Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) is engaged in skilling of rural youth for different trades of construction works. What are major challenges you are facing in skill development?
First of all mobilisation is a big challenge due to the traditional mind-set, low willingness to migrate, low salaries at entry level.The employer does not distinguish whether an employee has picked up skills on the job or he has acquired them through formal training.
At present, wages are linked with categorization of ‘skilled’, ‘semi skilled’ or ‘unskilled’, but these have to be aligned with skill levels defined as per National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) and recognition.
Do social factors affect mobilisation?
Yes. Centuries of rule by foreign elements has left some deep scars in the psyche of our social structures. This has affected the perceptions towards some essential skills. The British need for promoting a second level bureaucracy glorified the blue-collar culture while denigrating the productive trades. Certain trades like construction suffered the most. The Artisan, who traditionally was a respected figure in Pre-British eras, had been reduced, in the minds of society, to a low level in the social hierarchy.
Does higher level of skilling attract investment ?
Today, youth across the world face serious challenges regarding skills and jobs. The challenges are greater for developing countries like India, which have long suffered from a shortage of skilled labour. In a globalised economy, Indian organisations face international challenges, requiring their workers to have higher levels of skills to enable them to engage in innovation, improve the quality of products/services, and increase efficiency in their whole value chain process. Rapid technological changes have changed the nature, contents, and types of skills that industry demands.
There is also a need today to have a large updated array of skilled personnel to attract foreign direct investment, as it is a fast track method for bringing in advanced technologies to their domestic industries, expanding foreign trade, and thereby boost industrial and economic development. The availability of a skilled workforce is a key determinant for multinational firms considering investments.
Do we have adequate workforce for a rapid growth?
With an over 42 million workforce in construction sector, skilling and upgradation of existing skills is urgently required for over 38 million of these personnel as also for fresh entrants as the industry has an attrition rate of over 5 percent. Recognising this, India recently moved to reform it’s education systems, to upgrade the quantum and level of skills of its workforce. Over the last two decades, India focused primarily on basic education, particularly primary education. But today we now realise that expanding basic education is not adequate in this globalized era if our manufacturing and services industries are to be competitive in the global economy and for sustainable economic growth. Upgrading their workers’ skills an essential ingredient of the broad education policy.
Do we lack an integrated approach and coordination for Skill Development?
India has a fragmented vocational education system, managed by multiplicity of bodies under different Ministries and Departments. Lack of coordination among them has resulted in ineffectiveness of any top down approach to skill development. The quality of vocational institutes is also low.The biggest problem that occurs is of lack of coordination among the various bodies promoting Skill Development. The Government has been preoccupied with financing. The Employment Exchanges, National and State Councils for Vocation Training need to be utilized properly for training and information dissemination. Over 20 different ministries were handling 73 different skill development schemes. There was no harmonised curriculum or certification. Involvement of Industry and employers in the skill training structures (such as ITIs) is almost nothing. They could not be brought forward to proactively participate in the skill development. They were not brought forward because this would entail larger autonomy to institutions.
What about funding pattern?
Funding of vocational education in India is restricted largely to government, where little attention was paid to quality. Once an institution begins to receive funding, subsequent funds are assured regardless of the institution’s performance. Moreover, Education being a state subject, the implementation of any vocational; education would be in the domain of respective state governments. A large number of students with vocational education need to look for placement in private organizations or for self employment. The condition of private industrial employments and self employment are inferior in India in comparison to other countries. Subsequently, only a smaller fraction of students opt for vocational education.
What is the way forward ?
Hopefully, with the formation of the Skills Ministry, such problems will be mitigated.
I feel that with just about 2 percent of the country’s labour force having formal skill certification, government and industry must create pull factors to attract workers to get vocational training. For this, there is a need to create the macro and micro policies to encourage workers. The government should also specify a minimum percentage of certified skilled work forces in the tendering process of every manpower intensive project and increase the minimum percentage every year. Finally I would say that minimum wages need to be re-looked and aligned to the levels defined in the National Skills Qualification Framework.