Education for the less Educated

47 million students in India dropout at 10th standard. What happens to this huge potential labor force? For a large chunk (mainly girls) this is the last taste of education as most will get married or join the unorganized sector, few get back to school after a break and the remaining majority join some kind of unskilled labor. This last chunk of unskilled labor at some point wants to upskill, get credited and progress. The opportunities are immense they could join ITI’s (Industrial training institutes), join private skilling institutes or avail skilling opportunities through the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.  http://pmkvyofficial.org/Index.aspx

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Regardless of immense opportunities, India’s skilling levels and skill development initiatives have been a huge disappointment. Here’s why:

  • Employers: Very few employers value skilled labor, everyone complains about not having employable workers but very few reward skilled labor with higher salaries. If industry cant provide monetary incentive for skilled labor then why would anyone go for it?

skillgap-industries_030913112819

  • Absurd Salary Standards: Imagine a 18 year old, who gets certified to be a sewing machine operator or a AC repair mechanic. The average starting salaries for both these jobs is around 7-8K a month. As soon as enters the workforce he realizes that a private driver, or a home cook, or even a contract Gardner,or a cashier at the retail chain pays better than his job. All these later jobs dont require any skilling and there arent many courses that he could take and be certified. The guy wonders why he took a course anyways when he could have learnt on the job with his uncle and made better money? Ask any private skilling company or even the government about attrition rates post short term certification course upon placement and I can bet noone would answer or the answer would be a big embarrassment.
  • Too many Players: Skilling in India is provided by NGO’s, Government run schools, colleges, ITI’s, Private education companies,businesses like manufacturing houses, hospitals, retail giants who rather get funded to train a few and hire back for their own good and companies that have nothing to do with education but want to utilize their CSR funds. Its a mess, as only a few train with true intent and follow standards.
  • Room for Profit?: This is a catch 22 situation for private players who view skilling the millions of Indians as a potential opportunity. Firstly the price point has to be relatively low to suit the target segment. The infra requirement to set up training for any kind of sensible skills like hard skills, trade,IT etc is rather high. Government and the skill councils do give out subsidies but the schemes are developed to benefit the student more than the training body. The government is right in its way because the route for the student has to be affordable but then why bring in so many private players who end up teaching crappy courses that only lead to a wasted certificate.

Dear Government, Fortunately or unfortunately I have been a part of the skilling initiative and worked with the Ministries of Rural Development, Healthcare,Textiles and Higher Education. And I am not writing to vent or play a blame game. I am writing because I really care, I cared for this cause when I was in the work force and I care even now as a citizen. I do not claim to be any sort of guru but I do not want to write a post just hi-lighting whats wrong, I do want to give some of my suggestions to get it right.

  1. Build a State Level Community College Model: Community colleges are the next level of ITI’s. Please upgrade the rotting ITI’s into something that is worthy of skilling and certifying our workforce. Tailor the courses in these community colleges to suit the demand of the state’s industry.  Get away from never ending white papers and framework designing, all  this paper work is really eating away valuable time. A community college invites all to get skilled, upskilled, certified and really does wonders develop industry connects. And DO NOT invite tenders, private players can only be partners in infra, certifications, employment…but you as the government have to own up to laying the foundations of these institutions.
  2. Cookie Cutter Model: Please abolish trainings that are of no use. A one month training in data entry or retail salesman would do no good to anyone. Put some intellect to it and help the poor chap be proud to be working in an industry that pays for his efforts. If drivers,cooks and gardners are in demand then offer similar courses, the certification might not be valued immediately but the skills sure would be.
  3. Track Alumni: Its been more than 15 years that the Indian government has given thought to the young and unskilled labor. Thought has lead to various efforts – some remarkable but most have died a slow death from planning commission directives to implementation on the ground. Its time now to track the beneficiaries and work this data to modify and improve the standards. We have to shift away from thousands of make shift centers to worthy educational institutes.

Europe is an excellent example where trade certifications are valued at par with university degrees. At par, doesnt always mean similar salary levels. At par when it comes to opportunity to grow and feel respected. Ideally a 10th drop out should be able to get a mechanics certificate, work as a apprentice while making a respectable income and should have the opportunity to build his experience up to get a university degree if he/she aspires.

Give fair opportunity for all who aspire.

#AtoZChallenge

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