New Delhi: To train young people and match their skills with suitable jobs, the government plans to establish a non-profit corporation that will focus on skills development. In Budget 2008, finance minister P. Chidambaram said the government’s initial investment in this public-private partnership will be Rs1,000 crore.
“There is a compelling need to launch a world-class skill development programme, in mission mode,” Chidambaram said in his Budget speech. Referring to India’s mostly young population as a “demographic dividend” that needs to be harnessed, Chidambaram cautioned it could “prove illusory if the work force does not acquire the skills to support a knowledge and technology driven economy.”
Currently, 17 Union ministries have various programmes dealing with skill enhancement. But they are largely diffuse and administered by a handful of departments and ministries. The government plans to execute the skill mission on a public-private partnership model (PPP) and hopes to raise Rs15,000 crore as capital from public, private, bilateral and multilateral sources.
“The structure and leadership of the mission must be such that the programme can be scaled up quickly to cover the whole country,” Chidambaram said.
The government wants this to happen during the 11th Plan, the blueprint for 2007-2012, in addition to the creation of 70 million jobs.
The private sector lauded the intent of the mission, but questioned if relief would come fast enough in the form of skilled, employable talent.
“The skill development mission is feeble and has no timebound promise on implementation,” said Satya R. Narayanan, chairman of Career Launcher India Ltd, a chain of schools and test preparatory centres.
Those in the position of hiring—across industries, classes and education levels—largely agreed, saying a short-term solution also was needed.
“Human capital are all investments that a growing economy such as our needs to make. But the demand for skilled manpower in many industries is growing rapidly and the supply has not been able to keep pace. We already face talent shortage in many sectors,” said Adil Malia, group president for human resources of the Essar Group, a conglomerate with a presence in the steel, telecommunications, oil and energy sectors. “If we have to maintain our momentum of growth, we will need to see some impatience in the execution of these good skill development intentions.”
According to the National Sample Survey report, released a day before the Budget, and conducted at a microeconomic level through extensive field work, in 2004-05, only 2% of the population in the 15-29 age group was reported to have received formal vocational training. Another 8% received non-formal vocational training.
The same survey suggests that in five years (from 1999-2000 to 2004-05) 47 million work opportunities were created in the country.
With Rs31,000 crore proposed to be spent over five years, the mission will look at 20 areas of growth for skill development in manufacturing and services. The identified high-growth sectors include automobile and auto component, transportation, logistics, warehousing and packaging, travel and tourism, media and entertainment and health care services.
The government wants to devise short-term vocational courses, which may range from six months to two years.
The Planning Commission has proposed that the public-private model be executed in certification as well.
Experts associated with education sector also wondered what efforts the government was making to retrain, or even repair, those who had graduated from institutes. According to a survey by staffing firm TeamLease Services Private Ltd, for example, 90% of employment opportunities require vocational skills, but 90% of those who graduate from school or college have “bookish knowledge.”
TeamLease chairman Manish Sabharwal accused the government of throwing money at a problem, rather than focusing on actual solutions.
However, a press release from trade body National Association of Software and Services Companies said the non-profit “will ensure constant supply of employable workforce to this sector.”