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Ideas to bridge the skill gap in India

The Indian government has taken multiple initiatives to support SMEs. It acknowledges that these businesses contribute immensely to the country’s economic progress and also employ a huge number of people. They have the potential to compete with most global manufacturing hubs. Yet, they are constrained.

The shortage for skilled manpower is one of the key areas of concern for Indian SMEs. While about 15 million candidates enter the workforce every year, almost 75% are not job ready. This harsh imbalance, due to lack of technical and soft skills, highlights an urgent need to improve the employability of young graduates.

SMEs today, face an uphill task to recruit, train, and mentor such employees. Some of the teething issues are:

  • Difficult to find skilled manpower
  • Unable to train candidates
  • Skills mismatch causing demotivation and inefficiency
  • Interference from labour unions
  • Skewed labour laws for minimum wages, compulsory benefits, and perks

Here are some ideas to bridge this gap:

  • Reimagining the education system

In India, vocational education is largely perceived as a one-down career, fit for those who have not been able to progress in the formal academic system. This perception needs to be changed. The need of the hour is a formal degree in various trades of vocational education.

We also need a strong affiliation between the industry and the academia for developing job-relevant curriculum and for providing gainful apprentice opportunities. Such an affiliation will ensure that the students have the right amount of exposure and training for the most relevant skills and abilities required in a job-scenario.

In addition to technical skill training, this should include soft skill training like communication skills.

  • Creating standard assessments

Over the years, a need for a standard, nation-wide skill assessments and accreditation methodology has been strongly felt. By setting up a central skill development university, that adheres to international standards in assessment and testing, we can set up a reliable, sustainable, and robust mechanism. Such a step will be helpful for students (be offering a nationally recognized degree), and build transparency and dependability for the hiring SMEs.

  • Vocational training programs

Very few SMEs have the resources and means for offering holistic skill development for their employees. This leads to a skill gap within the organisation causing either disguised employment or higher attrition. To counter this, a government incentivised vocational training program can be integrated. Alongside skill training, this will also help in increasing employability.

One of the models for bridging the skill gap is through Public Private Partnership. The present government, through Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) and National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC) has presented several opportunities for entrepreneurs to step-up and create ventures for imparting skill education.

  • Central job exchange

The labour market is unstructured and difficult to access for most businesses. A unified national portal for accessing human resources can make it easier for businesses to identify and hire manpower.

In the budget of fiscal year 2017 – 18, the government of India has decided to set aside Rs. 17,000 crores, the highest ever allocation to this sector, in order to boost the Skill India Mission. Apart from this, the government has decided to set up 100 India International Skills Centres that will conduct advanced courses in foreign languages to help youngsters prepare for overseas jobs.

Educated but unemployed is a common story for millions of students in the country. The issue of skill gap in our country is as much about skill mismatch as that of lack of skill in our labour market. This significant gap of skill development in India, is a major concern and needs to be bridged, for us to remain competitive in the world market.