of all such people trained, only 27 per cent got employment, of which 60 per cent quit from the job in a year's time.

How do we solve these issues?

We need to create convergence for all these ministries and align everything under the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This is broadly the text of this ministry. Everything under education or skill development has to come under the framework. Every job role in this country has to be mapped, and qualification pacts have to be created on all these job roles. Also, every job will have a nationally-aligned national occupational standard. NSQF is in 10 levels. For example, the entry-level person could be a mazdoor, non-literate and the chief executive could go to level 10. All this might sound Greek to you now, but it is getting formalised. And this is being done through the sector skills councils, which could be for automotive, health, construction, etc. We have created 33 skill councils. The role of the sector council is to mobilise the people who need to be trained; the second is creating the syllabus and the standards; the third is the process of training them under those standards; the fourth is the assessment and certification for the course. So when the product comes out, he or she is good for the market. He may not be an MA (Master of Arts) or a BA (Bachelor of Arts), but he will be good for the job he is trained for.

What are the challenges you are facing?

The total workforce is around 550 million people. If we leave those employed with agriculture, which is 54 per cent people, we are left with approximately 250 million people. And there are 10 million people joining the workforce every year. You are handling around 300 million people which you have to train over the next five years. And this is a conservative estimate. The resources which will be required are huge. It's a challenge, it's a very daunting task. This is just the beginning. Now we are trying to change the entire education system; I think Smriti Irani (education minister) is working on that - from the cognitive skills that you develop at the school, to the non-cognitive skills moving, to the school drop outs. We're trying to incorporate skill development in school, which goes up with each standard you reach.

So, as you go to Plus Two, it becomes 100 hours of formal education and 500 hours of skills.

You've been talking about lateral movement based on skills as well.

Pathways are also being developed for it. So, if a person wants to enter BA at one point of time and he has been working for X number of years, he will be accessed for the skills that he has acquired in X number of years. He can join in MA also. So, if your skills are matching, then you can move laterally to any formal education setup; you can even move to PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). Other countries are doing this, but we've started very late on it. This will take 20 years to fructify. Other things such as short skills and recognition of prior learning and skills, have already started. I'm working in the public-sector also, with the states; I'm roping in defence and railways; I'm roping every possible institution which is here.

You have mooted proposals to use the retired personnel of the armed forces and use railway stations for skill development. How successful are these ideas?

All ideas have been just mooted, MoUs have been signed. I am trying to create the numbers. Everybody is talking about it. I have to structure it as the most ambitious project of this country.

There are so many ministries which are working in silos on skill development. How do plan to align them?

That’s because this ministry was not there earlier. Since we have created this ministry, we can gradually allow migration of certain schemes. We are trying to work together because the objective is the same and I alone can’t do everything.

Your ministry has also been tasked with boosting Entrepreneurship. What is happening on that front?

Entrepreneurship is one chapter which is so far been embedded in MSME (ministry of small and medium enterprises) but we trying to pick it up also with incubation fund etc. That’s a concept which is still being developed.

According to a World Bank study, private sector companies in India spend far less than anywhere else on training?

Corporate Social Responsibility will take care of it. We are trying to persuade industry which will be the ultimate beneficiary of it to partner with the National Skills Development Council to use their resources through the national skill development fund for enhancing skills for various sectors.

First Published: Thu, April 02 2015. 00:43 IST