Skills, Vocations and IT@Future : Sharda Prasad, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, India

In a detailed conversation, Sharda Prasad, Director General, Directorate General Employment and Training (DGET), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, shares with Dr Rajeshree Dutta Kumar and Yukti Pahwa the concerns in the field of skill development and employability in India

What are the highlights of the skill development initiatives, in the year 2010?

The 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) started in 2007-08. And at that time we had a very ambitious plan of modernisation of ITIs, skill development initiative of training large number of boys and girls in modular skills, working with PPP model so that industry is involved in training of the potential workers, and so on. However, if we consider the total capacity or level in the country then we find that it is much less than what we should have planned. Entry into the labour force per annum, according to NSSO data, was about 12.8 million and the training capacity at the moment is about 4 million per annum. Now in order to make initiatives meaningful we must have a capacity of atleast 12.8 million.

The prime minister has given us a mandate to skill about 500 million people by 2022 which will imply providing skills to 40 million people per annum.

We have been carefully about the same, keeping in mind all the requirements including infrastructure, the trainers the involvement of the corporate and some of the systemic issues such as how to ensure that those who are trained have quality standards. We issue a national certificate which is valid throughout the country and provides a sense of empowerment to the trainees. If they do not work in one industry, they can work in another industry and this national certificate is to facilitate their mobility.

What are your future plans for the field?

At the moment, the DGET is involved in designing course curriculum, setting up of standards, assessment and certification, but, itself has limited capacity. At the moment DGET is providing skills to two million people. Now if we need to change this to 40 million, we need comparative structures, without which the complete training is not possible, along with proper competencies. We have planned to meet the given target by setting up 1500 more ITIs and 50,000 Skill Development Centres (SDCs) under PPP model. Additionally, we plan to have 15 Advanced Training Institutes (ATIs) which basically train the trainers, also under the PPP module. We have also planned for 12 regional training institutes for women in order to encourage and mainstream their skills. Human resource development is very crucial for growth of the country, because it is ultimately the quality of the human resource that finally determines the growth of the country.

How do you plan to facilitate skill development in schools or will it be restricted to higher education sector only?

Ministry of Labour aims to skill the youth, including drop-outs from schools and colleges. They, therefore, form our target group. Furthermore, to elaborate the National Qualification Framework provides a mechanism and pathways to move from academic education to vocational training to a career and backwards. There is vertical mobility. For instance, a plumber can move vertically by becoming a master plumber that is equivalent to junior engineer, or senior engineer or even a Ph.D. Second is the horizontal mobility. After plumbing, if the person wants to do nursing or pursue higher studies, we have the provision to facilitate it. National Qualification Framework supports the latter, so that you can move up in the same discipline and also horizontally by providing equivalence. We are preparing a comprehensive National Qualification Framework, in consonance with different Indian ministries.

Are we trying to meet demands of globalisation along with localisation?
When we talk about quality, what we talk about is national benchmarking. For the same we have engaged Quality Council of India (QCI) to provide us with accreditation of institutions. This is being done to confirm the quality standards of the institutions reach a subsequent stage of national standards and at the subsequent stage all these institutions are to achieve internal standard certification known as the ‘ISO 17024 certification’. This is an international benchmark for the training. With this certification it is then clear that the trained person or an institution will be  able to deliver atleast a certain described quality of work. The 43 assessing bodies that we have under our system are being trained by QCI and they are being upgraded to ISO 17024 standards, so that the certification provided by these  institutions are not only valid in the country but anywhere in the world.  There is a huge potential in our
country with large number of youth who are democratic dividend but they need to be trained so that they can help us support the internal industrial demands and also the global demands. In fact most of the population in the countries across the developed world have  aged or is aging. And therefore, yes future might see our youth providing for both local and global demands.

What is your outlook for 12th FYP?
To my mind, 12th plan might not be very different from 11th FYP. However, the main two challenges in front of us are – the quantity and the quality. There are certain gaps for instance assessment is done in a limited number. 1000 ITIs have to be accredited per annum, but, if we have to provide accreditation to 10,000 ITIs, we do not have the manpower to do the same. We need to upgrade our structure and involve the private sector in a more structured manner so that they can provide their expertise and multiply our capability by multi-folds. We need up-scaling of the already existing institutions and creation of more institutions. The certification process has to improve to cater to larger numbers. The key to success is how close you can bring the industry to the whole effort as industry is to use the finally trained manpower. We are to constitute sector skill councils and work with the private players.  We also need to use various technology laden methods such as providing with relevant e-content, web based curriculum, larger number of trainers, and so on. It is only with use of ICT that we can attain larger numbers at a faster rate and cost effective manner. Kindly mention any global partnerships that you hold. This is the age of collaboration and networking. We have different types of partnerships with different parts of the globe. There are many international collaborations we hold such as Indo- German, Indo- Australian and Indo-UK  Joint Commission. Partnerships are important not from the point of finances since government takes care of it, but what is more important is the technical  co-operation and technical know-how that we gain from the partnership. We also share our know-how with many African countries. We are helping Afghanistan  and many other countries as much as we can.

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