Why is young India under skilled?

Class based education; poor health and absence of labour intensive policies collectively impede the skill India movement. Prachi Rege reports.

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It is the classic equation of demand outstripping the supply. While industry needs skilled and job-ready youth for fuelling growth, in reality the scene is dismal. The critical mass of skilled workforce required for a strong, sustainable and balanced growth is just not available. Research has shown that out of the several thousand engineers that graduate each year, almost 75 per cent are not employable. Experts are of the opinion that the key to accelerating the country’s economic growth lies in harvesting its demographic dividend. But before that, they say, it is necessary to pinpoint the factors that have hindered the skill development process.

This and several other related issues were hotly debated at the recently concluded sixth HR Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).  TV Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education pointed out that 40 per cent of Indians did not complete class X, and 60 per cent didn’t finish college for a number of social, economic and cultural factors.

“All our government policies are capital and not labour intensive in nature, Pai said. “The focus is on rote learning rather than vocational training,” he added. Referring to the need for soft skills which along with job competencies, were essential to make good impression during job interviews, Pai said, “Most of our young workforce don’t possess soft skills. They are unable to present themselves smartly either.”

Putting forth her view on what obstructs India’s young demographic from being skilled, Anu Aga, MP Rajya Sabha and director, Thermax Ltd noted that almost 46 per cent of Indian children were malnourished. “It is shocking to note that even Pakistan and Bangladesh have better statistics compared to India,” she said. As a result a vicious circle of students dropping out of courses and also of those not being able to cope with their studies was created. “We are in a state of denial when it comes to these numbers. A focus on improving young India’s health will be a catalyst to developing skilled-employees,” she explained. 

Aga added that education in India was not talent-based but class-based. “Vocational or certificate courses are for the poor whereas MBA’s are for the rich,” she said. Pointing out that Rs two lakh crore had already been invested in development of primary education, Aga demanded to know, “But where is the output.”

Rajan Saxena, vice chancellor, NMIMS University, agreed with Aga. He said that to a certain extent education institutes had failed to deliver an effective pedagogy which would create skilled employees. “Both society and industry give importance to an MBA graduate rather than a certificate or diploma holder irrespective of the skills they possess,” he said. However, Saxena also blamed the industry for not being forthcoming and helping institutes with the knowledge of what they wanted. Signing off on a positive note Pai said, “Let’s not beat ourselves. Until now we have been successful in making use of 60 per cent of our human resource potential. But as the numbers suggest, it’s time to take it up to 80 per cent.”

Expert Insights:
Encourage quality – this will help in developing the supply side of the system

Industry must not look down upon certificate and diploma courses

Skill-based curriculum will help in creating skilled employees for the industry

Education must be talent-based and not a class-based entity.

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