Like many other scarcities in India, skill scarcity is also artificial, man-made, and in a way, temporary. It is ironical that a country like India that continues to be a huge market for all sorts of consumer goods — at least apparently — can’t make its huge human resources marketable. What ails our skill-development mission, which is so close to the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Are we lacking in planning? Is something missing in our execution? Or, are we erring on both the fronts? Questions galore!
First, let’s talk planning. While we have been living with skill scarcity leading to acute human resources crunch, simultaneously, there is a serious challenge of unemployment. This is not only contradictory but also indicative of some serious lacunae in our human resources development, manpower planning and deployment. Besides, excessive security-centric thinking of the people at large and our habit of denying dignity to physical labour are also to be blamed. Take the example of any business hub or an industrial town. While colleges there keep producing an army of graduates primarily in arts, science and commerce every year, business establishments and industrial units in the town often can’t find employable talents in the local manpower market. This is because there has remained almost total disconnect in the courses offered by our universities and the manpower required by employers.
Situations like an English language post-graduate failing to write a paragraph in good English without using spellcheck, or a Commerce graduate clueless about the procedure of opening a bank account, are neither rare nor surprising. Hence, first and foremost, we have to evolve a system where futuristic manpower-need-assessment is undertaken district-wise through elaborate surveys and studies, and accordingly courses are designed and colleges are allowed to be opened! One example of how the system works in silos is the fact that while so much is being attempted for skill development, our employment exchanges in the districts are miles away from these efforts. This is like the right hand not knowing what the left is doing! Doing away with this disjointedness is the first and foremost requirement to improve our job scenario. Without this, while livelihood-seeking youths may land good jobs after acquiring skills, the employment exchange data may not reflect the on-ground situation.
Enhancing employability levels requires mandatory inclusion of practical training components in mainstream graduation courses like BA, BCom, BSc etc. Issues like adequate time for completion of syllabus are secondary to the acute need for incorporating at least six-month long experience and exposure based hands-on training to all arts, commerce and science graduates. Overriding all concerns for academic autonomy etc of our universities, the Government can do well to explore this idea through a case study. Why can’t we have an idea as simple as employing teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs) in colleges and universities so as to allow talented but needy students complete their education easily? Similarly, we can’t afford ‘Jobs on Demand’ as it is not-advisable because it may promote dole-culture besides being economically impractical. But we certainly can try Skills on Demand! This could be seamlessly undertaken through an app to connect skill-seekers to skill-givers. And remember, there are crores of retired employees capable and willing to give skill training and even mentor a new entrepreneur! In fact, with the help of ex-employees and junior-senior citizens, employment exchanges could rightly be converted into Skill Exchanges where skill education could be freely acquired and imparted.
Especially for addressing the issues of distressed farmers, two things could be thought of. Firstly, young members of the families of marginal farmers could be given priority funding for starting agro-enterprises or other rural industries and businesses under Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA). A variety of such enterprising initiatives may include cottage industries based on marginal forest produce, rural artisanship, agro and village tourism, etc. Secondly, more vibrant mechanisms should be put in place to test and recognise levels of various traditional skills acquired by the youths while assisting their parents in family businesses or traditional industries, including artisanship.
Add to this an urgent need for institutionalising a new branch — namely Innovation Studies. This is required to understand as to why certain innovations are successfully converted into a business model pretty fast and many other just do not! Empirical data on how innovations are either leading to business evolution or facing obstructions midway, would benefit improving skills scenario in multiple ways.
Skill development surely can provide an answer to the challenge of unemployment. But since factors that have compelled us to grapple with job scarcity are not the creation of governments, for solutions, too, we can’t solely depend on the government alone. Development — and employment generation is integral to it — can’t just be a government programme. It has to be a movement by the people, as has been rightly emphasised by the PM. It is, therefore, required that NGOs, Chambers of Commerce and industries as well as youth organisations come together and embark upon a time-bound and targeted Skill India movement.
Read more: DNA