Industrial training institutes (ITIs) have reported a 20 per cent rise in enrolments in 2014-15, according to a report in this newspaper. This is an encouraging figure. It is well known that India’s demographic dividend — 800 million people in the youth segment — could turn into a nightmare if its young are not employable. Campaigns like Make in India that aim to turn the country into a manufacturing hub recognise both the enormity of India’s skilling challenge and its urgency.
The ITI turnaround story is significant since these institutions, more than 11,000 across the country, have the capacity to train over 4.5 lakh students annually. In the past, they had failed to attract students mainly because their courses were at variance with industry needs and hence incapable of assuring placements. A major overhaul in the structure of courses and the Centre’s push for robust industry partnerships seem to have transformed the ITI stream. For instance, Maruti Suzuki has, in recent times, collaborated with government-run ITIs to set up automobile skill enhancement centres, while the Mahindra group engaged students of motor mechanic and electrical trades.
This, clearly, is the way forward. A report by the National Skill Development Corporation and KPMG estimates that nearly 580 million jobs are expected to come up across 24 sectors, including construction, IT, textiles and clothing, and so on by 2022. Inputs from industry could help the technical education stream become more aware of the requirements of the job market and tailor its courses accordingly.
The ITI stream should also be expanded further to include courses in trades like carpentry, masonry and leather work, where, so far, training is offered only on the job or through caste-based trade guilds. If the present situation continues, we may see a shortfall of skilled labour or the disappearance of special skills in some sectors. Moreover, the absence of an institutionalised system that vouches for the skills of a craftsman severely curtails his mobility and prospects. Prior learning programmes launched by the ministry of skill development as a pilot project in five states could address these issues, and they must be expanded. Skilling up workers would boost their employability and enable them to negotiate better wages, while also making the economy more productive.