School-based vocational education is the way forward, says NSDC COO
India is moving towards becoming a skilled nation. However, the huge gap between the demand for skilled workforce and the supply of the same poses a huge challenge. It requires a whole turnaround of the country’s education system, and also an effective public-private partnership. Pursuing this goal, the National Skill Development Corporation is investing heavily on restructuring and re-energising the skill ecosystem in India.
In an insightful interview, Jayant Krishna, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, NSDC, tells us about the collaborations with private players, the efforts being put in to change the skill ecosystem, the redefining of India’s educational system, the role of franchising and much more. Here are excerpts from the interview:
What do you think about the current vocational education system of India? Please elaborate.
For almost five decades after independence, India skill development system was not in place. The ITIs hardly grew till 2007 and there were barely 250,000 odd apprentices in the formal economy. Vocational Education training is still low till date in India when compared with other developing or developed nation across the world. The accelerated economic growth has increased the demand for skilled manpower that has highlighted the shortage of skilled manpower in the country. India is among the top countries in which employers are facing difficulty in filling up the jobs. Currently there are four places where VET is imparted in India: in secondary/higher secondary schools and polytechnics; industrial training institutes (ITIs, both public and private); private vocational training providers publicly financed and incubated by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC); and in-firm, enterprise training (either of government-funded apprentices or large firms conducting training for their own new recruits). NSDC and the newly formed Ministry of Skill Development has taken major step in shaping the skills landscape by investing heavily on restructuring and re-energising the skill ecosystem in the country.
What are the gaps that need to be filled in the skill training and vocational education ecosystem of India?
We have a shortage of vocational education infrastructure in India and their capacity to meet the industry requirements. Also, the equipment and training module has not evolved with time. Lack of trainers has been also a major concern. Another gap is vocationalisation of education and implementation of National Skill Qualification Framework in collaboration with school’s education and higher education. NSDC is actively ensuring delivery of standards across all initiatives and bridging the gap between the industry, the academia and the corporates to build and sustain a cohesive skill ecosystem for the youth of our country, make them employable and ensure jobs for them. Adjacently, the public and the private sector will have to collaborate and work on creating aspiration and respect for skills, within the youth. Enough awareness needs to be imparted on the courses available under vocational education and how they can help transform an individual's life.
What steps is NSDC taking to fill these gaps?
NSDC being the enabler and catalyst for bringing about public-private partnership in the skill ecosystem has ensured collaboration with some reputed corporate like Coca-Cola, Ambuja Cement, Uber and has raised some substantial funding through their CSR contribution and continues to pursue more opportunities. Under engagement with NSDC, Corporate can now contribute or rather invest in the country’s skilled workforce either by monetary contribution, by extending existing infrastructure, by hiring the skilled workforce or engaging with them under their apprenticeship program.
On the other hand, NSDC had been able to build a strong capacity for skill development by encouraging and funding for-profit organisations to create an ecosystem for delivering training recognised by the respective Sector Skill Councils again formed by NSDC.
NSDC has mapped incremental human resource requirement which is going to help in training and bridging the demand and supply gap across sectors.
NSDC has been clearly been able to define and align all training delivered by them nationally to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF), defined in the National Skill Development Policy of the country, bringing about a standardised ecosystem which is recognised by the industry and also in markets abroad
Under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) NSDC has been able to train more than 19 lakh Indian youth making them more efficient and industry relevant through skill based training. The financial/monetary reward under PMKVY has been a great way to encourage and extend financial aid to those who are financially weak to be able to bear the cost of the training.
We have invested a lot of time and energy in ensuring every youth in the country till the very last mile is aware of this scheme and can benefit from it. The industries have to now come forward and extend support to the ecosystem in making this programme a success. The focus is primarily on placements now for all, and we will soon see our efforts resulting in the growth of the individual and the country.
While these massive skilling activities are taking place, it is necessary to understand whether there would be participation from students in a sustained manner so that the purpose of these initiatives is served.
What is the role of private players and start-ups in filling these gaps?
A private organisation has access to industry and is better equipped at systems and processes, thereby being able to provide effective and timely services to both the industry as well as to the job-seeker. Instead of building new infrastructure, we should utilise the existing ones such that neither the public nor private institution has to make higher investments in hardware (infrastructure and other capital-intensive requirements), but divert the resources on enablers such as people, processes, technology, and output.
We are collaborating with a lot of international and national companies like Heraud and Skillsonics, Mahindra, Future Group, Kalyani amongst others who have invested in skill development. Companies like Essar and Chola Investment Finance Corporation Limited have also contributed funds through their CSR contributions. Our endeavour is to further scale this up.
What according to you do educational institutions at all levels need to do to fill these gaps?
