Addressing the great skill divide

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While India continues to march ahead on the path of economic growth, despite a global slowdown, time has come to take note of the gap between the demand for skilled human resource and the existing supply.

If not addressed at a war footing, experts and industry representatives say, this could push our growth into a spot of bother. According to the 2005 NSSO survey, the gap stands at 10 million. So much so that the issue was highlighted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his Independence Day speech two years back.

 ‘As our economy booms, and as our industry grows, I hear the pressing complaint about an imminent shortage of skilled employees. As a country endowed with huge human resources, we can’t let this be a constraint. We are planning to launch a Mission on Vocational Education so that the skill deficit in our economy is addressed,’ Dr Singh had announced.

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With Vocational Education and Training (VET) becoming the buzzword in the power corridors, the spotlight is on the need for a tangible action plan which can provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to the masses.

The National Policy on Skill Development, recently approved by the Union Cabinet, aims to create a workforce empowered with improved skills, knowledge and internationally recognised qualifications to gain access to decent employment and ensure India’s competitiveness in the global labour market.

Although a step in the right direction, more such concerted efforts is required on the part of government, private sector and all concerned agencies if we are to surge ahead on the growth path. The poor cannot afford to remain unemployed anymore. We have to re-orient the labour structure and initiate a shift from low to high productivity, while also improving the wage structure and quality of life.

Finally, the policy initiatives must not just restrict their focus to city and semi-urban areas while looking at skill development programmes. The rural areas and smaller towns have millions waiting to join the search for skilled jobs. India needs to impart relevant skills to 10 million people every year if it has to reap the benefit of globalisation.

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