Date of Release: August 8th, 2015

Published in: HuffingtonPost

As the government continues to focus on skills and launches hallmark programs like the Skill India initiative, it is imperative to examine the impact of such a program. There are over 20 Central ministries/ departments involved in the implementation of more than 70 schemes for various skill development and entrepreneurship programmes. However, many experts believe (see here, for example) that these programs are not achieving the output they should ideally be reaching.

The 4th Annual Employment and Unemployment Survey by the Labour Bureau helps us in evaluating the effectiveness of the skill development programs that have been in place till 2013-14. Of the population aged 15 and above, 6.8 % have received/are receiving vocational training. The rural-urban divide is not so much, with 6.2 and 8.2% respectively. However, the percentage of people receiving formal training is as low as 2.8% with the rest 4% informally trained.

In order to strengthen the National Skilling Mission the government needs to focus on two specific areas: (a) increasing the role of states, since they have a deeper understanding of local needs and can therefore design and launch impactful programs and (b) ensuring gender inclusion that can capitalise on the entire Indian population.

Role of states

Vocational training falls under both the Union List and Concurrent List. While the former includes agencies and institutions for vocational training, the latter specifies vocational and technical training of labour. States have diverse demographic profiles along with unique skills needs and job opportunities. The role of states in designing and delivering vocational training hence attains importance. Though the national average of people receiving skill development is low, states like Sikkim, Kerala do provide different models of skill development.

The latest Skill Development Policy points out that most of the states have not moved towards functional convergence by creating state missions. Replacing an old mission with a new one, therefore, might not solve the existing problem. While the Niti Aayog sub-group on skill development is yet to submit its report, chief ministers have been raising various concerns about funding and the roles of the Union and state governments. It is important that these issues be heard and greater powers be given to the states in framing and delivering skill development programmes.

Women-specific programs

Another challenge is finding long-term and meaningful employment for the people undergoing skill development training. The Labour survey found that about 39% of women have not joined the labour force even after receiving vocational training in different fields. These findings are corroborated by data from the NSSO. In its report “Status of Education and Vocational Training in India (2013)” the survey found that 47% of rural and 32% of urban women have found the formal vocational training they have received “not helpful”. These numbers are significantly higher than overall 36% and 24% for both genders. This is perplexing considering that about 67% of these women have attended formal training for a duration of six months and above.

Most of the women who received training in construction-related and restaurant sectors are either unemployed or have dropped out of the labour force. Interestingly “building, construction and real estate” was identified as the sector with most incremental human resource requirement in the NSDC study.

The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 says of previous skill development programs that they “often remain unaligned to demand, thus defeating its entire objective.” The proposed integration of skill database of states with LMIS may just help us in identifying the real reasons for such lacunae.