Bridging the Knowledge and Opportunity Gap

Skill development is the essential constituent to future economic growth in India, says Dr Rajeshree Dutta Kumar, Vice President – Strategies and Alliances, Mosaic Network 

Strategic investment in human capital and advancement in quality can be regarded as the key to building a knowledge economy. Skill development in India faces the challenge of a pronounced skill gap in  economy’s high growth sectors.

At the policy level, the Government of India, in the Union Budget 2012-13, has doubled its allocation of funds for skills development under the National Skill Development Fund to ~1,000 crore, raising the corpus of the fund to ~2,500 crore. To put things in perspective, the government proposes to generate 70 million new jobs by 2012, and has constituted the National Skill Development Mission to steer the Skill Development Policy in the economy.

In the Indian context, high growth industries such as auto components, transportation, packaging, automobiles, logistics, warehousing, construction sector, retail, tourism, media & entertainment, security, IT/ITES, gems and jewellery verticals, banking and finance services, and healthcare services are expected to create these new jobs. It has been envisioned that by 2015, around 75 percent of these jobs would require sector and skill-specific trained workforce. Further, 90 percent of the jobs in India are ‘skill based’; while only 6 percent of the Indian work- force receives any form of vocational training.

These facts and figures are clearly decisive of the fact that India needs to refurbish its skill development strategies with a focus on industry needs and attempt to balance the knowledge and opportunity gap. Fortunately, India’s superfluous labour will coincide with labour shortages across the globe, giving the nation an opportunity to provide for the ‘work- force of the world.’ With more than a hundred million young population to be added to the workforce in the coming decades, we have to maximise the opportunity offered by this ‘de mographic dividend’ by ensuring that we add a young skilled workforce in our economy. But the country can do this only if its trained personnel meet the quality standards demanded internationally.

Vocational education can only have its full economic impact if it produces people with skills that can get them well-paid, and fulfilling work as per industry requirements. While the thrust, so far, has been more on building the technical and domain skills, the generic skills and competencies that make people employable are equally critical. Interestingly, the conceptualisations of skills share a common goal. They seek to establish the basis for recognising an important set of skills that support the successful accomplishment of the task-based activities vital to any job role. While these generic skills have contextualised applications unique to a workplace, it is essential to up- hold that these skills are also highly transferable.

We are the second largest producer of engineering talent in the world. There is a very low correlation between academic performance and industry expectations. As a result, while approximately 3.5 lakh engineering students graduate every year in our country, we are not able to optimise our existing talent pool.

The crisis, evidently, need to be addressed from the bottom upwards, which can only happen when all the key stakeholders – industry, government and academia – work in close collaboration and alliance.

Efforts should also be channelised to upgrade labour force skills, especially for the underprivileged sections of society and in the regions that have lesser opportunities. Vocational education must be introduced in schools such that it coheres with academic options rather than competing with them. There is also an opportunity to enlarge the scope of the existing ‘Skill Development Centre’ programme into a Virtual Skill Development Resource Network for web-based learning. A more essential and sustainable solution is for the government, industries and educational institutions to collaborate in order to ensure that the education being imparted to our knowledge force is relevant to the industry.





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