History teaches us one lesson more clearly than others. Big changes happen silently — at least to start with. A transformation has already begun in the skilling space. It is too early to call it a revolution, but I see signs of one taking shape. Let us look at the big challenges before we put the need for skilling in perspective.
Less than 10 per cent of the Indian workforce has had formal skill training, while in countries like South Korea, it is closer to 98 per cent. We have had two consecutive years of rising unemployment. Nearly 95 per cent of our workforce is in the unorganised sector, which is a way of saying the people working in this sector have had no formal training in any skill. Agriculture and construction constitute a large part of this sector.
Since its formation five years ago, the National Skill Development Corporation, a unique public-private partnership, has skilled over 2 million people. This year it is aiming to skill 3.3 million people, having skilled 1 million people the previous year. Over half the districts in India have NSDC training centres which offer 720 courses covering nearly 750 job roles in 27 important sectors.
We have made a good start. But this will not suffice when we are faced with the challenge of skilling 500 million people by 2022, of which the NSDC is committed to training nearly a third. We are talking about skilling no less than 60,000 people every single day between now and the end of 2022. While the initial years of the NSDC were focused mainly on the supply side, that is, creating physical and institutional infrastructure, the second phase must and will see greater involvement of the end-user industry. The 31 sector skill councils (SSCs) under the NSDC provide the vital link to industry. The SSCs have developed over 800 standards for specific job roles. This ensures that the skilled hands we produce meet the needs of the employers from Day One. But there are two big challenges. One, there is resistance to seeing the obvious benefits of hiring skilled people in place of casual hires, and two, paying the right wage for the same. Neither of these challenges can be met unless industry has a buy-in. This can happen only through patient and persistent advocacy. We need to reach out to industry, particularly small and medium firms, and show them the benefits of hiring skilled hands.
We need models to bridge the gap between the worlds of work and education. The National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme, also known as STAR, is one such model. STAR, the world’s largest voucher-based skilling programme, has continued…