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Enabling a tech-supported journey from schooling to livelihoods

Entrepreneurship mindset curriculum uses creative teaching methods, whereby students are encouraged to inculcate 21st century skills like creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and leadership.Premium
Entrepreneurship mindset curriculum uses creative teaching methods, whereby students are encouraged to inculcate 21st century skills like creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and leadership.

The skilling ecosystem, while it has made great progress in recent years, has inadequate focus on student mindset and behaviour, insufficient employer linkages, and hardly any post-training guidance

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Everyone aspires for good education, relevant skilling, and gainful employment. But, in a developing country with a large population and huge socioeconomic disparities, there are visible gaps between these three. Education, skilling, and employment are a continuum, and technology can enable smooth progression, fulfilment, and growth at every step. Around 180 million of India’s youth are expected to join the workforce in the next 15 years. However, current trends suggest that almost 33% of India’s working-age population are employment-unaware and 50% are unemployable. The skilling ecosystem, while it has made great progress in recent years, has inadequate focus on student mindset and behaviour, insufficient employer linkages, and hardly any post-training guidance. 

Today, we need a tech-based system that tracks the progress of every student right from their school days and recommends future study streams or vocational training opportunities that are in line with their financial capacity, innate motivation, and aptitude. We need tech talent platforms that provide real-time insights to job-seekers, industry, and the governments about skill availability, skill development needs, and industry requirements.  The idea might seem ambitious but is perfectly possible to implement; the success of Aadhaar and UPI testifies to both the ability to develop such systems and the benefits they yield.

Digital public infrastructure for skilling: a bridge between jobseekers and employers 

Just like UPI enabled millions of transactions with sensitive information that is encrypted yet interoperable with other players in the value chain of the transaction, the same is possible in the realm of skilling and employment. It is possible to create integrated and open-source portals for counselling, talent identification, and skill assessment. Or one can have networks similar to LinkedIn, but which focus on blue-collar and pink-collar jobs. The possibilities are numerous, and we are already seeing some interesting examples emerge. The startup Apna, for instance, connects millions of blue-collar workers to hyper local jobs. Aspiring Minds, meanwhile, administers an AI-based computer adaptive test that evaluates job applicants on communication skills, logical reasoning, quantitative skills, and job-specific domain skills, and helps recruiters identify suitable candidates for different job roles. In the latest Union Budget, we saw the announcement of the DESH stack (Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood), which is envisioned to be the UPI for skilling. But for it to work, we will need interoperability among various platforms so that any of the services may be provided in conjunction, as required, across the value chain. Moreover, such platforms should be designed for scalability, affordability, and accessibility.

Designing tech solutions for greater relevance and affordability

The number of internet users in India is expected to grow from 658 million at present to more than 900 million by 2025. Among the estimated 350 million people across the country who are presently in the age bracket of 18-30 years, data penetration is as high as 80-90%. Meanwhile, smartphone penetration continues to increase in rural and semi-urban regions. These trends open avenues for making skill-tech both accessible and affordable for underserved masses through multiple channels and formats. Today, Instagram reels and Youtube videos are being used to share skills and talent - be it of jewellery making, carpentry, metallurgy, glass making, tailoring, makeup, etiquettes, etc. We need to channel this power of platforms and technologies through further improvements and customizations such as vernacular interfaces and real time conversations.  This will boost adoption among large numbers of first-time users across the country, including from smaller cities and towns. Gamification, personalization, and interactivity can make the training content more adaptive and improve the engagement levels of users on such platforms. 

If recent developments are any indication, we can hope for greater government support from a policy and implementation standpoint in the coming years. But it will also need market linked innovations focussed on serving the needs of this segment and working together with others in the value chain.

AG Lakshmanan, Head, Future Perfect, The/Nudge Centre for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

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