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New Delhi: The Union cabinet has approved a proposal to integrate skill development norms among 21 ministries and departments in order to streamline the government’s Skill India Mission and reap a better demographic dividend, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

The cabinet has also approved a new skill development and entrepreneurship policy and approved establishing a National Skill Development Mission to improve the efficiency of human resources in the country. Skill development is thought to be an important ingredient of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India" initiative.

As part of the common norms, more than 70 skill development programmes of all the central ministries will have uniform norms, ranging from course duration and quality check to the cost of courses and eligibility of candidates.

Currently, training courses offered by ministries range from 80 to 675 hours. As per the new norms, a minimum of 200 hours of training is required for fresh skilling courses and 80 hours for re-skilling courses, skills secretary Sunil Arora said.

Sanjiv Duggal, chief executive of Centum Learning Ltd, a skill training and enterprise solutions company, said that rationalization of norms will lead to a better outcome.

“It shall also become easier for implementing agencies to do the job as rules and outcome targets will be homogenous," said Duggal.

“This multiplicity of norms and parameters has created a diffusive effect of SDPs (skill development programs), which need to be streamlined in order to achieve the final outcomes envisaged. Common norms seek to rationalise the whole spectrum of skill development processes and systems including inputs, outputs, funding/cost norms, third party certification and assessment, monitoring/tracking mechanisms, and empanelment of training providers," said a cabinet statement.

Arora told reporters that his ministry, however, is open to allowing some flexibility if a ministry seeks a relaxation in the norms. The recommendation for common norms was initially made by a committee of secretaries and later fine-tuned by the skills ministry.

Tahsin Zahid, chairman of the skills committee at industry lobby group PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the government needs to review the skill development policy every year. He said common norms are required by all three stakeholders—job-seekers, employers and training partners.

“The confusion will go. The government now need to ensure that the monitoring happens well so that there is no misuse of taxpayers’ money," Zahid said, adding that states may soon find it worthwhile to follow the model as well.

As part of the new skills policy and new skills mission, the government will set up a skill council headed by Modi to give policy direction. There will be another committee headed by the skills secretary to oversee implementation.

Additionally, the new skill policy will focus on bringing more private participation and public-private partnerships in skill development initiatives and put in place an institutional mechanism to achieve this goal, Arora added. He said car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and the Tata group are among businesses that are already helping with the skilling process.

Jaitley said industrial areas will see skill clusters that will make up for the shortage in skilled labour faced by the industry. India aims to train 420 million more people by 2022, Arora added.

The secretary said the government will set up a skills research institute under the National Skill Development Agency, the policy advising arm of the ministry, to conduct research in this field. The skills ministry will draft in the services of top institutions, such as Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai and Chennai, Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University, to help with research and promote entrepreneurship.

The vision of the new skill policy is “to create an ecosystem of empowerment by skilling on a large scale at speed with high standards and to promote a culture of innovation based entrepreneurship which can generate wealth and employment so as to ensure sustainable livelihoods for all citizens in the country", a cabinet statement said.

It said the new policy, coming after a gap of six years, will address key obstacles to skilling, including low aspirational value, lack of integration with formal education, a lack of focus on outcomes, and low-quality training, infrastructure and trainers.

“Further, the Policy seeks to align supply and demand for skills by bridging existing skill gaps, promoting industry engagement, operationalizing a quality assurance framework, leverage technology and promoting greater opportunities for apprenticeship training," the statement added.

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