NSDC needs re-skilling

India Inc also must play a more meaningful role

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Business Standard Editorial Comment New Delhi
Several reasons have been attributed to the sudden resignation of two top executives at the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) - the most common being that the poor rollout of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) in Bihar was the tipping point in an already sour relationship between the newly set-up ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and the NSDC brass. According to a report in this newspaper, the ministry was unhappy with the way funds made available to NSDC were disbursed, and that there were no checks on where and how the money was spent. While these issues are important and need to be discussed by the appropriate authority, it would be unfortunate if the noise is used as an excuse to justify muscle-flexing and interference by the ministry in the working of NSDC. The corporation is, after all, the only one of its kind - a public-private partnership (PPP) set up to promote skill development by catalysing the creation of large and quality for-profit institutions.

A better way of looking at the issue would be to use the rejigging at the top to increase NSDC's structural accountability, and improve the quality of the skills development training it helps impart. The mandate of NSDC is to provide funding to promote scalable vocational training initiatives; according to the NSDC website, it skilled about 3.3 million people last year and is planning to skill six million this year. The numbers may look impressive in isolation - but are woefully short of the target of skilling and upskilling 150 million people by 2022. Whatever NSDC has achieved so far is indeed sadly insignificant in a country which plans to build a skilled workforce of some 500 million by 2022, and where only 2.3 per cent of the total workforce has undergone formal skill training as compared to 68 per cent in the UK and 52 per cent in the US. The fact also is that three million graduates join the job market every year but only about 500,000 are considered employable. There are more examples: According to NSDC's website, the body has trained 5.51 million people in the last six years, of which only 2.35 million trainees have found jobs. That's a 43 per cent hit rate. All these indicate that there is a lot of scope for improvement in the functioning of NSDC, whose mandate includes developing an ecosystem in which aspirations of employees are aligned with industry expectations on salaries and job roles; and where employers are convinced to hire the skilled force rather than looking for a cheaper resource.

But for that to happen, the private sector has to play a much more responsible role. The partnership model followed by NSDC has put the responsibility of delivering skilled population essentially at the doors of the private companies that are funded. A task of such magnitude cannot be performed by the government or the private sector working in separate silos. In that sense, NSDC provided a wonderful opportunity for industry to play a leadership role in training and employing people - whether it is through imparting vocational education, vetting the curriculum, or assessing and certifying training programmes. All of this is also, of course, in their own interest. If Indian companies continue to be lukewarm in their response, questions will be asked whether they are treating skill training as a cosmetic exercise in corporate social responsibility.

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First Published: Oct 14 2015 | 9:38 PM IST

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