Over the last five months, a total of 83,759 workers across a number of big construction sites dotting five states — Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Delhi — have been enrolled into a novel scheme floated by the Central government, one that aims at certifying the skills acquired by workers in the unorganised sectors through traditional, non-formal learning channels.
Of those assessed, nearly all of whom were already employed at the time of assessment, an estimated 7,159 persons are recorded as having got new jobs by leveraging the certification received under this scheme called Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), according to government data updated till end-November 2015. The scheme is targeted at mostly daily-wage workers at construction sites employing more than 200 persons across these states and the Ministry of Skill Development, which is implementing the scheme with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), is now aiming to expand the programme beyond these five states and broaden its scope to include sectors other than construction.
The project may be of particular relevance to a country where just 2 per cent of the workforce is certified as skilled, as against skilled workforce levels of 96 per cent in South Korea, 80 per cent in Japan, 75 per cent in Germany and 70 per cent in Britain. The selling point of the schemes such as RPL, which is a subcomponent of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana that was launched by the NDA government on July 15 last year, is the certification and monetary reward for those enlisting for the demand-driven scheme that aims to mobilise the youth to take up skill training and become employable. Within a year, 10 lakh people will be assessed and certified under the RPL, according to NSDC Chairman S Ramadorai.
The poor skill level among India’s workforce is attributed to the dearth of formal vocational educational framework and lack of industry-ready skills. Most deemed to be outside the skilled category in India are those who have typically picked up a skill while on the job, without any formal degree to back this up. Officials involved in the exercise said the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015, is focussed on schemes such as RPL for reskilling and upskilling the 298.25 million existing workforce, especially those below 45 years of age. Under the PMKVY, 31 Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) have been allocated a target of taking under their fold 5 lakh persons as part of the RPL scheme. The candidates are essentially assessed by third-party agencies empanelled by Sector Skill Councils. The candidates passing the assessment are then certified by SSCs by issuing skill card and skill certificate.
There are two stand-out features about the RPL scheme — the attempt to involve the industry in firming up the checklist of competencies for trades and trying to standardise skill levels across a sector by empanelling independent certifiers and trainers for skill assessment and training. “While the official estimate of the percentage of skilled workers in the overall workforce is around 2 per cent, there are lakhs of people who are illiterate or semi-literate but are adept in the art of craftsmanship or skilling for generations. Varanasi or Kancheepuram weavers, gold and jewellery workers of Jaipur, diamond workers of Surat and many more. These people are skilled and working, they need to be certified. The (RPL) programme is an attempt to bring them formally to the skilling list, starting with the construction sector,” a skill development ministry official said.