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Skill India, Start-Up India good beginning, but need to be put together with education: UNICEF Executive Director


ANI Asia
The Indian government's flagship initiatives like Skill India and Start-Up India is a good beginning to address the need of imparting skill training and education necessary for employment to the youth, but these programmes needs to be put together with the education system, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on Wednesday.
Fore was in Mumbai for the launch of Generation Unlimited or Gen-U, a UNICEF programme aimed at providing education and skill development to the youth in the age group of 10 to 24 years.
"Skill India and Start-Up India is a very good beginning. But all of these need to come together in the education system...Young people need to see themselves in the future. We can do it digitally. We can do it in schools, out of schools. But we need to find all of those pathways and link them together," she told ANI in an exclusive interview.
She said that UNICEF will aim to impart skill training to one million people in India every month, and said that the country could be having every youth in training, education or employment by 2030.
"It is a programme for young people in the world between the ages of 10 to 24. They need educations...and they need some life skills and occupational skills so that they can make a living. We want every young person to be in education or training or in age-appropriate employment by the year 2030. It's a big challenge but there's an enormous need," Fore outlined.
"We need to reach one million people in India every month. They are becoming 18 years and are looking for jobs, some will go to universities and colleges...We can reach a million in a month. That's our goal," she said.
Asked whether the initiative would change the scenario in the country which faces "educated unemployment", meaning that youth are educated but do not have jobs, Fore was optimistic.
"We hope so. That's the intent. It should be that every young person can use their skills in contributing to society. That's the goal. What's great about young people is they want to help each other. We are finding so many new skills that are going to be needed and we need to learn," the UNICEF Executive Director said.
"Young people in today's world have 10, 20, 30 or 40 different types of jobs in their lives. Many of them will be doing very short jobs. The gig economy is alive and very strong in India. This means you need to learn how to learn. So we are hoping that all of this will help both young people who are well skilled and those who are not yet well skilled in rural and urban areas, children with disabilities and young people who are girls who are often left behind in India," she added.
Fore underlined that the youth of India need career counselling and need to be connected with entrepreneurship opportunities so that they can start their own businesses and make a livelihood.
"India has taken this on with the idea of linking education to skilling. It's not yet fully there in India but one out of four young people today are in South Asia. It is a fascinating statistic. When u think about it, there are 100,000 young people every day are looking for work...What we are seeing is we talked to the young people and they said their needs are not yet met. There's a learning crisis everywhere in the world," she remarked.
"But in India, they are unsure about what livelihoods they will make. They need career counselling and need to be connected with entrepreneurship opportunities so that they can start their own businesses," Fore said.
Outlining the issue of the imbalance of skill training among the youth in India, the official said, "Half of the young people in India are getting the skills they need. We have to reach the other half. This means that in the next 10 years we have to reach that 10 per cent of the population. Some of those young people out of school are not unemployed of any sorts. It's going to be harder to reach but they are the ones we need to reach."
"If older people from the communities can reach out to the young people and open up ways to teach them like helping them start businesses, we can move all of this. India could be having every young person in training or education or employment by the year 2030," she added.
Asked about the challenges of demographic factors like sex ratio and poverty, Fore said that imparting skill training and education to girls and women are "extremely important".
"It is a challenge because the availability of education, access and affordability are very important for young persons. So sometimes you cannot afford school fees, or walk to school, or afford books or your family wants you to drop out early either because of child marriage or you have to go and earn a living. There is a lot of pressure on young people today. They want to be really in school, learn something and do not want to be left behind. As you see a digital world coming up, there is no reason why they have to be left behind," she elucidated.
"Girl child and young women are extremely important (for us). They are often the ones who are not fully employed or because they have families they need part-time jobs. We have to find and utilise that labour force. They have great intelligence and great energy drive. If we can, the percentage increases in GDP, growth and the well-being of a family increases strongly. What our statistics are telling us is that girls are very important, rural areas are very important and those who have been marginalised. So, if we can connect all of this, we can really have productive nations and communities, villages and cities," the UNICEF Executive Director said.
She stressed that UNICEF is building a "coalition movement" for the youth in order to make the massive exercise a success and said that the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is "very much involved" in the Gen-U initiative.
"Government cannot do it alone neither can private sectors nor can the NGOs. But together we can and so we are building a coalition movement for young people. So we want everyone to join us. Both the Indian government and the skill ministry is very much involved. This will have to be public and private because many of the young people will go into work part-time or full-time...whether it is a small or medium-sized business or a very large global business," Fore said.
It is very important that the private sector be there. It isn't something that the government cannot do it alone. The UN, UNICEF, government, private sectors, NGOs and academia will all do this together. But we have to come together and make these linkages. We have to do it now. There is real urgency behind this," she added.
The official said that the youth want to direct their own education as they know what they like to learn.
"We need transferable skills like how to become an entrepreneur. We need occupational and digital skills. There is a lot to learn. It is an exciting future. But we really need to reach everyone," Fore further said.

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First Published: Oct 31 2019 | 1:47 AM IST

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