Skill development initiatives are expected to make a difference in enhancing the employability of youth and the entire employment scenario of the country. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi writes on the crucial need of skill development programmes for employability in rural India
India’s estimated workforce is expected to reach 600 million by 2020 from the current 473 million, a CII-People String joint study estimates. Yet it is disheartening that, according to Government of India figures, less than five percent of the total workforce in the country has undergone any formal skills training compared to 68 percent in the United Kingdom, 75 percent in Germany, 52 percent in the United States, 80 percent in Japan and 96 percent in South Korea. This huge skills gap has rendered large sections of the workforce unemployable, leading to the rising unemployment in the country.
According to a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy report, around 11 million employed Indians lost their jobs last year, with over 80 percent of the job losses in the rural areas alone. Lack of formal vocational training, coupled with huge rural population, creates a unique problem for the Indian economy.
Recognising the need for skilled workers, the Indian Government launched its flagship Skill India Mission in order to create a capable, knowledgeable, employable and competent workforce in the country. While the literacy rate and education has seen considerable improvement in the rural areas, majority of rural youth lack any formal vocational training. In that regards, the Government’s skilling initiatives are appropriately focused on the rural areas.
While these initiatives are a step in the right direction to create a robust vocational training, there are still a couple of challenges that need to be addressed. These challenges include inadequate infrastructure, low industry interface, low student mobilisation and lack of standardisation, among others. These are some prominent issues but there are other issues as well behind the ineffectiveness of the skilling initiatives.
One of the major challenges affecting the effectiveness of these vocational training programmes is the lack of awareness around the numerous government skilling initiatives. People in rural areas are also not aware of the benefits of vocational training and how it can play a crucial role in their career development. According to a recent study, more than 70 percent of the Indian youth are not aware of the government’s skill development initiatives.
There is a need for innovative awareness techniques to reach the rural masses in order to train them and address the lack of skilled workforce in the country. This is not only crucial for the development of the rural economy but it will also help strengthen the overall economy of the country.
These skill development initiatives are expected to make a difference in enhancing the employability of the youth and the entire employment scenario of the country, only if they are able to reach a wider audience. This is the reason rural India needs innovative marketing campaigns that can help raise awareness in these areas.
By implementing the vocational training programmes at the school level, the Government can help enhance the visibility and reach of their initiatives. Private organisations with robust technological infrastructure and wide reach can be leveraged by the Government to help spread awareness and deliver their programmes effectively. With large number of aspirants in the rural areas, these partnerships with private organisations can play a vital role. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has played an important role in boosting partnerships with the private sector and focusing on the unorganised sector to help advertise numerous government initiatives.
Under the Skill India Mission, the Indian Government is implementing numerous innovative skilling initiatives including Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), Deen Dayal Upadhyaya-Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK), among many others.
In order to boost awareness of the skilling and vocational training initiatives in the rural areas, government bodies have partnered with AISECT, which is India’s leading social enterprise. With over three decades of experience in the area of skill development, the organisation is successfully devising awareness and mobilisation campaigns while imparting skills-based training to rural youth.
With the lack of access to technology, rural youth remained largely unaware of the potential of technical knowledge in the rapidly changing employment scenario. In a bid to inculcate curiosity and initiate Information Technology (IT) awareness, AISECT introduced the first ever IT Yatra of Rural India in 2001. This campaign was aimed at reaching the rural youth across schools and colleges and exposing them to the potential of technology. IT Yatra, later renamed as Kaushal Vikas Yatra (KVY), has been highly effective in generating awareness regarding the benefits of vocational training, spreading information about new courses offered under various government initiatives and mobilising students to register and pursue skill development courses of their choice. In 2017-18, KVY helped mobilise more than 45,000 students across 14 states covering 230 districts.
AISECT also started conducting Rojgar Melas, which provided a comprehensive platform to connect employers with potential employees. This not only provided gainful employment opportunities to a large number of trained rural youth but by exposing them to a network of employers strengthened their understanding of the skill requirements in the industry, helping them recalibrate their training. In 2016-17, the Melas covered 16 states and 60 districts, wherein 20,000 people were registered and more than 12,000 people were placed successfully. This has not only empowered rural youth and raised their status in their communities but has also acted as a novel campaign to spread awareness.
Such partnerships and innovative marketing campaigns, coupled with robust skill development programmes, have been successful in generating awareness across rural India. Going forward, there needs to be a proper balance between awareness generation efforts along with the numerous vocational training initiatives to reach a wider audience. Only then a sustainable vocational training ecosystem can be set up in the rural fringes of the country successful to address the growing need for skilled workforce.
(Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi is the Executive Vice President of AISECT Group. Views expressed in the article are author’s own.)