In skills training, put quality above numbers: S Ramadorai

The chairman of the NSDA and NSDC talks about the present and the future of skill development in India


S. Ramadorai, chairman, NSDC and NSDA. Photo: Mint
S. Ramadorai, chairman, NSDC and NSDA. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: India aims to train 500 million unskilled people by 2022 to prepare them for jobs, and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a public-private partnership (PPP), has been tasked with training 150 million of them.

S. Ramadorai, chairman of the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) and NSDC, said that just chasing numbers without focusing on quality can be a dangerous thing. “We should focus on quality, skills and at the same time measure what we have achieved,” Ramadorai said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

You are heading both NSDA and NSDC. How big is the challenge to deliver on a issue that the prime minister has accorded top priority?

Once the functionality and responsibilities are clear, the ability to make things happen becomes easier. The responsibility is to understand how organizations function and interact with other entities and making sure the delivery is always measured. Besides, constant interaction with the state is critical.

But NSDA and NSDC are not working in tandem even if you would like them to do so.

As far as I am concerned, they are working together. It’s not just the chairman, even skill development secretary is present in both NSDA and NSDC.

What are the challenges or complexities in the skill ecosystem of India?

The country had no standards on skill development. Every ministry had its own set of schemes. The labour ministry had ITIs (industrial training institutes), MHRD (the ministry of human resource development) has schools and colleges, states have their state board and state skill boards. Then you have to build a vocational education system and give a pathway to connect it with the normal education system.

Then there is need for outcomes, rationalization of various schemes, etc. There are multiple complexities… Complexity is because of vocational education not getting the centre-stage, formalized mechanism is not existing, and moving unorganized sector workers to organized sector (is a tough task).

What are the three things that has been introduced since 15 July, when the new skill mission was launched?

The most important thing is PMKVY(Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana), which has started and under it is the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), the certification and monetary reward. Within a year, 10 lakh people will be assessed and certified under the RPL.

So, you’re trying to increase organized sector workforce via RPL?

That’s the whole idea.

Currently, the unorganized sector comprises about 93% of the workforce. Can unorganized and organized sector workforce ratio in India become 75:25 by 2022?

We have to put some aspiration… yes, that could be a possibility. There are two ways to look at it: through RPL we can move unorganized sector workers to organized sector, and any new sunrise industry that is coming should take off with organized labour force—properly trained, assessed and certified.

The point is can we move a massive amount of unorganized sector worker to organized sector, where the demand is. Every training provider and every job role is defined.

Scale will be achieved second year onward.

You are the NSDC chairman, and the criticism is that the NSDC has become a soft loan provider. It is giving taxpayers’ money to private players and has not been able to attract private money. What about accountability?

I always want outcomes. Accountability can be measured through outcomes. If an NSDC training provider has committed to giving 70% employment, or employment plus entrepreneurs, then make sure it happens.

I think the only measure of success for A, B or C, who is a partner of the NSDC ecosystem, is let’s measure what we do. Let’s measure the impact of what we have changed as a country.

Do you really believe that 70% of those trained by the NSDC are employed?

Seventy percent may not be true. Some sectors may not have delivered 70%.

Are you asking them hard questions on this?

If the NSDC board cannot ask them hard questions, then the board has no business to exist.

According to NSDC rules, anybody who is employed for two months is deemed employed…that’s disguised unemployment. Are you planning to increase this time duration?

We have to track continuously.

Anybody who tries to fool the system for doing the statistics, I will never subscribe to that or permit it. We should try real-time tracking.

Skill training in India today across sectors is a numbers game. Is it about scrambling for numbers without focusing on quality?

I will never start with counting. Only numbers game is dangerous.

What will you tell the ministries, NSDC, training providers, who are now only chasing numbers?

So long as any number you give is traceable, verifiable, and it is an intermediary step in our journey of excellence, it is fine…

We should focus on quality, skills and, at the same time, measure what we have achieved.

So, you are saying chasing number without employability, and traceability is incomplete?

Correct.

You have said that the outcome of skill training and assessment can be mapped via NSSO (National Sample Survey Office). What’s the update?

In the household survey, you can ask specific question about skill. We had a long meeting with NSSO to tell them that please meet the sector skill council and NSDC. We are for holding (joint) workshops. And have told them to please make us part of the next survey, whenever it happens. In the next NSSO, we will have some skill data and in next census, it will be a standard.

Profile: S. Ramadorai, 71, is chairman of National Skill Development Agency. In February 2011, the government had appointed him as an adviser to the Prime Minister in the National Council on Skill Development, and was given the rank of a cabinet minister. He retired as vice-chairman of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in 2014. Between 1996 and 2009, he served the company as its chief executive. He also serves as the chairman of BSE Ltd and AirAsia (India) Pvt. Ltd.