School-based vocational education will be a stepping stone to further qualifications and training, and this additional skill development makes the students employable. School students must have the option of continuing vocational training with formal higher education. School should adopt the ready vocational courses designed by NSDC aligned to industry standards. All students can learn skills through vocational education that will serve them well throughout their lives. NSDC so far has engaged with 5978 schools and 19 state-boards, 31 universities and 1700 colleges under UGC and AICTE so far in the country has to integrate the skill development module in the early learning phases of the youth.
What are the current policies that can encourage both corporate and educational institutions to participate in the growth of India’s skill training sector?
Besides promoting the use of corporate houses for training programmes and to set up training centres, NSDC is also planning to tap CSR funds of India Inc. The first CSR project under the modified Companies Act, 2013, was signed between NSDF, NSDC, and Power Grid Corporation of India in January 2015. Public sectors, including ONGC, NTPC, Coal India and others have contributed funds to the tune of around Rs 50-60 crore last fiscal. Under the new Companies Act, companies need to spend at least 2 per cent on CSR and it can be used for skill development also. Our main aim is to tap these CSR funds of Corporate Houses to boost the skill development agenda.
There have been comprehensive reforms which have been made to Apprentices Act as well which now have increased the percentage of apprentices that a corporate can engage with, from 2 per cent to 10 per cent now. This will promote skill development in which the youth will be able to learn the job hands-on and will get more practical experience. The government is also now promoting apprenticeship for youth by making a contribution 25 per cent (to a max of 1500 INR) towards the training of every candidate per month.
How do we change the common Indian belief that degrees are more essential than skill certification?
Vocational Education and skill development have never been aspirational in our country. In India, 77 per cent above 30 years and 42 per cent of those in the age group 18-29 years are employed. Poor quality of education and demand vs supply mismatch are two important issues that emerge as the key reason for the rising number of unemployed graduates. There is urgent need to integrate skill development within our formal education to meet the 21st-century skill requirements.
We organise a number of events and forums for connecting the industry to the learner community and contribute towards making vocational training aspirational which catalysts for neutralising real or perceived differences among the youth coming from diverse backgrounds through the recognition of vocational training, and by making it aspirational among the youth to whom skills training is imparted.
Educating the parents, peers and candidate themselves about the importance of skill development is another extensive exercise that we undertake through Kaushal Melas and Kaushal Shivirs under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)
Do you think the concept of franchising can help spread vocational training throughout the country? Elaborate.
The franchise model is the best route as the franchise brings local expertise and franchisor brings best practices and knowledge of establishing skill centre. This will also help to scale up the training centre and boost the capacity of skilling countrywide rapidly. Training providers whether direct or through franchise model who is accredited by the NSDC are required to pass through a process of due diligence and qualitative mapping.
What are the challenges that lie ahead for NSDC in re-engineering India’s skill ecosystem? How is NSDC strategising to meet these challenges?
The biggest challenge is to make the whole skill development ecosystem aspirational so that more and more youth opt for it. Also at the same time, we have to ensure industry participation so that all those who get trained also get jobs of their calibre and training.
NSDC is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to address all challenges gradually and we are certain, that we will be able to scale up the skill development program in our country with great speed and of quality standards.
Where do you see India’s vocational education and skill development ecosystem 5 years from now? Do you think it has the potential to become a top sector in India’s education industry?
We have already achieved a target of creating 1.4 crore jobs since Skill India was launched but we have a long way to go as India is a big country. We have already managed to put some aspirationand we should focus on quality along with quantity and periodically keep measuring the impact of the program. Skill cannot be a specific sector as it runs horizontally across all sectors and is an imperative exercise to scale up all industries. This is certainly the largest human resource exercise that any country would have undertaken ever for its nation’s youth.
Please tell us about the road ahead for NSDC viz-a-viz some of its collaborations and programmes.
NSDC is actively pushing for standardisation in syllabi, teaching methodology, the state of workshops and interface with industry. Our focus is vocationalization of education and implementation of national skill qualification framework in collaboration with school education and higher education.NSDC is actively ensuring delivery of standards across all initiatives and bridging the gap between the industry, the academia and the corporates to build and sustain a cohesive skill ecosystem for the youth of our country, make them employable and ensure jobs for them. Enough awareness needs to be imparted on the courses available under vocational education and how they can help transform an individual's life.
NSDC has entered into several agreements with countries like the Gulf countries, USA, UK, Australia, France, Germany and Canada with a purpose of technology transfer of international standards in vocational training, training of trainers, setting up of centres of excellence, international mobility through mapping of job roles and development of transnational standards. We have partnered with these countries to ensure best practices which will benefit the youth not only in the domestic market but in the global market as well.