Even as there are growing opportunities in India, low employability and even lower wages continue to cripple the workforce. From the large pool of 1 million aspirants added to the workforce every year, not even 5 to 8 percent get jobs that pay them their desired salaries. This is predominantly because a majority of these aspirants lack basic fundamental skill sets required in today’s evolving workplaces.
One of the primary focus areas for the new government will be to realign the structure of skilling initiatives in India. Moreover, we need to also concentrate on ameliorating the wage and stipend cycle in order to bring about a positive course correction in the employability of the workforce.
Over the past few years, the government has been dedicating funds and efforts towards improving skilling and livelihoods. Nonetheless, the efforts to understand the interim link between education, skilling and livelihood have been missing. Education and skilling cannot operate in silos, and must go hand-in-hand.
The government needs to direct its synergies towards improving the overall productivity of our workforce. Industry demands are consistently changing, and in order to stay ahead of the redundancies in the ecosystem, it is imperative that the government’s fund allocation towards education and skilling focuses on ‘Repair, Prepare and Upgrading’ the workforce.
Some of the key areas where attention is expected are:
1. Change approach of universities:The work space that we are preparing students for is rapidly changing. Technology is making job profiles redundant by the day. In light of this, the government should enable universities to prepare students to not just earn a degree, but also make them employable. Universities should be able to seamlessly provide on-demand learning through a unified approach – On-Campus, On-Line, On-Site and On-Job-Training.
2. Creating the right industry interface: While the last few governments have been allocating funds for apprenticeships, we are still trailing behind India’s vision to reach 50 lakh apprentices by 2020. In order to scale apprenticeships to their true potential, industry and academics need to work together. Apprentices, while learning on the job, should also be exposed to On-Site/On-Line learning which will enable them to achieve the required credits and certifications. Inculcating ‘Work Based Learning’should be the core agenda of the government as it will create a highly productive workforce which will not only be beneficial for the expected 11 lakh job additions that are expected in HY1 2019, but will also become a sustained pool for future job roles. Such a mechanism will also assist in reducing hiring cost for employers and combating attrition. The government should also look at strengthening the current Apprentice Scheme which in turn will contribute to both government (by providing sustainable jobs and the industry) and the industry (by providing skilled and productive workforce).
3. Continuous Learning:The pace of change in the employment arena is drastically increasing and in order to stay relevant, it is all the more crucial for individuals to continuously prepare for the change, and for employers to invest in timely learning and development. The government and employers need to restructure their approach towards up-skilling and re-skilling. The industry should identify the up-skilling/re-skilling needs and provide necessary resources,while the government should either subsidise or reimburse some parts of the learning and certification process. Creating a productive workforce will improve the overall health of the industry, sector and thereon improve the economy at large.
4. Degree Connectivity for Vocational Skills: In an Audi plant in Germany, the Audi A8 assembly line workers get paid more than their supervisors or manager as their skills are indispensable. It is evident that across many industries, advanced skill sets get job seekers higher pay as compared to just having a degree. The industry today looks for employees with 90 percent skills, but our education system still provides learners with 90 percent knowledge and 10 percent skills. Education reforms by the government need to place the learner at the core. Access to obtaining a degree should be further streamlined. Building flexibility with the education system to recognise work based learning, on-job-training, online-learning along with on-campus and on-site learning is important. In addition to this, creating a proper credit system for vocational skilling should also be a focus area.
I hope the new government takes into account the large number of youth entering the labour workforce every month and take strong initiatives for their skilling and education.The government, industry and academia need to combine their efforts to build a strong workforce for India’s continued economic growth.